Global asset managers Natixis and Amundi, two of the world's top 15 fund houses by assets, are set to expand in Hong Kong, hiring more professionals as more hot money flows into the city.
Paris-headquartered Natixis Global Asset Management opened an office in Hong Kong last week, mainly to deal with sales of its wealth management products. The firm has high hopes for the new office, which may have the potential to catch up with its Japan unit.
The Japan office of Natixis, which is also a relatively new player in the region, has experienced a 32 per cent jump in assets under management (AUM) over the past two years, said John Hailer, president and chief executive for US and Asia at Natixis, the world's 13th biggest asset manager by AUM.
"We want (Hong Kong) to be a very important hub for Asia … this is a potential bridge for us into the mainland," Hailer said.
Globally, Natixis manages US$710 billion as of the second quarter this year.
It plans to start its fund-raising activities next year, targeting local investors, said Hailer, who declined to give an AUM target for the Hong Kong office, which now has five investment professionals.
"We would like this (Hong Kong office) to be not only a distribution business (and) development office, but also eventually would like to have service, operations and administration functions based in Hong Kong," Hailer said.
Capital is returning to Hong Kong and mainland capital markets as investors bet local stocks and property will rise following the latest round of US monetary quantitative easing, commonly known as QE3.
Natixis is not alone in eyeing the region. European asset manager Amundi, ranked the 12th largest asset manager in the world by AUM, is also mulling expansion in Asia.
The firm wants to serve more mainland clients who have strong demand for wealth management services. Hong Kong has traditionally served as the leading offshore wealth management service hub for rich mainlanders.
Michael Chang, who was recently appointed to head Natixis in Hong Kong, said the firm is ready to form partnerships with mainland fund houses and brokerages.
"They love the idea" of a partnership, he said.
The fund manager is in preliminary talks with mainland brokerages to provide advisory services to help them invest overseas, Chang said.
Assets managed by the world's largest 500 fund houses fell by about 3 per cent to US$63 trillion last year, breaking a two-year trend in which assets rose by 16 per cent and 4 per cent in 2009 and 2010, respectively, a Pensions & Investments/Towers Watson survey showed.