Standard Life Investments, the asset management arm of British insurer Standard Life Assurance, will set up its regional headquarters in Hong Kong next year. The Hong Kong office will act as a base for the British fund house to expand into China, Taiwan and South Korea, according to Kevin Smith, chief executive of Standard Life Investments (Asia). The fund house manages about US$115 billion of assets, mainly for European investors who have little exposure to Asia. 'It is the right time to come to Asia now that the financial crisis in the region is over,' Mr Smith said. It is also timely with China set to open its fund management industry to foreign companies after its entry into the World Trade Organisation. 'Entry to the WTO will be a big step forward for China to open up its financial markets,' he said. 'We don't expect it will change overnight but the prospects for the next 10 years are very positive.' Mr Smith said the introduction of the Mandatory Provident Fund last Friday would boost the fund management industry. Standard Life Assurance, Europe's largest mutual life insurance company, last month teamed with Chinese financial conglomerate China Everbright and Australian general insurer HIH Insurance to set up a local life insurance joint venture - Standard Life (Asia). Mr Smith said the local investment company to be set up next year would be a wholly owned subsidiary of Standard Life Assurance, and that it would operate independently from the local insurance joint venture. Standard Life Investments' Hong Kong office will offer asset management services for institutional investors. Mr Smith hoped that after five years, Standard Life Assurance would be among the top 10 fund management firms in the domestic institutional market. It will also offer mutual fund products to retail investors, Mr Smith said. He said the group debated whether to locate its regional headquarters in Hong Kong or Singapore, but settled on Hong Kong because it was closer to its target markets - China, Taiwan and South Korea.