Yesterday, French regulator AMF updated its list of digital asset licenses to include AXA Investment Management, as first reported by Coindesk. The asset manager has a license for digital asset custody, to buy and sell digital assets and trade them.
The two other well-known institutions with AMF licenses include Societe Generale Forge, which received its license in September last year and Caisse des Depots, the state-owned social impact bank which has long been an innovator in the digital assets sector.
AXA IM and Societe Generale – Forge have an existing relationship. In December 2021, the asset manager invested in the European Investment Bank’s public blockchain bond on behalf of AXA France. SocGen managed the Ethereum issuance using its infrastructure and sold the bonds to AXA IM.
“Blockchain can have a disruptive power for asset management processes, as part/or the entire asset management value chain could benefit from this technology over the long term,” said Laurence Arnold in December 2021. She’s Head of Innovation Management and Strategic Initiatives at AXA IM. “We believe this could improve the customer experience by accelerating the treatment of financial transactions and facilitating the exchange and storage of data.”
A digital asset license doesn’t necessarily indicate a strong interest in crypto. Times have changed, but in 2021 AXA IM said it would not invest in Bitcoin for environmental reasons. It expressed an interest in other cryptocurrencies but said it wasn’t willing to develop them at that stage. However, it is very optimistic about DeFi.
“We fundamentally think the future of fund management relies more on newly created DeFi techniques rather than tweaking our existing operating models to adapt to a decentralised system.”
A spokesperson responded to our questions about the purpose of the license. “The registration as crypto service provider will be useful as we actively work on initiatives where blockchain technology can bring benefits to capital markets i.e. tokenization of financial securities or funds, and we do see interest in the use of digital currencies like CBDC or stablecoins. Yet, we don’t have any investment strategy nor exposure to cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ether,…). And there is no plan at this stage to have any.
Later this month, the EU’s DLT Pilot Regime comes into force which should stimulate the issuance of tokenized securities.
Update: Added Axa’s response about purpose of the license.