French asset manager Amundi is preparing to set up its first office in Thailand and has boosted its Malaysia headcount in recent months, as part of a buildout in Southeast Asia. 

The firm is applying for the appropriate licences and hopes to open the Bangkok branch in the first half of 2014, says Pascal Blanqué, group deputy chief executive and chief investment officer. 

The sales branch will be the firm’s eighth Asia-Pacific office, alongside Beijing, Brunei, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Sydney and Taipei. The latter was the latest to be established; it opened early last year. 

Amundi plans to boost its 15 distribution staff in Asia to 20 this year, across its institutional and third-party business lines, Blanqué tells AsianInvestor.

The firm has been expanding its presence in Kuala Lumpur in terms of both staff and client base, mainly on the fixed income side, but not exclusively, he notes. There are now 13 staff in the Malaysian office, up from eight at the end of 2012. 

“We expect further hiring [in Kuala Lumpur] in 2014, following our external growth plans,” says Blanqué. “Our offering includes both equities and bonds on the conventional and Islamic sides. It is also possible to further strengthen the fixed income side through external growth.”

Amundi is also planning to strengthen its offering in Singapore, including introducing its global aggregate and Asian fixed income funds there. This follows the launch of the firm’s international Sicav fund in the Lion City in July last year.

The plan in Southeast Asia and globally is to “deepen and enlarge the already strong historical presence in the institutional space”, notes Blanqué. The second plank of the strategy is to make a breakthrough in the external distribution space by building on a strong experience of servicing retail networks and distributors.

He says Amundi already has partnerships with some of the leading retail networks and private banks in the region, and is working on developing the international side of the business, with a particular focus on Europe (outside France) and Asia, including the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Blanque is optimistic about the potential for development of an Asean funds passport and feels Amundi is well placed to benefit, with investment and sales staff in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

“Southeast Asian countries are starting to think of themselves as part of something unified, as a single body,” he says. “Something is happening across the Southeast Asian investment community. We think of the region as a block, and the direction of passporting for funds is the right one. It will make things easier and will consolidate intra-zone trade.”

As for the Asia Region Funds Passport – being developed by Australia, Korea, New Zealand and Singapore – he says: “It is a positive move and an opportunity for us to seize.”

Amundi employs more than 360 in Asia, as of November, which represents a slight rise from 2012. It has $100 billion sourced and managed in Asia, out of a global AUM of about $1 trillion, across its North and Southeast Asia hubs, including Australia and its joint ventures in Shanghai, Korea and India.