To gain entry to the new pension fund market in Italy, US group State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) has joined with the Milan-based Mediolanum financial services group. They are forming a 50/50, owned company Mediolanum State Street, which will be active in fund management and reporting for funds. It will provide consulting services to plan sponsors and be involved in training and communication to fund members.

The immediate opportunity is seen with the arrival of 'closed' pension funds established on a company, affinity or industry wide basis. Ennio Doris, chief executive officer of Mediolanum Group, said that the alliance was struck with State Street because of a "common approach" to business.

"We found the corporate culture between the two groups was quite similar. There were other US institutions, as well as European banks and insurance companies, some of the same size as State Street, with proposals on the table, he says. "Doris reckons that the international fund management skills will become increasingly important. "This is especially when Italy joins the Euro-system." SSGA president and chief executive officer Nicholas Lopardo sees the partnership meeting the needs of Italian organisations and companies.

On a broader marketing front, he says: "We see a great opportunity for defined contribution like activity here and are looking for a way to take our North American experience from the US into the European environment, as in Italy." He believes it is essential to link up with local partners for record-keeping and administrative capabilities. "You cannot flip the US record keeping across to Europe."In addition to pensions fund business, SSGA also wants to develop new mutual fund opportunities in Europe.

The Mediolanum Group has life assurance and mutual fund assets under management of around L12,000bn in Italy. Fennell Betson