Publica, Switzerland’s largest pension fund, has made the first investments in the new asset class private equity infrastructure, as it progresses on the way to shift strategy. 

The scheme was in talks with large international pension funds for co-investments in infrastructure private equity, chief investment officer Stefan Beiner told IPE in 2022.

It was aiming to invest in the new asset class through open funds, and co-investments, looking also at sustainable infrastructure, Beiner added. 

Publica is pursuing a four-year plan to put in place the new strategy, and last year increased allocations to equities from 28% to almost 32%, cutting investments in emerging market government bonds, and “making initial investments in the new asset class of private infrastructure”, it said reporting its performance for 2023.

Equities pushed up returns last year to 3.85% together with bonds, in contrast with -9.6% net achieved in 2022 with both bonds and equities posting losses.

Last year, equities netted 8.5% returns, contributing  2.7 percentage points to the overall perforce, the scheme said. Bonds returned 4.1%, in 2023, made a positive contribution of 2.1 percentage points to the overall return.

The funding ratio across all plans stood at 98,3% last year, up from 96.7% in 2022, as a result of positive returns. 

The pension fund has also increased allocations to precious metals gold and silver, which returned almost 5% last year, up from 2% to 3%, as part of the four-year strategic plan, it added. 

Publica’s open pension plans, making up the largest share of the pension fund’s assets, and open to beneficiaries and active members, posted 3.8% returns, and closed pension plans, open only to beneficiaries, achieved 4.7% returns, it added.

A lower-risk strategy for the closed plans, with a larger share of Swiss investments (60%), led to higher returns, it said. In January, Publica merged its seven closed plans into a single plan, it added. 

Investment in Swiss real estate generated just under 2% returns in 2023, following a slight fall in value, while foreign real estate funds suffered significant losses due to higher interest rates in many industrialised nations, it said. 

Read the digital edition of IPE’s latest magazine