AXA Investment Managers, the asset-management arm of global insurance giant AXA Group, is boycotting the early race for a place in the China market. Its strategy is in contrast to other leading fund-management companies, some of which have aggressively pushed to be among the first batch of firms to enter the mainland market and jostle for position amid expectations Beijing will lift its ban on foreign companies after joining the World Trade Organisation. Once it is a member of the WTO, China is set to allow foreign firms to hold a 33 per cent stake in its fund-management companies, a figure that will increase to 49 per cent after three years. Fleming Investment Management and Schroders Investment Management (Hong Kong) have each announced they are to team with mainland partners to prepare to enter the China market. However, AXA Investment Managers chairman and chief executive Donald Brydon said the group was not intending to seek a Chinese partner to prepare for entry. 'It is not our priority task to enter the China fund-management market within the next five years, as our present focus is not to develop in the new market,' he said. 'Our focus within the next few years is to further develop in markets where we already have operations.' Therefore, in Asia, the company would focus on developing its fund management business in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, Mr Brydon said. 'Of course China is an important market, no one would neglect it,' he said. 'It would be our long-term plan to develop into China but it would not be our priority in the near future.' He did not worry about being a late entry saying it was not easy to break new ground when a market first opened up. AXA Investment Managers was created in 1994 to bring together all the investment management activities of the French-based AXA Group. It now manages 270 billion euros (about HK$1.76 trillion). In Hong Kong it manages more than five billion euros in funds. AXA Group is the world's largest insurance organisation in terms of assets, while its SAR insurance arm AXA China Region is one of the biggest local life companies. AXA Investment Managers Hong Kong chief executive Tony Archer said AXA China Region had a life insurance licence to set up a joint venture in Shanghai. This would help build relationships for the AXA Group there and help the fund-management firm develop in China, he said. Mr Brydon said AXA Investment Managers did not plan to act only as a back office investing premium income for AXA Group insurance companies. Rather, the company would like to offer investment services for other retail and institutional investors. In 1995, when the investment arm was first set up, 95 per cent of its revenue came from managing funds for AXA Group's insurance companies. That has changed dramatically and outside work looks set to increase further over time. At present, 50 per cent of its revenue comes from clients outside the AXA Group. Within five years, Mr Brydon hoped AXA Investment Managers would earn 75 per cent of its revenue from other clients. The fund-management company provides investment products such as Asian equities funds, fixed-income products, pension funds and unit-linked products. Mr Brydon expects to see it playing a greater role in managing pension funds in Hong Kong after the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) is introduced in December. AXA China Region is one of 20 MPF providers to have secured a significant market share. And, naturally, AXA Investment Managers is the company which will manage those clients' MPF funds.