EUROPE – SEI, the US-based multi-manager fund provider, expects to grow its business in Europe by 25% annually, with nearly all of that growth taking place in the UK, its managing director for Europe says.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest for multi-manager funds among European institutional investors, though the biggest market is the UK, where we are growing by around £1bn (€1.46bn) annually,” said Patrick Disney, managing director of SEI’s European institutional business.

The firm recently named Francis Ellison to the newly-created position as head of UK institutional sales.

Since arriving in Europe with the establishment of an office in London, SEI has accumulated £4.8bn in assets with its multi-manager funds, most of which are for traditional asset classes like equities and bonds.

The funds aim to provide institutional investors – particularly pension funds – with a high-level of diversification for comparatively small sums of investment. Globally, SEI manages €120bn in assets with these funds.

Elsewhere in Europe, Disney said SEI regarded the northern tier of the continent to be its most important markets. “What I mean by that are the Benelux countries, Germany and soon, Scandinavia. I wouldn’t put France in that category,” he told IPE on the margins of a news conference.

Earlier this year, SEI gave Bart Heenk, its managing director for the Netherlands, the additional responsibility of heading up its business in Scandinavia.

Disney also said that from the first half of 2006, SEI would, for the European market, launch multi-manager funds that invest in hedge funds, private equity and property.

In Germany, SEI said its multi-manager funds had generated €250m in assets, €235m of which came from the two-year-old venture with Commerzbank. Under the venture, Commerzbank is distributing SEI’s multi-manager funds to small- and midsize corporate clients whose investment threshold begins at €100,000.

The venture plans to roll out a Spezialfonds, or traditional institutional fund, that espouses the multi-manager concept. Spezialfonds typically provide investors with a high-level diversification, lower costs and a good deal of control over the portfolio management.

Ellison, 46, joins from Jupiter Asset Management, where he was head European institutional business development and client servicing for five years.