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Axis of activity

Published on Friday, 11 Oct 2013
Jean-Pierre Leoni, head of APAC at AXA IM, says they are very cautious regarding cultural integration.
Photo: Nora Tam

AXA Investment Managers is busy hiring in HK as it expands in Asia

The Hong Kong office of AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM) is set to play an increasingly more important role in future. Already the company’s Asia-Pacific head office, the 40-employee-strong branch is increasing its number of staff with an aim to aggressively develop Hong Kong as a hub for further expansion in the region.

“Hong Kong is a big market for us and is also centrally positioned with China, Taiwan and, to an extent, Singapore nearby,” says Jean-Pierre Leoni, head of Asia-Pacific at AXA IM. “We want to strengthen our presence here.”

Having already considerably expanded its sales team, AXA IM – a wholly owned subsidiary of the AXA Group – is now hiring operations and back-office staff, investment managers in equity and fixed income, IT engineers with experience in software and telecoms, compliance and wealth managers, and a micro-economist, among others.

“It is important for us to ‘operate locally’, although sometimes we do hire from overseas if we cannot find the right person,” Leoni says. “But Hong Kong is a good market. People are well educated and it is not difficult to hire good staff.”

The company, which has more than 2,400 employees globally, is very cautious when it comes to hiring. It wants to ensure that new recruits are entrepreneurial and work well within the team. Employees also have to be committed to the “redefining investment solutions” brand message and what it means in practical terms – redefining, rethinking and questioning investment solutions in order to offer the most relevant products for clients’ needs and objectives.

Diversity and inclusiveness are high on the agenda at AXA IM. The company employs staff from 80 countries speaking 25 languages, while women make up 41 per cent of the workforce. This heightens the need to have a good understanding of the company culture. “We are very cautious regarding integration and want to make sure new hires fit the culture,” Leoni says.

That is one of the reasons why the job interview process is fairly long. First, the in-house HR department or a recruitment agency will screen the applicants. After that, the relevant department’s managers will interview them and prepare a shortlist. Finally the shortlisted candidates will meet the local management.

Leoni says that they prefer well-educated people with proficiency in English and Cantonese. Salespeople have to speak Putonghua as well. Since AXA is a French company, speaking French is also an advantage.

AXA IM’s special emphasis on culture extends to an “integration programme”, which sees the company send new recruits to Europe for a week-long training course to understand the company culture better. “It is important for us that people understand the company and feel good within the system,” Leoni says.

AXA IM has offices in 22 countries, including the major financial centres of Paris, London, Frankfurt and Hong Kong. It appreciates entrepreneurialism, dynamism, innovative thinking, good qualifications and people who fit its open-minded culture.

Employees are encouraged to discuss their learning needs with their managers, and through discussion, decide on the course of training and career development.

According to Leoni, training can include technical courses, such as IT training or learning Putonghua; or personal development, such as soft skills, negotiating tactics, cultural aspects and training in how to work well with people. Professional-studies and leadership-development courses are also supported.

Learning is further supplemented by on-the-job learning and coaching. The company also offers high flexibility and mobility, with overseas assignments a possibility.

The company holds regular team-building activities – such as the latest company outing to Shek O – and CSR programmes. The Hearts in Action programme, created in 1991, sees company volunteers work shoulder to shoulder on community outreach activities.

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