Generali Investments is to push ahead with its expansion into the UK and Nordics after the company’s board approved the launch of a London office to cater to pension fund clients.

The Italian asset manager’s intention to move into the UK and three Nordic markets – Norway, Denmark and Sweden – comes amid a push to grow third-party assets under management (AUM) from its current €17bn, a fraction of its overall €431bn, largely managed on behalf of the firm’s parent company, Italy’s largest insurer.

Santo Borsellino, chief executive at Generali Investments, said the move into the four new markets was necessary to be seen as “serious” in the institutional asset management market.

“We can not avoid being in core markets, like the UK and the Nordics, where historically we have not been present,” he said.

Approval for its expansion into the new markets – away from its presence in Italy, Germany and France – was granted by the Bank of Italy late last year.

Borsellino said the manager’s board in January signed off on the launch of a dedicated office in London, with a business plan currently being drawn up by the company’s head of sales and marketing, Andrea Favaloro.

The Nordic countries and the UK were identified due to their concentration of institutional assets, and specifically their “developed” second-pillar pension systems, Generali Investments said.

Favaloro added during an event in London that it was important to be seen as a “reliable partner” for UK pension investors and identified the growth in the defined contribution (DC) market as an opportunity for Generali to grow third-party assets.

Borsellino said that the company’s current €17bn in third-party money amounted to growth of 16% year on year, and that it was now targeting an additional €8bn in assets by the end of 2018.

Asked whether acquisitions could be one way to grow third-party assets, Borsellino said the company preferred organic growth over acquisitions.

But he noted that the current market environment would nevertheless present “opportunities” for deals to buy other market participants.