Axa Investment Managers is transferring its fixed income investment team from Singapore to Hong Kong as part of a drive to centralise its investment capabilities in the city.

Axa IM’s Asia head of fixed income, Rob Andrews, will relocate before the end of this year, along with team members. Additional hires will be made, with a five-strong team planned.

It comes after AsianInvestor reported that Mark Tinker was transferred from London to Hong Kong last month as head of Axa Framlington Asia, the French firm’s fundamental equity arm. A second equity portfolio manager will be hired to join Tinker soon, AsianInvestor understands.

Prior to this, Axa IM's equities capabilities in the region primarily centred around its quantitative investment arm Rosenberg in Singapore, which will remain there. Framlington did not have investment managers in Asia previously.

“This is just the first step,” says Axa IM’s Asia-Pacific head Jean-Pierre Leoni. “We need to transform our branding into net new money and a broader client base. We need to continue our momentum in raising new assets, hence our headquarters has given us support to base our investment platform in Hong Kong.”

Leoni joined the firm in 2009, setting the group’s Asia expansion plan in motion by installing a Hong Kong-based distribution team. He hired Terence Lam in 2010 as regional head of sales and marketing, with a remit to raise brand awareness. The distribution team is now in double digits, notes Leoni without elaborating.

He says he plans to bolster the firm’s reach to Asian retail investors by working more closely with distributors, including independent financial advisers, consumer banks and insurance companies, as well as engaging more with private banks.

The move to centralise its investment capabilities in Hong Kong appears to underline the growing importance of China to Axa IM, which had $31 billion in Asia-Pacific-sourced assets as at September 30, 2012, by AsianInvestor numbers. Globally the firm has $772 billion in AUM.

Leoni confirms that developing its product capabilities is a priority, including offshore renminbi instruments in both equity and fixed income.

He says Axa IM will be looking to register more local funds in Hong Kong, with one eye on the proposed cross-border mutual fund recognition scheme between Hong Kong and mainland China, which industry sources are tipping to be introduced before the end of this year (potentially over Christmas).

Looking ahead, a trader and a head of compliance for Asia will also be based in Hong Kong, adds Leoni.

He notes that while new investment platforms will be added to the Hong Kong office, Singapore will remain a base for its real estate investment and quantitative equities businesses, which will be distributed through Southeast Asian markets.

Leoni believes that the differentiator for Axa-IM is its strength in credit and tactical asset allocation, which is an area that its team in Hong Kong has been working on.