Scott Lothian is leaving Watson Wyatt in Hong Kong as its head of fund manager research for Asia to join a new joint venture, BEA Union Investments. Meanwhile Watson Wyatt has not only found a replacement for Lothian, but also beefed up other areas of its regional investment consulting practice.

Lothian is expected to leave Watson Wyatt by Chinese New Year (7 February). Sources familiar with BEA Union say he is taking on a role to market a multi-manager product to the Hong Kong and China markets, with an initial focus on Hong KongÆs Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) sector.

BEA Union was formed in mid-2007 when Union Investments, the third-largest German fund management company with E160 billion ($236 billion) of assets under management, acquired 49% of the existing East Asia Asset Management, the funds arm of Bank of East Asia. Union Investments is majority-owned by DZ Bank, with which BEA signed a business cooperation agreement in 2005.

Ilex Lam left Janus International as its managing director for Asia Pacific in October to become CEO at the new JV. He declined to comment on LothianÆs hire or his reported role, but says the firm will announce its strategy and other new hires soon. Sources report the JV has also hired heads of institutional and retail business development.

Charles Kwun, who ran BEAÆs MPF business since it was incepted in late 2000, has also just left the firm. For the moment BEA officials say they donÆt know what firm he has joined, and Kwun could not be contacted by press time.

In the meantime, Watson Wyatt is transferring Craig Mercer from London in February to head up manager research for Asia ex-Japan equities and emerging-market equities, across both long-only and the hedge fund space. He has already been covering these managers from London. He also heads the firmÆs dedicated ôChindia Macro Factorsö research team.

Prior to joining Watson Wyatt, Craig Mercer worked at Stamford AssociatesÆ desk covering its Japan and Asia ex-Japan multi-manager funds, as well as at Aon Consulting, where he was a member of its manager research team.

Naomi Denning, regional director of Watson WyattÆs investment consulting practice, says Craig Mercer is not a direct replacement for Lothian, whose main area of expertise was covering Hong Kong equity and bond managers. MercerÆs expertise including his big-picture research on China and India will provide a broader role.

ôCraigÆs team isnÆt just researching fund managers but how to capitalise on investment opportunities in India and China,ö Denning explains. ôWhatÆs the best way to access those stories û through equities, or bonds? Real estate or private equity?ö

In addition to transferring Mercer, Watson Wyatt has also appointed several new team members around the region. Last year, Martin Goss joined as senior investment consultant in Melbourne, and that team is making additional hires. In November the Sydney office appointed Hugh Dougherty as senior investment consultant.

The Seoul office has added to its team with the appointment of Andy Jung, while the Tokyo office has three new hires: Junji Inoue, Kazushi Kimura and Yasuyo Asada.

In Hong Kong, Henry Ching and Louisa Wong have just joined the Greater China team. Ching, who previously ran infrastructure and private investments for the Canada Pension Plan, will support Craig Mercer on manager research, while Wong is responsible for enhancing client delivery and service.

Also in Hong Kong, Keat Tian has been named managing consultant. A principal consulting actuary and head of Watson WyattÆs retirement benefits practice for 15 years, he will consult on retirement scheme and benefit-related issues, including advice on scheme and investment strategy restructuring, as well as the impact on pensions from M&A and divestments.

And Elaine Hwang has been named head of the firmÆs retirement benefits practice in Hong Kong, having served as a principal consulting actuary for 18 years. In addition to her work in Hong Kong, particularly in scheme design, investment strategy and selection of MPF managers and schemes, she has also done similar work for companies in Taiwan and mainland China.