Axa Investment Managers has joined the list of asset managers working on building out a retail funds offering across Asia, particularly in Singapore but also with a focus on Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The French firm has registered its first 13 products for retail sale* and hired a client service executive to cover institutional, private banking and retail customers in the Lion City. It declined to name the addition, who is due to join in the coming days to support Amy Lo, associate director of client services in Hong Kong.

Axa IM has also boosted its retail fund count in Hong Kong to 23 from 16.** It also plans to develop more Asian products through its regional investment team, says Terence Lam, Asia ex-Japan head of sales and marketing.

Other firms to have been working on ramping up their retail business in Asia include BlackRock, JP Morgan Asset Management and Neuberger Berman.

Previously Axa IM had only been able to sell products to private banks and institutions in Singapore. It is now in the process of onboarding retail distribution partnerships with banks in the city-state and expects the new hire to help explore other potential relationships.

“We will have made good progress on this by the end of this year compared to 12 months ago,” Lam tells AsianInvestor.

However, the firm has no plans to domicile products in Hong Kong or Singapore with an eye on passporting proposals such as the China-HK mutual recognition agreement or the Asean scheme. But Lam says it is keeping the various opportunities in mind.

Axa IM is looking to strengthen its brand in Asia, with Taiwan a major focus, says Lam. The firm is working on strengthening its brand awareness there with its master agent, Cathay Securities Investment Trust Enterprise, by using advertising, seminars and other marketing projects.

It is getting increasingly difficult to register new funds in Taiwan, he notes, but Axa IM has something of an advantage on this front by being a relatively early entrant into the market.

Axa IM is also planning to make use of a distribution channel in the country, offshore banking units. “This is something we’re looking at and making progress on, but there is still a fair amount of local regulatory issues we need to deal with.”

Moreover, the fund house is also thought to be considering other potential locations in the region to add to its presences in Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo. Lam declined to comment on this.

Meanwhile, Axa IM is looking to sharpen its focus on selling to private banks, something Lam sees as a trend. He says a number of managers are looking to differentiate their “deep retail” salespeople from their private banking specialists, particularly in Singapore, and the French firm is making a similar move.

While he does not plan to add private bank sales staff right now, Lam is more clearly separating responsibilities between retail and private bank sales. “This comes down to the quality of the relationships they have and the type of salespeople,” he adds.

*The newly approved funds in Singapore are: Axa World Funds – Framlington American Growth; Axa World Funds – Framlington Emerging Markets; Axa World Funds – Framlington Euro Relative Value; Axa World Funds – Framlington Europe; Axa World Funds – Framlington Global Real Estate Securities; Axa World Funds – Framlington Health; Axa World Funds – Framlington Junior Energy; Axa World Funds – Emerging Markets Short Duration Bonds; Axa World Funds – Global Aggregate Bonds; Axa World Funds – Global High Yield Bonds; Axa World Funds – Global Inflation Bonds; Axa World Funds – Universal Inflation Bonds; and Axa World Funds – US High Yield Bonds.  

** The newly approved funds in Hong Kong are: Axa World Funds – Framlington American Growth; Axa World Funds – Framlington Emerging Markets; Axa World Funds – Framlington Euro Relative Value; Axa World Funds – Framlington Global Convertibles; Axa World Funds – Global Inflation Bonds; Axa World Funds – Universal Inflation Bonds; and Axa World Funds – US High Yield Bonds.