AXA hires Clerestory exec to lead US fundraising

The Paris-based firm has launched a new US distribution platform and appointed Elizabeth Behnke as head of US sales.

AXA Real Estate Investment Managers has launched a US fundraising platform and appointed Elizabeth Behnke as a head of US sales.

The Paris-based insurer and asset manager said she would be responsible for leading fundraising and investor relations of AXA Real Estate in the US.

Behnke, who has 25 years of real estate structuring, fundraising and investor relations experience, was most recently a vice president of investor relations for Clerestory Capital in New York. She will report to AXA global head of research, strategy and business development Kiran Patel, based in Greenwich, Connecticut. She is Axa’s first hire for AXA Real Estate in the US.

Patel said in a statement. “She will be instrumental in helping us grow out a US client base, principally for our European opportunistic funds and for other product and separate account initiatives.”

Also soon to join the US distribution team is Théo Dunoyer, fund manager at AXA for the past six years in France, who will serve as US consultants relationship manager supporting the fundraising effort.

News of the appointments comes two years after chief executive officer, Pierre Vaquier, told PERE that building an investment platform in the US was “still a question mark,” as he had reservations about the US market, but he remained adamant that AXA REIM would eventually open a US office.

Nearly two decades ago, Vaquier helped AXA REIM’s parent company take over US interests of the troubled Equitable Life pension fund to form AXA Equitable. As part of that deal, it acquired Equitable Real Estate Management.

In this way, AXA came to know the US real estate market well, but it sold the business around six years later to Australian firm Lend Lease. Following the sale, AXA concentrated on growth in Europe, and hasn’t returned to the market since.