London-based Architas, which is the fund of funds specialist unit of the Axa Group, has been granted three licences this month to operate as an asset management firm in Hong Kong, according to records from the Securities and Futures Commission.
The licences are for asset management (type 9), dealing in securities (type 1) and advising on securities (type 4).
The move supports Axa Group’s investment-linked insurance business in Asia by providing “independent fund selection” solutions, Matthieu André, the firm’s London-based CEO, said in a statement.
FSA sought more information from the firm, but it was not able to provide additional details about their business plans in the region.
The new licences come after the firm received approval from the SFC in 2018 to launch three Dublin-domiciled fund of funds in the SAR. At the time, Nicolas Deschamps, London-based head of client group, told FSA that the products are distributed through Axa’s local offices.
The products are the Architas Flexible Bond, Multi-Asset Balanced and Flexible Equity funds. They are managed by senior investment manager Seamus Lyons, according to their fund factsheets.
In Singapore, the three funds were launched to accredited investors in 2018, according to data from FE Fundinfo. Architas is not registered with the Monetary Authority of Singapore, although its affiliates Axa Insurance and Axa Investment Managers have relevant licences to operate in the Lion City, according to records from the regulator.
In a similar move, AIA Investment Management, the asset management arm of Hong Kong-based insurance firm AIA, had its first batch of mutual funds approved by the SFC this week. Insurance firm New York Life also set up an asset management entity in the SAR in December to target professional investors.
With the new Hong Kong unit, Zaid Alrifai was appointed as head of Asia, while Mai Khanh Vo was named as chief investment officer at Architas, according to the firm’s announcement. Both are based in Hong Kong and are also assigned as the responsible officers of the firm, SFC records show.
Alrifai assumed his role this month and was Axa’s Hong Kong-based head of business development for Asia, according to his Linkedin profile. He has been working with the Axa Group since 2010 in the UK and transferred to Hong Kong for his Asia business development role in 2017.
Vo is also an internal hire and was Axa’s Hong Kong-based head of investment for Asia, a role she assumed in 2017, her Linkedin profile shows. Before that, she was Amundi Asset Management’s Paris-based head of fund selection and advisory.
Deschamps and London-based chief investment officer Eduardo Arguello have also been named as responsible officers of the firm, according to SFC records.
The new licences come at a time when markets have become volatile as the coronavirus outbreak continues to disrupt business and economic activity globally, however. In a separate statement issued last month, Architas said that it has moved to a full working-from-home policy for its offices across the UK, Ireland, France and Belgium.
“All our external events are on hold until such a time that it is deemed safe to resume. Following increasing encouragement from global governments to social distance, we do not feel it is appropriate to continue with these activities at this time,” Deschamps said in the statement.
Architas reported on its website that it managed £24bn ($29.94bn) in assets on September 30, 2019.
The Architas funds versus their sectors since their launch in Singapore