Natixis Investment Managers is ramping up its client coverage in Asia Pacific by opening an office in Melbourne – its second in Australia – and recruiting an insurance specialist in Hong Kong.

The French fund house has appointed an institutional sales executive for the new Australia branch, who will start on February 11, Fabrice Chemouny, Asia-Pacific head of Natixis IM, told AsianInvestor this week.

Declining to identify the new hire, Chemouny said the individual had previously worked for a local firm in Australia with a focus on private markets and before that for one of the global investment consultancies.

“We came to the conclusion that it was appropriate to have a presence on the ground in both cities [Melbourne and Sydney]," Chemouny said.

Fabrice Chemouny

Melbourne is home to many of the largest Australian industry superannuation funds, along with insurance firms, asset consultants, family offices and wealth managers with an institutional investment focus, he added. 

Fund houses see insurance companies in Asia as a particularly fast-growing area opportunity, given their rapid growth and desire to diversify into new asset classes and overseas investments.

“We’re about to hire someone in Hong Kong dedicated to covering insurance firms; they will look after Hong Kong and Macau,” Chemouny said. “We’re in the search process; I’m looking at CVs right now.”

He added that the firm was putting a big focus on hiring locally in the region and wants to add insurance investment and actuarial expertise, given the looming changes to risk-based capital rules in various jurisdictions. 

Hong Kong, like other markets in Asia, is drawing up new RBC regulations that are set to have a major impact on insurers’ portfolios.

INSURANCE DRIVE 

Natixis IM's plan to add a regional specialist in this area reflects a trend among fund houses, with Invesco another firm to have done so recently. Others to have built up insurance coverage and expertise in Asia in the past few years include BlackRock and HSBC Global Asset Management.

Since Chemouny became Asia-Pacific head in September 2017, he has sought to broaden the firm's regional client base beyond pension funds, central banks and sovereign funds. Hence Natixis – which this month hired a new head of China – has made a push into segments such as insurance and family offices. 

For instance, Natixis IM has won several investment mandates in the past year in Souith Korea in areas such as private credit and infrastructure, Chemouny said. He declined to provide figures because the firm is in a closed period. 

It has increasingly conducted co-investments with insurers in Korea, Chemouny added, though it is early days for such strategies. Natixis has tended to do so with bigger players, such as Samsung Life and Hana Life, as second-tier firms don’t have the skill set to do so as yet, he said.

Chemouny added that Natixis IM had grown its Asia-Pacific customer base in terms of numbers of clients by 50% since he arrived in Hong Kong. This has come as it has sought to raise the profile of its various affiliates in the region and its public and private market strategies across asset classes, he said.

Reflecting an ongoing shift into alternative assets, Natixis IM has seen its main business growth in the region in such strategies, both in liquid and illiquid assets, he added.

Indeed, it has sought to bolster expertise in the private markets space, such as by acquiring London-based firm MV Credit in 2018 and adding an Asian real asset private debt team last year.