LGPS South West pool boosted by interest from Oxfordshire fund

Oxfordshire’s local authority fund may join the asset pool being launched by schemes in the South West of England, boosting the £19bn (€24.4bn) venture’s viability.

The £1.8bn local government pension scheme (LGPS) said it had also been weighing up joining regional pools for the Midlands and South East of England, but that Oxfordshire County Council CFO Lorna Baxter had instead recommended membership in the South West pool.

In a report to the fund’s pensions committee, Baxter noted that, outside of the London CIV, the South West venture had “demonstrated the clearest vision of the way forward”, while noting existing ties with Gloucestershire, one of the South West pools’ existing participants.

The move by Oxfordshire to join the pool comes after the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced how it would assess the pooling exercises, which it said should meet a £25bn asset threshold.

The South West venture, announced in October with the backing of eight funds worth £19bn, falls short of the threshold, which Baxter said had made them “open to other like-minded funds joining”.

While Oxfordshire’s joining would boost the venture’s chances of gaining the approval of the government, the nine funds combined would still have just £21bn in assets.

Oxfordshire currently runs a listed private equity portfolio, accounting for 8.8% of assets, in-house, but it outsources the remainder of its portfolio to eight managers.

Legal & General Investment Management, which runs its fixed income and passive equity portfolios, has seen significant gains from pooling exercises by other funds.

Other managers include Baillie Gifford, UBS Global Asset Management, Wellington Management, Insight Investment Management and Partners Group, as well as Adams Street Partners.

Oxfordshire’s LGPS previously explored a merger with two other funds – those for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and Buckinghamshire County Council.

The merger, part of a larger consolidation of three neighbouring councils, fell through after 18 months of talks.

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