GERMANY - Klaus-Jürgen Baum has abruptly stepped down as chief executive of the German arm of Fidelity Investments, the US-based asset manager.

Fidelity's German arm said Baum had departed with immediate effect yesterday. It said his replacement was Alfred Strebel, who has headed Fidelity's Swiss arm in Zurich since 2002.

"We and Mr Baum agreed that it was best if he left," Fidelity's German arm said. Strebel is in the midst of relocating to the unit's headquarters in Kronberg near Frankfurt.

Baum had been in charge of Fidelity's German and Austrian business since 2001. Under his watch, Fidelity built a considerable presence in Germany's retail fund market, with €14.3bn currently under management.

But Fidelity's German business was dealt a blow in 2006, as German investors pulled €2.5bn from the Fidelity European Growth fund, the firm's flagship equity fund.

Since mid-2004, when it recruited Klaus Mössle from Deutsche Asset Management, Fidelity has also been doing business in the institutional market.

As of September 2006, Fidelity had €1.6bn in institutional assets under management and more than three-quarters of this volume was pension fund money. It also runs €380m for Austrian institutional investors.

Earlier this month, Mössle told IPE in an interview that Fidelity aimed to grow its institutional business by 20-30% annually.

Separately, Principal Global Investors, a US-based asset manager that arrived in Germany in early 2006, said it had recruited Christian Humlach as a sales director. His focus will be on asset managers, private banks and wealth managers in Germany.

Humlach, 34, joins Principal's Munich office from UBS Global Asset Management where he was a senior client relationship manager. He reports to Heiko Schuleit, head of the German-speaking business for Principal in Europe.

According to Schuleit, Principal's European business has €8bn in institutional assets under management, a good part of which comes from pension funds.