Pinebridge Investments targets Middle East build-out
US-based active manager Pinebridge Investments announced it was setting up a Middle East headquarters in Bahrain after receiving a category 1 licence from the nation's central bank.

The new firm will be called Pinebridge Investments Middle East and will be led by Talal Al Zain, who was appointed its Middle East head in March this year.

Asked about the personnel implications of this, he says: "We are looking to hire seasoned investment professionals and will announce new hires as they come on board.

"The establishment of our MENA headquarters in Bahrain is a strong signal of Pinebridge's intention to develop its offering significantly in one of the only regions where we have not had a substantial presence to date."

He adds the new company will focus on private equity, investment management and distribution, and will serve large institutions and ultra-high-net-worth individuals looking for differentiated product. The headquarters will act as a link between Asian and Middle Eastern investors to facilitate access between the two markets, and he confirms Pinebridge will be developing product out of the region.

In a statement, the firm says the establishment of its Middle East headquarters was prompted by "the opportunity for investment and substantial liquidity in the region, which has many underpenetrated markets across all asset classes".

Only recently Pinebridge Investments moved to pare back its Asia retail business, as reported by AsianInvestor. It managed $67 billion in assets globally as at March 31, a sharp drop from $80.9 billion as at March 31, 2011. 

The firm is the former fund management arm of bailed out insurer AIG that was sold to Pacific Century Group in 2010. Fixed income comprised about a third of its AUM, followed by alternative investments and equities.

This March it appointed BNY Mellon Asset Management’s former Asia-Pacific chief executive David Jiang as global CEO. Succeeding Win Neuger, he confirmed in an interview with AsianInvestor that emerging markets and Asia were a renewed focus for the firm.

Todd James quits BSI, replaced by Susan Chua from Coutts
BSI Bank saw its head of wealth management for North Asia, Todd James, quit at the start of this month. Based in Hong Kong, he is on gardening leave, having joined the firm over 18 months ago. It is understood he is pursuing other opportunities.

He was responsible for client investment portfolios as well as trust, alternative investments and credit structuring in North Asia. Previously he spent eight years at HSBC Private Bank where he worked under Peter Amandini, who has joined Banque Privee Edmund de Rothschild as Asia CIO.

BSI has already replaced James with Susan Chua, who started at the Lugano-headquartered firm from Coutts on July 16. She reports to deputy CEO for Asia, Esther Heer.

The firm has been on a targeted build-out in Asia following the recruitment of former Coutts staffer Hanspeter Brunner as regional CEO in 2010. It has over 230 staff in Singapore, from just 30 in 2009 and the majority of these came from Coutts.

BSI, which in 1998 became part of Italian insurer Generali, received a branch licence from the HKMA late last year, after which Heer (also from Coutts) announced plans to double her North Asia team, which is understood to be 80-strong.

This included building up its wealth management team in Hong Kong, which late last year consisted of four investment advisers led by James, one research analyst and a risk manager.

Previously BSI Investment Advisers (Hong Kong) was operating with an investment advisory licence from the Securities & Futures Commission.

HSBC AM adds in macro and investment strategy
HSBC Global Asset Management has bolstered its global macro and investment strategy team to better support its managers with analysis and research.

It has added two in Hong Kong and two in London to the team headed by Philip Poole, who joined the division in July 2010 having previously been the bank's global head of emerging markets.

Herve Lievore started from Axa Investment managers on May 21 as senior economist and investment strategist based in Hong Kong, the bank announced this week. He held a similar role in Hong Kong with Axa where he researched commodities, Japan and emerging markets.

Renee Chan has also joined in Hong Kong as an economist and investment strategist on April 10. She has worked at Macquarie Capital, Nomura International (Hong Kong) and Citibank Taiwan.

In London, Julien Seetharamdoo has started from Coutts Investment Services as senior economist and investment strategist; and so has Rabia Bhopal from Standard & Poor's.

“The strengthening of the team is in recognition that investment managers will benefit from further economic and strategic research support; with the new team in place we are in a position to communicate about market events as soon as they happen,” says an HSBC spokesman.

He adds that HSBC AM holds positive views on emerging market equities including in China and Russia and corporate bonds over the long term.

The asset management business has $430 billion in AUM, of which $140 billion is invested in emerging markets.

Azer leads JP Morgan's custody services arm in Australia/New Zealand
JP Morgan Worldwide Securities Services (WSS) announced the appointment of Marian Azer as head of global fund services product for Australia and New Zealand.

Based in Sydney, Azer started on July 23 and reports to David Braga, head of product and investor services for the two markets.

Asked if this was a new role, a spokesperson for the firm said it was "not a 100% newly created role", with elements of it having been carried out by different people previously. "But they are not necessarily reporting into her."

In a statement, the firm said Azer would look to identify market trends and develop solutions for its global fund services product division. It covers fund accounting, investment analytics, compliance, exchange-traded funds, derivatives, transfer agency and middle office.

Most recently Azer was a principal at Mercer and led operational consulting in investment implementation and operations for clients across Asia. She has also held client service, project and operations roles at the securities arm of BNP Paribas and Australian equities focused Orion Asset Management.

In fact her appointment marks a return to J.P Morgan, since Azer began her career at the firm in 1996.

JP Morgan WSS is a division of JP Morgan Chase Bank and has $17.7 trillion in assets under custody and $7.3 trillion in funds under administration.

Mayer Brown adds to securities practice
Law firm Mayer Brown JSM has named James Fong in a new role as partner for its corporate and securities practice.

He started on July 23 and reports to Patrick Wong, partner and head of the practice in Asia. It comes as the firm seeks to bolster capabilities in its equity capital markets and M&A practices.

Fong was most recently at Hogan Lovells where he became a partner in 2010. He began his career in 1998 at Johnson Stokes and Masters, which merged with Mayer Brown in 2008 to become Mayer Brown JSM. It is understood Fong's position at Hogan Lovells is vacant.

In the past month Mayer Brown has also announced the appointment of two other partners – Henry Wang and Billy Au* – for the corporate and securities practices in Beijing.

Wang is expected to start soon. Based in Beijing, he will be partner and head of investments in China. He was formerly the managing partner of Dechert’s Beijing office.

Au started on July 3. He was previously a counsel at Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe in Hong Kong and Herbert Smith in Beijing. Stationed in Beijing, he will also work out of the Hong Kong office.

Treasury China Trust's trustee manager adds directors
Treasury Holdings Real Estate, the Singapore-listed trustee manager of Treasury China Trust (TCT), announced a new board of directors as it looks to provide a stronger Asia-based focus.

It is hoped the additions will help TCT, an owner, manager and developer of commercial real estate in China, to enhance its corporate governance in accordance with the new code of corporate governance in Singapore.

The new board members are Richard Barrett, Xu Sitao, Graham Sugden, Tan Khee Giap, Richard David, Rory Williams and Yoon Wai Nam.

The newest member is Yoon, whose most recent roles were as country head of Monsanto and CFO of Titan Petrochemicals.

Sugden was most recently head of Asian funds management at AMP Capital Investors (Singapore), while Xu has acted in an advisory role for a number of hedge funds in the UK and Hong Kong.

Tan has served in a consultancy capacity for Singapore government ministries as well as agencies including the Asian Development Bank, UN Industrial Development Group, World Gold Council and Las Vegas Sands.

SFC appoints non-executive director
Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission announced it had appointed Teresa Ko Yuk-yin as non-executive director for a term of two years, effective from August 1.

She comes in following the departure of Angelina Lee, who has been with the SFC for six years and whose term expires on July 31.