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Pension schemes remain underweight in private equity

22 Jan 2014

New research suggests underweight pension funds risk running a deficit

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 -Pension funds remain underweight in private equity compared to the allocations of family offices/endowments and sovereign wealth funds, which stand at 10% and 18% respectively

-From 2005-2012 public pension funds allocations to private equity increased, on average, from 4.5% to 5.64%

-Private pension funds allocations increased, on average, from 4.99% to 5.33% over the same period.

Pension funds are not allocating as much capital to private equity as they should, according to a study of 1,208 US and UK pension funds by the London Business School’s Coller Institute and Adveq, the globally active private equity investor.

The new research represents the first empirical, academic analysis of pension funds’ private equity allocations based upon their annual report data. The data shows that while schemes’ allocations to the asset class have grown significantly, they are still lagging behind other sophisticated investors.

From 2005 to 2012 public pension funds’ allocations to private equity have increased, on average, from 4.5% to 5.64%, while allocations from private pension funds have increased, on average, from 4.99% to 5.33%.

The more seasoned public funds nearly doubled their percentage capital allocations to private equity between 2007 and 2012.

Coupled with increases in assets under management, higher allocations to private equity have resulted in an extra $350bn from public pension funds and $240bn from private pension funds being pumped into the private equity industry. The increases coincided with a decline in schemes’ exposure to public equities.

Despite this, pension fund allocations to private equity still remain significantly lower than those of family offices/endowments and sovereign wealth funds, which stand at around 10% and 18% of their assets under management respectively.

Florin Vasvari, Associate Professor of Accounting, London Business School, said:

“Pension funds have traditionally been big supporters of private equity investing, but they are still lagging behind other sophisticated investor groups. Pension funds are well equipped to change this and further increase their allocations to the asset class, as it is a good match for their long time horizon and predictable liabilities.

 “The typical annualised outperformance that the private equity asset class offers relative to public market equivalents could contribute to lower pension fund deficits.”

 The new research also highlights that pension funds remain significant allocators to private equity funds of funds, with 80% of smaller funds and 60% of medium and large-sized schemes using such vehicles in some part of their private equity portfolio.

Sven Lidén, Managing Director and CEO at Adveq, said:

“The big question for pension funds allocating to private equity is what methods of investing best capture the outperformance the asset class can offer, as the dispersion of returns is significant. To get past this challenge, schemes tend to use a combination of access points from investing in companies directly, co-investing alongside expert fund managers, through to committing capital to single-manager funds and funds of funds.

“It is no surprise then that pension schemes of all sizes still back private equity funds of funds. For the smaller pensions they provide a practical way of identifying and investing in the top performing fund managers, while for the larger players, such vehicles provide a way of accessing small funds and or getting exposure to niche strategies/geographies.”

 

To view the research, please visit www.collerinstitute.com