Unicredito Italiano Fondo Pensione Per Il Personale Delle Aziende Del Gruppo is the pension fund of the Unicredito international banking group. The company is the result of a merger between the Banco Unicredito, which is over a hundred years old, Credito Italiano, the German HIB bank and Bank Austria. The pension scheme has 30,000 members and beneficiaries.
Last year, the fund - worth €1,200m - dipped its toe into the private equity market, buying three funds of funds from three different managers.
Roberto Veronico, vice-director of the pension fund, says: “We believe that in the long run this will give us better returns than from listed equities. In addition, this investment
is a way of diversifying our equity allocation.”
The pension fund has quite a small allocation to equities – 6%, compared with 23% in fixed interest, 62% in property and 9% in hedge funds.
The funds of funds are run by Pantheon Ventures, Invesco and the Swiss-based AIG. All of them are multi-strategy private equity funds investing worldwide. Each fund invests across a range of development stages –including venture, early stage and buyouts. The total investment in the funds is €30m, which is equal to about 2.5% of the pension fund portfolio. The private equity allocation is split almost equally between the three funds.
The pension fund uses its own in-house team of investment managers to run the private equity side, although these managers do not have a particular speciality in the area. But the pension fund does not use external advisers.
Veronico says that over the long run, the expected return from the fund’s private equity allocation is between 6% and 10% pa. However, it is too early to say what the returns have been so far, as the investments are still in the capital call phase.
“We prefer to invest in fund of funds, as against investing in direct private equity funds, because it gives us a lower risk,” says Veronico. “That’s the kind of investment I’d suspect most pension funds would prefer, depending on their characteristics. However, the attitude to risk of each pension fund is different.”
Veronico says that he expects the pension fund to increase its allocation to private equity in the future.
“However, a lot depends on changes to Italian law governing pension fund investment, which are likely to occur soon,” he says. “There will be new limits on private equity investment. But I have no idea what will be allowed.”