EUROPE NEWS: Woman of the moment: Isabelle Scemama

AXA Investment Managers – Real Assets, the subsidiary of French insurance giant AXA, has completed a leadership change after appointing one of the firm’s veterans, Isabelle Scemama, as its new chief executive.

Scemama is replacing Pierre Vaquier, the outgoing chief executive widely credited with helping to grow the firm from a Europe-focused business to a €70 billion global powerhouse. Vaquier, who left to pursue other interests, has yet to announce his next move.

AXA Investment Managers’ chief executive Andrea Rossi described Scemama as an “instrumental force” in the development of the firm’s real assets platform.

Scemama began her career in Paribas’ corporate financing department in 1989, before joining the business’s real estate financing department six years later, where she was responsible for investor financing. In 2001, Scemama joined AXA IM – Real Assets to head its real estate fund structuring and financing practice and by 2005 had become head of commercial real estate finance, launching the firm’s CRE loans business. In 2014, she was appointed chief executive of AXA REIM SGP, the French-regulated entity of AXA IM – Real Assets.

When asked about her biggest achievements, Scemama said helping to create the firm’s commercial real estate loans business in 2005, which grew into a platform that currently manages €10 billion of investment mandates. She also highlighted the formation of AXA IM – Real Assets’ ‘360 approach,’ a concept that uses the four tenets of property investment, public, private, debt and equity, to help investors make more informed decisions. Scemama was also behind the launch of the 2015-vintage vehicle AXA CoRE Europe, the firm’s office and retail-focused core fund. It launched last year after AXA IM – Real Assets raised an initial €500 million, but, over the longer term, the firm is seeking €3 billion-€5 billion.

“The clear challenges ahead are the market cycle and the economic environment. Some markets are close to their peak and others are probably at their peak, so we will have to monitor the cycle carefully. Our 360 degree investing approach will help us to do so and to be more agile for deploying the money raised,” Scemama said.

“It is exciting to have the opportunity to lead the business through the next phase of its evolution, particularly in an environment where demand from investors for real assets has never been so high.”