Natixis Global Asset Management is moving to diversify its traditional focus in the Middle East beyond sovereign wealth funds both to other institutions and the private wealth segment with the hire of a new head for the region.

Jean Michel Bourgoin, previously Middle East CEO at rival fund house Amundi, moved to Dubai from Abu Dhabi on February 15 as Natixis GAM's executive managing director of the Middle East and North Africa. 

Terry Mellish had previously overseen the region from London for Natixis GAM as senior executive officer for Mena and head of global institutional services since January 2010. He is now focused full time on the latter role.

Bourgoin's hire somewhat bucks the trend in the Middle East, where international asset managers are facing a difficult time amid negative investor sentiment. The oil-rich region has been hit hard by the collapse in the price of crude, which is having a big impact on government reserves and raising concerns over cuts in state spending. 

SWFs pulled at least $46 billion from asset managers last year, according to data provider eVestment Alliance. Oil-based funds are thought to be big contributors to the withdrawals, highlighting the benefits to asset managers of a diversified client base.

SWF assets represent the largest part of the institutional and private wealth in the GCC region and are a major focus of Natixis Global AM’s activity, a spokesman told AsianInvestor. The firm now intends to diversify into the non-sovereign institutional segment, comprising pension funds, commercial banks and insurance companies. It also aims to grow its private wealth business in the Gulf through local banks, international private banks and independent financial advisers.  

The investment industry is notably optimistic about the prospects for the growth of Western-style defined-contribution retirement plans in the Gulf. 

In his new role Bourgoin reports to Fabrice Chemouny, head of international institutional sales, and Matt Shafer, head of international retail and wholesale distribution. Amundi is understood to be looking to replace Bourgoin.

Natixis Global AM has five executives in Dubai, but no investment staff, and will expand the team in line with its AUM growth, noted the spokesman.

The firm has no plans to launch products specifically targeting the Middle East, he added, but can build bespoke strategies for large investors’ requirements. Nor does it run any off-the-shelf sharia-compliant funds, although it does manage sukuk (Islamic bond) portfolios for clients in the region. 

It does plan to register products with the Securities and Commodities Authority in Abu Dhabi – the principal securities regulator for the United Arab Emirates – once new regulations are in place. The rules are currently being finalised.

Bourgoin has nearly 30 years of experience in institutional sales, including 25 covering large institutional clients in the Middle East. He spent around 20 years at Amundi (or its predecessor firms). He set up and led the sovereign institution coverage group at the firm and has also served as executive director in Singapore and Malaysia. Before joining Amundi he worked for Banque Indosuez.