French asset manager Amundi has turned its sights to the retail investor community in Southeast Asia and is seeking to get its range of equity and fixed-income funds on distribution platforms in Singapore.

These efforts are in line with the firm’s overall expansion plans in Asia, which include adding sales and distribution staff in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Institutions make up the bulk of its investor-base (nearly 80% of its global investors are sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies and independent financial advisors). But opening up to the retail space will help the firm achieve its goal of hitting $100 billion in AUM in Asia in the next five years, up from $74 billion today, says Lionel Florentin, head of distribution for Southeast Asia. He moved to Singapore from Paris three years ago to spearhead the efforts.

In addition to pushing existing strategies, Amundi plans to unveil a series of equity, fixed income and multi-asset strategies for retail investors in the next six to 12 months to be managed out of Singapore.

“We were pretty much focused on the institutional segment before. As such, you don’t need to be so visible,” Florentin tells AsianInvestor. “We wanted to wait until we were ready, as distribution is a demanding segment and retail distribution is all the more demanding.”

In three years Amundi’s distribution sales team has grown to eight-strong in Singapore, with an additional seven across Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan. The firm also plans to make more hires to push the firm’s funds in North Asia.

Florentin and the Singapore team are now meeting with private and retail banks and IFAs, but getting products onto shelves has become ever harder post-crisis, even for the large, well-known fund houses. (Amundi is on a number of private bank, insurance company and independent financial advisor platforms in Singapore, he adds, declining to name them.)

Florentin acknowledges that traditional distribution channels in Asia are becoming increasingly crowded, particularly in Hong Kong and Singapore. This makes brand recognition even more important.

“We’re in a region of the world where both retail and private banking clients are quite sensitive to brand recognition," he says. "They’re very interested in knowing who they invest with and work with. So in that sense, being more visible will offer more opportunities."

Amundi believes the 2008/2009 financial crisis has changed investor behaviour. In the past, many invested on a short-term horizon but after the Lehman collapse in September 2008, Florentin argues, they have shifted to a more medium- and long-term focus, which historically tend to deliver better returns.

“Many investors were traumatised by the crisis, and now they are increasingly realising that longer-term investment horizons make sense,” he says.

As such, Amundi aims to launch funds that are focused on “wealth preservation and enhancement over time”. It opened its Amundi International Sicav for Singapore investors in July, which invests in global equities with a pocket of gold-related securities, as well as cash and short-term government bonds.