US-based indexing specialist Vanguard Investments has hired Linda Luk from PineBridge Investments as its Asia head of intermediary distribution.

Based in Hong Kong, Luk started at the firm two weeks ago. Vanguard Investments is focused on building its business out of Hong Kong as it sets out to explore sales and product opportunities in the region, as reported by AsianInvestor.

Just this February the firm received authorisation from Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) to deal in and advise on securities. That month it hired Jackson Loi from SYZ & Company in Hong Kong as an associate director for institutional sales.

He reports to Charles Lin, the firm’s managing director for institutional sales for North Asia ex-Japan, while the Hong Kong office is under regional head Shelly Painter.

A spokesperson for Vanguard confirms Luk’s hire and says it is “continuing to explore specific opportunities in Hong Kong”. However, there was no response to questions on who Luk was brought in to replace.

Luk was previously head of retail and intermediary channels for Hong Kong and Singapore at PineBridge Investments, but left the firm in May. She had been responsible for asset-raising across Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia and sold mutual funds, private equity products and hedge fund of funds to private banks, insurers, FOF manager and IFAs.

AsianInvestor reported expectations that Luk’s departure signaled Pinebridge was pulling back from the retail arena and would focus on selling to institutions and private banks in the region.

However, a spokesman for the firm said at the time that her departure did not reflect “a material change in strategy for PineBridge in Asia”.

Asked directly if there were plans to replace Luk, a spokesman for PineBridge declined to comment late last week. 

Luk's departure aside, PineBridge has made moves in the past year that suggest a continued commitment to the region. It hired the former Asia-Pacific CEO of BNY Mellon's asset-management business, David Jiang, as global CEO in March. And last year the firm moved global head of equities Robin Thorn to Hong Kong and brought in Desmond Tjiang from BNP Paribas Investment Partners and Anita Varga from ING Investment Management.

Since its founding in 1975 by index fund management champion John Bogle, Vanguard Investments has become one of the world’s largest fund firms with $1.9 trillion under management.

It is primarily known for its low-cost index funds and exchange-traded funds, although almost half of its assets in the US are now accounted for by third-party active mutual funds, largely sourced via a multi-manager approach.

Its biggest operation outside of the US is in Australia, where it has about 300 staff, 30 investment professionals and about A$60 billion under management. There it deals exclusively in index funds and exchange-traded funds for institutional investors, advisers and retail direct investors.

But over the past 10 years Vanguard has been striving to build its presence in Asia and it now has offices and sales teams in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.