Denmark’s Sampension has made a big hire this month from Nordea, bringing in vital skills from the banking industry to boost its direct lending investments.

The DKK257bn (€34bn) labour-market pension fund appointed Theis Nygaard in the newly created role of credit portfolio manager.

The pension fund lured Nygaard from his job in Copenhagen at Nordic and Baltic bank Nordea, where he was chief dealer and head of derivatives structuring.

Nygaard took up his new role at Sampension on 1 July.

Kasper Ullegård, head of fixed income at the pension fund, told IPE: “He will be joining us to enhance our focus on credit.”

With the toughening of the regulatory environment for banks in the wake of the global financial crisis, banks are more constrained in their ability to lend, which has created an investment opportunity for pension funds, he said.

“For the macro economy to grow, companies need to go somewhere else to find another source of lending, and a natural place for them to go is towards life insurance companies and pension funds,” he said.

“Hence, we see a growing role for us to deliver lending to the corporate sector directly. However, we don’t have the same experience as the banks.”

To be better prepared for that future environment, Sampension hired Nygaard to strengthen its activities and competences within credit.

Ullegård said Nygaard had strong experience and skills in structuring financing and was well acquainted with the documentation needs of lending and the involvement of lawyers.

“There are a lot of details we are much less involved in when we buy a listed product,” he said.

He said Nygaard also brought with him strong product knowledge and was therefore able, for example, to price callability features of a direct lending deal, allowing the borrower to repay the borrowing earlier than maturity.

Sampension already has direct lending investment deals in the pipeline, although it declined to provide further details.

“We have done what our current staffing allows us to do, but we would like to do more,” Ullegård said.

“It gives us the opportunity to save some costs and benefit from illiquidity premiums.”

In April 2014, Sampension was one of five Danish pension funds forming a group to invest DKK3.6bn in commercial real estate loans in Western Europe with AXA Real Estate.

Last year, pension fund PenSam expanded its staffing levels in the area of direct lending.