Denis Lefranc has been named Asia-Pacific CEO at Societe Generale Asset Management (SGAM).

Lefranc, who was plucked from his post as deputy CEO of Fortune SGAM Fund Management in Shanghai, replaces Laurent Bertiau, who has moved on to become SGAMÆs global head of sales and marketing back in Paris. Fortune SGAM Fund Management is a joint venture between Baosteel Group and SGAM, a unit of the Societe Generale Group that has around 358 billion euros ($558 billion) in assets under management.

A graduate of the Institut dÆEtudes Politiques in Paris and a holder of an economics and history degree from the University of Paris, Lefranc started his financial career as an auditor at FranceÆs futures regulatory body, from where he later entered Societe GeneraleÆs legal division in 1992. Lefranc took on a number of senior roles in the group, first as deputy head of the legal department for capital markets and asset management. He became head of legal and compliance for Barep û SGÆs institutional alternative asset house û in 1997 and then for SGAM in 2000. He became deputy CEO at Fortune SGAM Fund Management in 2003.

When ChinaÆs regulator began entertaining the possibility of having foreign fund management JVs, Lefranc accompanied SGAMÆs executive team to interview and negotiate with possible potential counterparties in his capacity as head of legal and compliance. When SGAM identified Baosteel û ChinaÆs largest steelmaker conglomerate û as its JV partner, SGAMÆs then-chairman Philip Collas handed him the deputy CEO role, which allowed him to stay in Shanghai after the negotiation process as SGÆs highest level representative in the company.

Although Fortune SGAM is based in Shanghai, Lefranc was a regular figure in Beijing. He does not speak the local language, but industry observers say LefrancÆs skills in cultivating æguanxiÆ, or good relationships with regulators and distributors, has been key to his success in transforming the JV from a start-up to its current status as the third largest fund JV in China in terms of market share. As of the first quarter of 2008, Fortune SGAM had AUM of $67.6 billion.

Unlike his CEO counterparts in other Sino-foreign JVs, LefrancÆs reign in Fortune SGAM was not marred by management disputes.

Given ChinaÆs tumultuous history as one of the most volatile fund markets in the region, LefrancÆs track record in steadily growing Fortune SGAMÆs market share throughout his tenure made him among the best possible candidates to succeed Bertiau in Asia, an important source of revenue for SGAM.

LefrancÆs new role will require him to oversee six Asian management centres where SGAM operates, including the more lucrative emerging markets of China, India, Korea, and the more established businesses in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. As of end-2007, SGAM had $51.4 billion in AUM in the region and nearly 800 employees.

Aside from Fortune SGAM in China, where its first QDII fund recently closed with $66 million, SGAMÆs joint ventures in Korea and India also have powerful backers: IBK SGAM in Korea was formed with the Industrial Bank of Korea, while SBI Fund Management in India was formed with the State Bank of India.

Fortune SGAM has not yet announced any succession plan, and filling LefrancÆs shoes is not expected to be an easy task. The talent pool in China has become smaller, following the recent departure of high-level executives from other Sino-foreign JVs.