ITALY - AXA IM Italia, the Milan-based office of AXA Investment Managers, has appointed a new institutional advisory manager to look after its institutional business.

Antonio Gatta joined the office from Epilson Sgr, a Gruppo Intesa management company. He reports to Marco Fusco, head of institutional advisory and retail distribution.

His newly created role consists of providing “relationship management and advisory services for the institutional clients” he told IPE.

“This is going to be an intense year for us, 2005 will be very positive” Gatta commented, explaining that AXA was selected by the €2bn industry-wide pension fund Cometa in December.

Gatta said that AXA could gain new business by the end of the first quarter as some pension funds are currently in the “closing phases” of the selection on new asset managers.

Its targets for 2005 will be to expand its presence in the areas of sector-wide pension funds, foundations and professionals’ pension funds, known as the casse privatizzate. It is also establishing a presence in the specialist mandates niche, which is still limited in Italy.

So far AXA has won mandates with five casse privatizzate, four bank foundations and two pension funds.

AXA IM Italia underwent structural changes in 2003, when Alessandro d’Andrea di Pescopagano was appointed country manager. The Italian office has formed a “very strong“ relationship with the main Paris office, Gatta said.

“AXA’s Italian structure is made of Italian speakers, professionals with a good local knowledge and we think this is important for clients” he said.

Meanwhile, Cometa has added three new options to its existing portfolio, which is currently invested 80% in bonds and 20% equities.

Credit Agricole AM and Assicurazioni Generali will be in charge of its new “Money” portfolio, the “Safe” portfolio, which is to guarantee a minimum 2.5% return for members that keep their assets until 2010, is managed by Unipol Assicurazioni and Cattolica Assicurazioni, while “Growth” is managed by Duemme SGR and SG Asset Management Italia.

It has also selected BNP Paribas Asset Management, Epsilon Sgr, Pioneer Investment Management, RAS Asset Management, San Paolo Institutional Asset management, as managers for its existing fund from April.

It was unclear whether the existing fund, which will increase its equity exposure by 10%, would be split in six mandates of the same value.

Cometa declined to quantify the value of the existing fund, which will comprise the assets of members who fail to make an active choice by February.