Malakoff Humanis, major player in France’s social protection insurance market, has entered into exclusive negotiations with Sienna Investment Managers about a long-term strategic partnership in the field of retirement and employee savings.

In a statement, Malakoff, which has nearly €7bn in equity capital, said that through a partnership with Sienna, it aimed to develop its retirement and employee savings business and strengthen its asset management competencies.

The goal was to better meet its clients’ expectations and to position itself as a leader “in this fast-growing market”.

The partnership under discussion foresees Sienna Investment Managers acquiring a majority stake in Malakoff Humans Gestion d’Actifs, the group’s €20bn asset management company, and a “component to accelerate the distribution of Malakoff Humanis’ savings business”.

Sienna is a wholly-owned subsidiary of investment holding company Groupe Bruxelles Lambert and has had a presence in Paris since the spring this year.

It said the partnership with Malakoff was “perfectly in line with the recent launch and development of Sienna’s third-party fund management platform, with the objective of pursuing its growth and consolidation strategy in the sector”.

Christel Tarneaud, senior project manager at asset management consultancy INDEFI, said the envisaged partnership seemed symptomatic of developments in pensions and investment markets. She cited two main trends: reforms encouraging policyholders to take advantage of the long-term horizon of their pension savings to move into higher-yielding strategies and reforms to allow retail customers access to enhanced returns on offer by alternative asset classes.

The Pacte reform of 2019 in France is an example of the former, creating a new standardised defined contribution pension wrapper, the Plan d’Epargne Retraite (PER). Whereas most savings were previously directed to guaranteed products, Tarneaud said, contributions to the PER are channelled by default into a target-date solution based on members’ risk appetite and investment profile, with a range of self-select funds also offered.

”Pension providers such as Malakoff Humanis are fully expected to play their role in this shift by designing, packaging and promoting investment solutions,” Tarneaud told IPE.

“For providers that do not have sufficient existing capabilities, this can be a significant shift, and we expect to see many other strategic partnerships between pension institutions and investment solutions providers.”

In a similar vein, she said, partnerships between asset managers affiliated to pension sponsors and alternative investment managers were likely to be the main approach adopted by pension sponsors to integrate alternative solutions within their investment portfolios.

Sienna, formally known as Sienna Capital, is a platform for alternative investments and real assets. In August it announced the acquisition of L’Etoile Properties, a €7bn pan-European real estate investment manager.

The new PER vehicle is widely seen as a success story so far, reaching €50bn in assets, one-fifth of the assets in all defined contribution pension plans in France.

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