OPERS underlines PE commitment

As the $65 billion Ohio Public Employees Retirement System beefs up its private equity programme, it has promoted Jennifer Hom to director of investments.

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System has named Jennifer Hom as the pension fund’s new director of investments. Hom, who joined OPERS in 2002 and whose previous role had been assistant investment officer for global bonds, had been acting investment director since 2004. Prior to joining OPERS, she had been a vice president and director of capital markets for Swiss Reinsurance.

Hom’s appointment comes after a nationwide search that was initiated by the retirement plan’s board earlier this year. She had replaced Neil Toth who left the pension fund due to health reasons. Toth passed away from cancer earlier this year. In other personnel related news, OPERS lost its assistant investor for real estate, Mary Beth Shanahan, earlier this summer.

Given that Hom has been acting as head of investments for a year, the move is unlikely to change the pension fund’s appetite for private equity investments, which has been considerable of late. Last month, OPERS announced private equity commitments of $341 million to four funds, including Bridgepoint Europe III, Oak Hill Capital Partners II, JMI Equity Fund V and Warburg Pincus Equity Partners IX. Since 2002, the pension fund has placed $1.7 billion with 25 private equity partnerships.

Hom: moving up

The new private equity programme was launched as part of a new mandate in 2002 – the goal is to reach a four percent allocation to the private equity asset class by 2009. In a statement earlier this year, Greg Uebele, senior investment officer for private equity, said that OPERS is continuing to build its new private equity programme and is actively seeking new relationships with a view to minimizing vintage year and sub-class risk exposures while targeting the best opportunities.

With assets of approximately $65 billion, OPERS is one of the twenty largest retirement systems in the country. Following the pension fund’s portfolio review in 2002, OPERS now has allocation of 44 percent to domestic equities, 20 percent to foreign equities, nine percent to real estate, 4 percent to private equity and 23 percent to domestic bonds. For fiscal 2004, OPERS’ investments generated a return of 12.5 percent, led by its private equity portfolio, which returned 21.6 percent.