Amundi expands in China as Beijing further opens up asset management

(This September 30 story corrects to drop word “desperately” in last paragraph)

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Amundi, Europe’s largest asset manager, launched a wealth management venture in Shanghai on Wednesday and plans to set up an outbound investment business in Beijing as China opens its doors wider to global asset managers.

The French company, which already owns a mutual fund venture in China, is capitalizing on a new round of financial opening by Beijing that also galvanized other global asset managers such as BlackRock.

“You don’t have a single market in the world where you see global asset managers are positioning themselves so proactively, and so resourcefully,” said Xiaofeng Zhong, Amundi’s CEO for North Asia.

Wednesday’s opening ceremony for Amundi BOC Wealth Management Co in Shanghai marks the birth of China’s first foreign-controlled wealth management venture. The business is 55% owned by Amundi, and 45% held by a unit of Bank of China.

Last July, China allowed foreign asset managers to form majority-owned wealth management ventures with local banks, throwing open a market that fund consultancy Z-Ben Advisors estimates will more than double to 57 trillion yuan ($8.37 trillion) in a decade.

“Just following the natural trend is creating a lot of favorable wind,” said Julien Fontaine, Amundi’s Head of Partnerships.

The new venture, which marries Amundi’s proprietary portfolio management system and risk-management expertise with Bank of China’s nationwide networks and huge client base, aims to launch its first product at the end of the year.

U.S. asset manager BlackRock Inc last month won Chinese regulatory approval to set up a wealth management venture with Temasek Holdings and China Construction Bank.

Amundi has secured a quota of $300 million under China’s outbound investment scheme QDLP, and will set up a subsidiary in Beijing to help Chinese invest abroad.

Amundi’s Zhong said Chinese banks need foreign help to grow their investment capability amid structural reform of the asset management industry.

“By participating in the process, we grow our portfolio, and our assets as well.”

Reporting by Samuel Shen and Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle