UK - The £26bn (€29.6bn) Universities Superannuation Scheme reckons it could it take up to 15 years to recover from the current financial crisis - and that there's a "golden opportunity" to restructure its portfolio.

"It took us 15 years to recover from the 1972-74 market and return to the previous peak and the timescale will be similar," said chief investment officer Peter Moon.

He told IPE: "Nevertheless, as a pension fund our liabilities are of a 40-50-year duration, so 15 years, effectively a third of a working lifetime, is not such a significant time period after all."

He added: "The lessons we learnt from this financial crisis are pretty much the same as those we learnt between 1972 and 1974 - that while it is an extremely painful period and although the situation looks pretty dire, at the same time it is important not toe become too risk averse."

Moon said USS believes short selling - in the news today with the UK reverting a ban on short selling bank shares - and stock lending helps the market in various ways. USS would continue its stock lending "across the board".

Moon also spoke about the opportunities the crisis presents.

"Current prices combined with our strong cashflow now give us an opportunity to buy across the whole spectrum of growth assets, in other words equities, private equity, hedge funds, absolute return vehicles, commodities and infrastructure.

"So from a long-term view this is a golden opportunity for us to restructure the portfolio at a much higher yield than we would previously have achieved."

Moon said he would not be surprised if USS's funding level - at 77% at the last actuarial valuation in March 2008 - improved in 2009.

Moon's comments come in the latest issue of Investment & Pensions Europe, which is currently being mailed to subscribers.