Axa Investment Managers has sought to strengthen its coverage of individual client segments with the hire of Tom Clapham from Macquarie as its first Asia head of sovereign wealth funds and central banks.

This represents one of the largest – and most heavily serviced – pools of assets in the region.

The appointment bucks the hiring trend of the past year or so in Asia, where fund houses have been busy building retail sales teams. T. Rowe Price is one recent example, and Axa IM itself added its first dedicated director of private bank coverage in Asia in August.

Clapham joined the French firm a month ago from Macquarie Securities, where he was director of institutional sales. He has also worked as head of transition management and global portfolio trading at Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong and as investment consultant at Mercer and Towers Perrin in Sydney, London and Singapore.

Based in Hong Kong, Clapham reports to both Terence Lam, Asia head of sales and marketing, and Pierre De Bonneville, head of sovereign and supranational entities.

In response to the suggestion that Axa IM has been later than some of its rivals to create a specialist sovereign sales role, Lam said: “We’re definitely not late to the game.” He noted that he, De Bonneville and other executives had been covering the sovereign segment in Asia for a number of years.

Lam declined to say whether the firm had SWF or central bank clients in the region for reasons of confidentiality.

In respect of product demand, he said he was seeing growing interest in Axa IM’s alternative credit and real estate strategies from sovereign investors.

With interest rates low, investors remain hungry for yield, he added, so they are still in the process of looking for yield enhancements. “Hence structured finance and alternative credit are areas where we could be of service to these clients.”

Lam declined to give the current size of the sales and marketing team in Asia.