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  • ATP's new head must be able to spearhead 'international expansion'

DENMARK - In its hunt for a new chief executive, Danish pensions giant ATP has its sights set on candidates capable of spearheading international investment expansion, possibly opening new offices abroad.

Current chief executive Lars Rohde, who has been in the role for more than 13 years, is due to leave the near DKK600bn (€80bn) pensions institution on 1 February to take over as the next director of the Danish central bank.

Jørgen Søndergaard, chairman of ATP's non-executive board, told IPE that, since Rohde was appointed, there has "at least been a change in the relative weights in different aspects of the job".

He said: "Last time, one challenge was to develop the investment department of ATP, which was quite small, and most of the investments focused on Denmark and other Scandinavian countries.

"That has changed very significantly, and now we have a very professional investment department and a much more international focus."

According to the job specification published on ATP's website, the fund is looking for a "strong leader".

The new chief executive will "play a key role in ATP's future development and ensure a continued expansion of ATP's position as an internationally recognised pension and insurance company", it says.

One of the expectations for the ideal candidate is that he or she will be a "visionary and energetic person with a global outlook that can both inspire, execute and see global opportunities and risks".

Last year, ATP launched the UK pensions business Now: Pensions, becoming an auto-enrolment provider.

"The UK was a very special situation and a very special opportunity because of this change in pensions regulation in the UK," he said.

"I don't know if we see that happening in other places than in the UK. But I'm sure that having an exposure to investments around the world - in infrastructure in Australia, forests in North America, for example - that means we will have collaborators that will be close to those places."

Alongside this, it was a possibility that ATP would open offices in some of these places, he said.

ATP's job spec will raise speculation that the Danish pension fund is planning to follow in the footsteps of institutional investors such as ABP and Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which manages the Norwegian Pension Fund Global.

NBIM - which changed its name in January 2006 from the Petroleum Fund of Norway - currently has four offices abroad.

While its offices in London, Shanghai and Singapore were established in 2000, 2007 and 2010, respectively, the Norwegian oil fund also has an office in New York, which had been previously occupied by the representation of the Norwegian central bank since 1942 before NBIM took over.

As for ABP, its asset management branch, APG Asset Management, opened its first international office in New York in 1989 and a second one in Hong Kong in 2007.

In the search for a new chief executive, Søndergaard said the ATP board would consider international candidates, but added that there were limits to this.

"The candidate needs to have some kind of Danish roots in order to be familiar with Danish institutions and Danish culture," he said.

This could also be a foreigner who has been living in Denmark for some time, he said.

"This is a pension scheme for the whole Danish population, so, (as chief executive of ATP), you are 'Mr Pension'," he explained.

However, Danish professionals currently working abroad were definitely among the candidates ATP would be considering, he said.

Internal candidates have also been invited to apply for the post, he said.

Former ATP chief investment officer Bjarne Graven Larsen has been mentioned in the Danish media as a top candidate for the job, but Søndergaard declined to comment on individual names.

"We have a very open recruitment process," he said.

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