Bull and bear symbols for successful and bad trading in front of the German stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany
Germany is on course to have more than 9mn so-called ETF saving plans by 2025, according to BlackRock © Reuters

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Axa Investment Managers is aiming to distribute its exchange traded funds through neobanks and robo-advisers within a year as it expands its new ETF business across different markets.

The plans are part of a growing shift by ETF providers towards digital distribution and targeting direct retail investors, experts say.

Nicolas-Louis Guille-Biel, global head of ETFs and product strategy at Axa IM, said the company was currently in talks with digital platforms as it looked for distributors of its ETFs.

“We’re already [talking with] several distribution platforms in Germany, France and the UK,” he said.

This article was previously published by Ignites Europe, a title owned by the FT Group.

“We hope to start in the next 12 months.”

Axa IM launched its ETF business in September and has since launched three funds, all listed in Germany.

Guille-Biel, who led the development of the ETF business, said the firm planned to at least double its number of products in the near future and to expand to other markets.

Axa is looking at multiple European markets, including Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

The firm was also looking at France “to an extent” as it is Axa’s home market, he added.

Guille-Biel said that in addition to developing its digital distribution, Axa Im’s ETF team would look to capitalise further on the wider firm’s institutional business.

Michael O’Riordan, founding partner of Blackwater Search and Advisory, said ETF distribution in Europe was changing as asset managers increasingly looked to work with companies such as neobanks and robo-advisers.

“How ETF managers distribute their products in Europe has taken a subtle shift if you have been observing the market over the past 18 months,” O’Riordan said.

He said there were other managers looking for similar partnerships, all with the goal of developing a direct-to-retail channel.

“Firms who continue to rely on the old ways of distribution are at risk of being squeezed out,” he said. “Evolve or die.”

Deborah Fuhr, founder of ETFGI, said getting on to platforms was “especially important” for ETF providers in Germany.

Germany is on course to have more than 9mn so-called ETF saving plans by 2025, according to a forecast by BlackRock.

The country is Europe’s largest market for ETFs, followed closely by the UK, according to data compiled by Blackwater Search and Advisory in 2021.

Simon Klein, global head of Xtrackers sales at DWS, recently told Ignites Europe that his firm had strengthened its digital distribution in Germany through partnerships with online brokers, digital-only banks and robo-advisers.

Klein added that DWS was now rolling out the strategy elsewhere in Europe, including in Italy and the UK.

BlackRock is among other firms that have taken a similar approach, announcing a partnership with neobroker Bux in the Netherlands last month, while Franklin Templeton partnered with Directa in Italy last year.

Axa Im’s ETFs topped €1bn in assets under management at the end of January, according to Morningstar data.

The firm recently expanded its ETF team by hiring JPMorgan Asset Management’s head of ETF distribution for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Olivier Paquier, and appointing him as global head of ETF sales.

*Ignites Europe is a news service published by FT Specialist for professionals working in the asset management industry. Trials and subscriptions are available at igniteseurope.com.

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