Hong Kong-based Axa China Region Insurance plans to register a series of unit trusts with the Securities and Futures Commission in order to break into the Hong Kong retail funds market, says Mark Wilson, CEO. The move is designed to bolster the firm’s bid as a leader of wealth management services in the territory, building upon last year’s launch of a multi-manager platform for its MPF business.

It is accompanied by the hiring of Francine Fu, who joined in December from Royal Skandia. Fu now serves as regional CEO responsible for wealth management and marketing.

“It represents the merger of a couple of open positions,” Wilson says. “We wanted to create a larger role for her.”

Fu will be assisted by Blair Turnbull, who is running a newly established product development team dedicated to wealth management services. Wilson hopes to secure SFC approval for the new unit trusts in the coming weeks, with an aim to introduce the funds to the market by summer.

These products are already active, either as investment pieces for unit-linked insurance, or have been registered for the MPF platform. And there is a small line of 15-year old mutual funds under the Axa China name from when it first set up shop in the territory, but these are no longer actively marketed.

“This is a new direction in wealth management,” says Wilson, who notes the firm will market and sell unit trusts through multiple channels, including insurance agents, brokers and independent financial advisors.