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US consultant Meketa Investment Group opens London office

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Meketa Investment Group, the Boston-based investment consulting and advisory firm, has opened its first overseas office in London as a base for its European business, Meketa Investments London.

The presence is initially planned as a hub for European manager research on behalf of Meketa’s US clients.

The firm consults on more than $270bn (€198bn) in assets for more than 90 institutional investors, including public pension plans such as CalPERS, CalSTRS and the Arizona State Retirement System, private pension plans and Taft-Hartley plans.

Managing principal Stephan McCourt, based in San Diego, will set up the office over the next 6-12 months.

He will soon be joined by three members of Meketa’s US-based research staff, Tim Atkinson for public markets, Christy Gahr for private markets and Edmund Walsh for asset allocation and economic research.

However, McCourt also told IPE he plans over this summer to hire a regulatory consulting firm to guide Meketa through an FCA-registration that will open the door to providing consulting services to UK and European clients, with a view to completing the process by the spring of 2015.

“Coincident with that, we will be hiring at least one senior local investment professional to head up that effort,” said McCourt, who joined Meketa in 1994, set up its private equity capability and opened its first West Coast office, in San Diego, in 2003.

In the US, Meketa’s clients tend to be large institutions, although it does work with funds with assets of less than $100m.

For funds with less then $5bn, it typically serves as the sole adviser across all asset classes, while advising in both a discretionary and non-discretionary capacity in specific areas – especially private equity, infrastructure and real estate – for larger funds with internal investment offices.

CalSTRS initially mandated Meketa to advise on private equity co-investments and infrastructure opportunities, but recently hired the firm to act as one of two general consultants to the board.

McCourt acknowledges that pension funds across Europe use consultants in very different ways.

From larger Continental European funds, he anticipates more opportunities to amplify the due diligence and manager research resources of internal investment offices, whereas the UK is seen as a potential source of full-service advisory work, too.

“We certainly have the resources and depth to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with the big groups here, but if nothing else, our business model is highly adaptable, so we will accommodate whatever demand we find in the market,” he said.

“In the US, we already compete with Mercer and Hewitt EnnisKnupp – but the US is a very competitive market, characterised by a lot of mid-sized firms like ourselves.”

There are no immediate plans to open more European offices.

“Our next likely opening will be in Asia,” McCourt told IPE.

“My sense is that other offices across Europe would depend on the client appetite we find for our services – in the initial stages, London is a phenomenal hub for the research side of what we plan to do here in Europe.”

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