Axa Investment Managers' new retail chief Simon Ellis says the group's recent fund launches mark the start of a concerted effort to bring to market products and services to suit IFAs' needs.
Ellis, who recently became head of UK retail and multi-manager after leaving Henderson Global Investors, says the corporate bond fund and two multi-manager funds are part of a two-year plan to bolster Axa IM's UK offerings.
The plan, which on the multi-manager side includes continental Europe, will see the French-owned group strive for improved fund performance and a more complete product range.
Ellis says: “Eighteen months ago, the performance was broadly not that good but it has improved and we are refining the investment process to boost performance. There will be no radical change but we are looking at ways that it can be made better.”
These include ensuring that its fund managers have the courage of their convictions. Ellis says at times they have perhaps hesitated when swifter action was required.
Axa IM is also seeking to improve its service to focus more on investors and advisers, especially in terms of portfolio construction and client information, while using the distribution capabilities of its parent.
But what Ellis seems particularly keen to address is investors' vague sense of what constitutes multi-manager. He says: “There is a clear demand but no one seems to know in what way. We will be spending time trying to identify this, whether there is demand from Sipps, private investors, life products or bonds and so on. We are looking at where multi-manager will grow and we may add new funds to our existing proposition.”
Other areas in which Axa IM is keen to grow include fixed interest, where it has almost £23bn under management in the UK alone. Despite the forthcoming launch of its corporate bond fund, Ellis says Axa could well roll out other bond funds over the next 12 months to plug gaps in its range.
It has also recently recruited Investec's Paul Griffiths as UK chief investment officer which Ellis believes shows the extent of Axa IM's ambition.
Ellis says: “He has a reputation as one of the best fixed-income managers around. He is young and ambitious and his recruitment is a signal that we are a genuine investment management company rather than just a passive arm of a life office.”
Before any more fund launches or recruiting, however, Axa is concentrating on boosting sales into the Stuart Fowler-managed UK opportunities fund which has recently celebrated its third anniversary.
Ellis says the aim is to grow the fund to £250m as soon as possible – it is currently £40m – which he believes is an achievable target now that the fund has secured its three-year track record.
Axa IM is also trying to attract attention to its distribution, high-income and extra income funds, in fact, most funds with a low-risk tag. But the UK market-place will see other funds over the coming months as Axa looks to gain recognition for its subsidiaries, Axa Rosenberg, which manufactures Axa's overseas funds, and Alliance Capital Management, the US giant for which Axa distributes products in the UK.
As 14 of AR's 16 equity alpha funds have an S&P rating, Ellis is keen to find ways in which he can bring it to the attention of the UK marketplace but he points out that, as with everything else that Axa is targeting, delivery will be driven by demand.
He says: “It will be a very busy 18 months. We are not going to spend lots of money advertising it all but we will be working towards what the market wants and delivering it better and harder than before. We will not be shy.”