Western Asset is losing one of its star portfolio managers. Rajeev De Mello, portfolio manager and senior business representative of Singapore operations, has announced he will leave the firm as of June 10 this year.

De Mello has helped Western to build one of the leading Asian fixed-income teams in the region. The six-strong outfit has $3.1 billion of assets in the strategy, of which De Mello personally oversaw about half. The team manages Asian currencies, government bonds in local currencies, Asian investment grade and high-yield credit.

No long-term decision has been made as to recruiting a replacement from outside. The firm’s immediate concern is to ensure the investment teams and processes remain undisturbed by the departure. Western is the global fixed-income unit of Legg Mason and manages a total of $456 billion.

For now, however, Julia Ho, a portfolio manager in Singapore who has been with the firm since 2003, will step up to handle the team’s day-to-day business. Keith Gardner, global head of developing markets based in the firm’s headquarters in Pasadena, California, will take a more active role in supervising Western’s Asia bond strategies.

A Legg Mason spokesman says: “Asian bonds are a core strategy for Western Asset. We believe that the Asian bond effort and the Singapore investment team are and will continue to be well resourced to reflect that.

"To this end, Western Asset will continue to utilise the entire global investment team as necessary for the effective management of their clients’ portfolios, and we are confident that Western Asset will build on the past success enjoyed by clients.”

De Mello has not made his plans known. He is expected initially to return to his native Switzerland. In the past he is known to have considered launching a hedge fund or other investment business, but he has yet to indicate whether this is his intention.