UK - The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) has initiated a search for a panel of infrastructure investment managers and Taylor Wimpey has awarded a global custody mandate for its UK scheme.

Meanwhile, two former GP Noble trustees have been charged with fraud. And data from the ONS reveals investments by self-administered pension funds increased by £5.5bn (€6.1bn) in the final quarter of 2009.

Earlier this month, the PPF revealed in its statement of investment principles (SIP) a shift in its asset allocation away from equities and towards alternative investments including private equity and infrastructure.

The organisation, which manages around £4bn in assets, has now issued a tender to establish a framework agreement for a panel of "global or regional infrastructure fund managers for either debt (public or private) or unlisted equity, or both".

In its SIP the organisation emphasised its investment strategy would remain low risk but would essentially reverse its previous allocation of 20% to equities and 10% in alternatives in an attempt to target an "incremental return" through diversification. (See earlier IPE article: PPF to diversify investment strategy from equities to alternatives)

It is envisaged the framework agreement will last for an initial period of four years, with the option of two further two-year extensions. The closing date for submissions is 16 April 2010 and further information can be obtained from the PPF procurement team. 

Taylor Wimpey, the housing and development group has appointed Northern Trust to provide global custody services for its £1.3bn UK pension scheme.

Northern Trust will provide custody, investment accounting and performance measurement services following a competitive tender process. Julian Waller, group pensions manager at Taylor Wimpey, said: "We selected them based on a number of factors. Of key interest to us was Northern Trust's online client reporting solution, Passport, which was easy to use and helps us administer and report on our investments and actively monitor performance."

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has confirmed that two former pension trustees from the independent trustee company GP Noble, have been charged with fraud and abuse of position regarding the alleged theft of £52m of assets from nine occupational pension schemes

The charges follow a referral to the SFO by the Pensions Regulator (TPR) in July 2008 after the regulator replaced GP Noble as the independent trustee of the nine schemes with Independent Trustee Services (ITS) and suspended the two men from acting as trustees. .

Graham Pitcher and Gary Cordell are scheduled to appear in court in April to face alleged charges of conspiracy to defraud members of the schemes; theft; fraud and money laundering while employed by GP Noble between 2007 and 2008.

The nine schemes affected by the case are:

Berry Birch & Noble Staff Pension Fund
Cuthbert Heath Family Security Plan
Hill and Tyler Pension & Assurance Scheme
R Taylor and Son (Orthopedic) Ltd Pension Fund
The Alenoy Limited Pension & Assurance Scheme
The Melton Medes Group Pension & Life Assurance Scheme
The Ravenhead Company Pension Plan
Venson Pension & Life Assurance Scheme
The BDC Pension Scheme

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the net investment of self-administered pension schemes, those run by trustees or investment managers, increased by £5.5bn to £8.6bn.

Data from the quarterly bulletin, 'Investment by Insurance Companies, Pension Funds and Trusts', showed the total net investment by these institutions increased by £4.5bn in the last three months of 2009 to £24.8bn. The biggest growth was seen in short-term assets, which increased by £13.7bn from a net disinvestment of £7.5bn in September 2009 to a positive figure of £6.2bn.

This was driven primarily by self-administered pension funds as they increased investment in the asset class by £6.3bn, closely followed by £4.8bn from long-term insurance funds. UK company securities reported a net disinvestment of £3.7bn at the end of 2009, reflecting a fall in net investment by pension funds of £4.7bn.

However, pension funds did invest a further £3.4bn in overseas securities, which reported an overall increase in net investment of £200m in December 2009 to reach £11.9bn.

If you have any comments you would like to add to this or any other story, contact Nyree Stewart on + 44 (0)20 7261 4618 or email