Fimat has seen its European and American prime brokering business grow rapidly over the past 12 months and is now considering whether to extend it into the Asia-Pacific region, says Patrice Blanc, Paris-based chairman.

Before the firm can dive into that business, however, it needs to have the right people with the necessary relationships in place. Blanc says this week the executive committee of the group began considering how to go about it.

Wessel van der Scheer, managing director for Asia Pacific in Sydney, says the firm's experience servicing hedge funds in Europe has demonstrated it has the operational capability. In this region, it has a processing centre for its mainstream wholesale clearing business in Australia, and risk management and other capacities in Hong Kong.

What the firm lacks is the relationships with the Asia-Pacific hedge fund industry. Van der Scheer says Fimat has no intention to try to go out and tackle regional leaders like Goldman Sachs. Rather, the firm's patient nurturing of its funds services in Europe and North America has been a gradual process that has recently taken off, vaulting Fimat into the number-six position in Europe.

He says the firm doesn't want to go country by country, limiting itself to just one market, but rather put the key individuals in place in Japan, Australia and Hong Kong or Singapore, so that Fimat can provide a regional service.

The firm believes it can build a business off of medium-sized hedge funds that don’t receive the five-star treatment from incumbent prime brokers, who devote more resources to the biggest clients. And Fimat also sees a rapidly growing industry full of start-ups.

Fimat, a wholly owned subsidiary of Société Générale, was founded in 1986 and counts itself as the world's number-five broker. It specializes in the brokerage of derivative products in futures and options, both listed and OTC, and in cash markets for interest rates, equities and foreign exchange. As of end June 2003, it claims 4.8% of global market share.