GERMANY - Fortis has opened a sales office in Frankfurt to offer a range of fund services to asset managers specialising in both traditional and asset classes.

According to Fortis, the services to be provided to asset managers in Germany are administration, custody and financing – including bridge, leverage, cash management and structured products.

Fortis said the move was a result of Germany’s investment law of January 2004, which gave rise to Germany’s hedge fund industry and loosened other restrictions on investment funds.

“Fortis believes the market in Germany will offer a lot of opportunities in the near future,” the bank said.

Eric Jacobson, who already heads the Geneva office of Fortis Prime Fund Solutions, will take on the additional responsibility of leading the new Frankfurt office. Fortis opened the Geneva office a month ago.

Speaking to IPE from Geneva, Jacobson, 43, said that rather than hiring new staff for the sales office, he and other Fortis colleagues from Luxembourg would be working part-time out of Frankfurt.

“We plan to staff the office in this way. If we find that demand for our services in Germany picks up dramatically, we may decide to hire people locally,” he said.

While acknowledging that the market for hedge funds in Germany has been slow to develop, Jacobson said Fortis was convinced of the market’s prospects in the long term and would also seek to grow in the traditional German fund-of-funds (Dachfonds) industry.

Since being created in January 2004, German-domiciled hedge funds have taken in a bit more than €1bn in assets. By the end of 2005, industry experts believe inflows to these products will total at most €2bn.