Paris-based Natixis Global Asset Management has opened an office in Hong Kong today, with a view to marketing its offering to retail, high-net-worth and institutional investors in the city and strengthening its Greater China business.

John Hailer, Boston-based US and Asia CEO, was in town for the official opening, along with his regional management team. They include Kinji Kato, Asia and Japan head; Taiwan chief Michael Chang, who will relocate to head Hong Kong and will be replaced in Taipei; and Damon Hambly, Hong Kong-based director of strategy and business planning for Asia.

Only $23.4 billion (3.3%) of Natixis’ $711 billion is sourced from Asia Pacific; Hailer sees that proportion rising substantially but, he stresses, steadily.

These assets are spread across affiliate businesses including Asia ex-Japan equities house Absolute Asia, property specialist AEW, value manager Harris Associates, equity and bond shop Loomis Sayles and exchange-traded funds provider Ossiam.

There will be operations and sales staff in Hong Kong, and investments will continue to be managed by Natixis affiliates elsewhere. The firm already has offices in Beijing, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei and Tokyo, and the latter will remain the regional head office.

Asked where he sees its fastest growing business in the coming months, Chang replies that he expects it to be from pension schemes in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The new Employee Choice Arrangement under Hong Kong's Mandatory Provident Fund scheme will come in on November 1.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan there has been "intensive debate on underfunded liabilities in government pensions", says Chang. The Taiwan Pension Funds Association wants to push further liberalisation of retirement systems. A defined-contribution model will be introduced next year, he adds, which will create a lot of opportunities for fund managers.

He also sees significant opportunities for servicing mainland Chinese clients via Hong Kong. “Many offshore wealth management solutions are being developed in Hong Kong for onshore clients in China, and we’d like to take advantage of that,” adds Chang. “We also want to develop an onshore sub-advisory business on the mainland similar to the one we have in Taiwan.”

While the rep office in Beijing is focused purely on institutions, Natixis would like to work with mainland Chinese fund houses with offices in Hong Kong; the likes of Bosera, China AMC and Harvest. The French firm can help provide the expertise they need to meet their clients’ demands, says Chang, but it has not yet struck any partnerships.