Axa Investment Managers has closed down its multi-asset operation in Hong Kong, in a consolidation that is part of a global strategy, AsianInvestor can reveal. The French firm is shifting the multi-asset division to its investment hub in Paris.

Terence Lam, managing director and head of sales for APAC at Axa IM in Hong Kong, told AsianInvestor: “We can confirm that Axa IM’s multi-asset client solutions team (MACS) has decided to manage all multi-asset portfolios from Paris.”

He said staff in France “will continue to work closely with the Asian office to preserve the quality of service and support delivered to our Asian clients”.

Michael Ding, senior portfolio manager in charge of Asian equity investment and the global multi-asset hedge fund business, left Axa IM in January, when responsibility for management of the four Hong Kong multi-asset funds, (growth, balanced, capital growth and capital stable) transferred to Paris. He is currently considering his next move.

Ding had been with Axa IM for four years, having previously been based in Texas with US Global Investors for five years.

Axa IM could not confirm how many other portfolio managers or other staff had been laid off or reassigned.

The change follows the introduction in 2016 of a new investment team, Axa IM Chorus, which is focused on liquid absolute return strategies, based in the Hong Kong office. As part of this, in April 2017, Axa rolled out a multi-premia strategy with $1 billion of seed capital, to be managed in Hong Kong.

As well as Hong Kong, Axa IM has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo, and joint-ventures in Shanghai, Seoul and Mumbai. 

Asked if Axa anticipates further consolidation of management back to Europe, Lam said, “Having investment teams on the ground in Asia has been vital to our growth in the region and we remain committed to expanding our footprint in Asia.” 

Axa IM has been the subject of market speculation that the parent insurer would seek to sell it off. But Axa has maintained that the asset management business is not for sale. 

SHRINKING PRESENCE

Interviewed in the Financial Times on Monday (February 26), CEO Andrea Rossi talked about the group reorganisation, which he said is aimed at improving profits by focusing activity in fewer countries and rationalising business lines.

“I want to be one of the largest players globally,” he noted, adding that more will be done to build its client base in Asia.

Asia is the firm’s third largest investment centre, with investment teams from Rosenberg Equities, Fixed Income, Framlington Equities and Chorus.

In China, Axa IM has obtained a wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE) licence and plans to leverage the relationship with co-shareholder Shanghai Pudong Development Bank in the Chinese joint venture.

Axa has also made strides in Australia, acquiring Eureka Funds Management to add to its equity infrastructure capabilities in the market.

The shift of focus away from the multi-asset business was signalled in March last year by the departure of Julien Fourtou, global head of multi-asset client solutions, after 17 years with the firm. His role was incorporated into that of Laurence Boone, the firm's global head of research and investment strategy.