In an effort to expand its investment management division, American Express Financial Corp. has hired three portfolio managers away from Fidelity Investments to run a new office in Boston.

The move marks the first time American Express has developed a significant investment management operation outside of its Minneapolis headquarters, said spokesman David Kanihan.

The firm said today that it has hired Douglas Chase, Robert Ewing and Nick Thakore, all former Fidelity managers. The team will specialize in managing domestic large-cap equity funds and will take over the management of about $12 billion in equity assets in April.

Thakore will oversee the AXP Growth fund and a variable annuity called VP Growth. Chase will take over equity portions of AXP Mutual and VP Managed, while the Minneapolis office will continue to manage the fixed-income portions of the funds. Ewing will manage VP Capital Resources. He will also oversee AXP Large Cap Equity, a new fund that American Express expects to launch in the second quarter.

The move is part of a larger strategy to expand American Express’ asset management business, Kanihan said. In the past year, the firm launched a group of subadvised products called AXP Partners Funds. And it hired Ted Truscott as its new chief investment officer.

The firm’s AXP fund family currently has $80 billion in assets under management

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