* Aims to become Latam fund manager of reference
* Runs 76 bln euros in mutual fund assets
* Total assets including institutional money at 147 bln eur
By Chris Vellacott
LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) - The asset management arm of Spanish bank BBVA (BBVA.MC) aims to build a business worth more than 7 billion euros ($9.67 billion) running Latin American portfolios for global institutional clients, a senior executive said.
Luisa Gomez Bravo, head of global asset management said the bank aims to establish an institutional client base seeking its expertise in the region, accounting for about 10 percent of its 76 billion euros in fund assets "within three to five years".
"It is an ambitious challenge for us but one which we feel is our natural strategic next step," Gomez Bravo said.
BBVA has focused its push in Asia, where it has identified increased interest in Latin America from local institutional investors, reflecting growing trade flows between the two regions.
The bank also plans to seek clients in the Middle East before rolling out the business globally, Gomez Bravo said.
"We already have the investment and risk infrastructure in place and we think there is an opportunity for us of leveraging our existing franchise and our know-how of the region," she said.
BBVA, alongside rival Santander (SAN.MC), is a leading player in Latin American financial services having aggressively expanded into the region since the 1990s.
More than half of BBVA's profit comes from Mexico and South America. The fast-growing Latin American economies are compensating for a stagnant domestic market in Spain, hampered by the fall-out from a property boom and bust.
Including institutional money, much of which comprises Latin American pension funds, BBVA runs assets of 147 billion euros.
It also has a presence in Asia, particularly China and Hong Kong having built a roughly 15 percent stake in China CITIC Bank (0998.HK) (601998.SS).
BBVA has sought to further reduce its exposure to Spain's sluggish economy and announced a move into Turkey in October, widening its geographical spread from the Americas. ($1=.7238 Euro) (Additional reporting by Sonya Dowsett in Madrid; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter) (For the Funds Hub blog: blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub) (For Global Investing: here)