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European Fund Giant’s Triumph Has Valedictory Air

Mark Gilbert
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European Fund Giant’s Triumph Has Valedictory Air

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Yves Perrier, the chief executive officer of Amundi SA, has said for several years that his aim is to make Asia a second domestic market for his firm. In 2019, the business started to deliver on that promise — which could pave the way for Perrier, who’s spent the past decade building Amundi into Europe’s biggest fund manager, to depart on a high.

Amundi, which oversees more than 1.6 trillion euros ($1.8 trillion), doubled its Asian business last year to 300 billion euros, figures released on Wednesday show, with the region contributing almost a fifth of the firm’s assets under management. And while the Paris-based firm still depends on its domestic market for 54% of its assets, that share is down from more than 60% in early 2017.

Big wins in India, where two new pension fund mandates contributed 74 billion euros of inflows, helped Amundi swell its total assets under management by 16% last year.

But it’s China that offers the greatest potential. Amundi already has a 33% stake in a joint venture with Agricultural Bank of China in fund management that has almost 68 billion euros of assets. The French firm reckons that the total Chinese market, worth 7 trillion euros, is growing at an annual rate of between 10% and 15%.

In December, Amundi became the first foreign firm authorized to take majority control of a joint venture in wealth management, after Chinese regulators loosened the rules last year. It’s teaming up with Bank of China, the country’s fourth-largest bank with 500 million retail customers and 11,000 branches. That gives Amundi a fantastic platform to market its investment products, which cover the gamut including active, passive and alternative strategies, to China’s growing middle class.

But there’s an oddly valedictory feel to Wednesday’s results presentation, with several references to Amundi’s performance since 2010, the year Perrier formed the company by merging the asset management businesses of Credit Agricole SA and Societe Generale SA. I couldn’t find any similar long-term references in last year’s results submission.

Perrier, who is 66, has consistently dodged questions about a possible successor, although he did say in December 2018 that he’d like the next boss of his firm to be a woman. With Amundi making good on its stated ambition to be “the European leader with global ambitions,” he’d be well within his rights to decide 2020 is the year to ride off into the sunset.

To contact the author of this story: Mark Gilbert at magilbert@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.net

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Mark Gilbert is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering asset management. He previously was the London bureau chief for Bloomberg News. He is also the author of "Complicit: How Greed and Collusion Made the Credit Crisis Unstoppable."

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