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Three of Canada’s largest pension funds, which manage a combined total of $630 billion, are hitting the Asian expansion trail hard, underscoring ambitious plans to add to their asset base in the region despite the Covid pandemic -19.
Together, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (Omers) and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) are recruiting currently at least 26 employees, mostly investment professionals, at various levels throughout Asia Pacific.
Job postings posted over the past month show that the private equity and private equity teams at all three institutions will see the biggest expansion, but credit and real estate are also key areas of focus.
CPPIB wants to hire 11 people for its regional headquarters in Hong Kong and six in Mumbai. With 180 employees, it comfortably has the largest Asian workforce of the three pension funds and the greatest regional exposure. Asia-Pacific accounts for nearly 30% of its C$476 billion ($378 billion) global portfolio.
Suyi Kim, CPPIB
The fund’s vacancies in India include a portfolio manager for fundamental equities and associates for renewable energy and private equity. In Hong Kong, CPPIB is looking for a China-focused Senior Portfolio Manager and three other equity-related professionals, as well as two credit investment specialists.
It is understood that the advertised positions are a mix of newly created positions and replacement hires, but CPPIB declined to comment on which or how many people left and when they did.
The fund has also created the post of chief operating officer Asia-Pacific to support regional chief Suyi Kim. The appointee will effectively act as Chief of Staff for operational matters and reflects the growing size of the regional configuration.
A CPPIB spokeswoman declined to provide specific hiring numbers or comment on the recruitment of particular employees. However, she said the overall staff increases in Asia were partly a response to her experiences.
“Last year’s pandemic showed us the importance of having a presence on the ground and the ability to access local opportunities and do due diligence,” the spokeswoman said, adding that as a result, CPPIB had decided to “develop our presence on the ground to enable us to invest in this important region”.
Omers, meanwhile, is adding talent in capital markets and real assets in Asia Pacific, with the region accounting for about 10% of its C$105 billion ($83.1 billion) under management.
The fund is recruiting a senior analyst for the capital markets office to cover energy, industrials, materials and mining – similar areas of interest to Charlotte Tan, who joined the year last. The team, which launched in 2019, now has around seven people and is expected to grow by another four or five this year, a source familiar with the matter said.
Omers’ real estate arm, Oxford Properties, is looking for two investment professionals and a legal executive in Singapore and an analyst in Sydney. Underlining these commitments, the head of the Europe and Asia-Pacific unit, David Matheson, intends to move to Singapore from London in the coming months.
Additionally, Omers is expected to add several people to its infrastructure team in Sydney after joining a partnership announced in November last year to invest in Australian telecoms infrastructure. The Symphony consortium also involves Australian tower company Stilmark and US wireless network operator ATN International.
To cope with the growing workforce in Singapore, Omers plans to expand its office there this year, either by expanding its space at One Raffles Quay or by moving to another location, the unnamed source said. The branch was established in 2018 and currently has around 20 employees.
A spokesperson for Omers declined to comment on any of those developments or numbers.
Like its two peers, OTPP is set to bolster its equity investment capabilities both in Hong Kong and at its new branch in Singapore, which opened in September. This is in line with the plans set out for Asian investor in December to add at least 15 to its 34 employees in the region this year.
Lin Jing, Teachers’
Lin Jing this month joined the private equity team of the C$207 billion ($164.3 billion) program to invest in high-growth companies with innovative technologies and/or business models. A spokesperson said the role was newly created. She previously worked for private equity firm Sailing Capital and before that Baring Private Equity Asia.
OTPP is also looking to add a senior director for high conviction equities in Hong Kong or Singapore and a director for private equity in Hong Kong. The HCE team invests in the equity asset class in pre-IPOs, private equity investments (Pipe) and public companies, while the private equity team makes private equity investments.
Meanwhile, OTPP’s real estate investment unit, Cadillac Fairview, hopes to send staff to Asia this year. He intended to do so in 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic threw a spanner in the works.
CPPIB, Omers and OTPP are not the only Western asset owners looking to expand their workforces and capabilities in Asia. Dutch pension fund manager APG, for example, is making similar efforts, and another Canadian public fund, PSP Investments, opened its first office in the region in early 2019 in Hong Kong.
At the same time, Asian institutional investors are also increasing their exposure to international investments, among them the Malaysian Employees’ Provident Fund and PNB. And some – like AustralianSuper and Korea’s $735 billion National Pension Service – are aiming for a major expansion of the overseas team.
Canadian pension funds have long been known for their direct investment model, for which they need large teams on the ground in their target markets. Other asset owners are increasingly following suit.