Texas Teachers mulls Singapore office

The Austin-based pension fund is seeking better regional coverage of Asia and Australia.

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas is considering setting up an office in Singapore, its first in Asia and third outpost after Austin and London, PERE’s sister publication, Private Equity International, reported last week.

The $151 billion pension fund will be finalizing plans with its board of trustees and with the Texas legislature in the coming weeks.

“We believe that having a local presence, rather than being 20+ hours away by plane, will provide us with better regional coverage of Asia, India, and Australia and puts us in a better position to build relationships and successfully compete for opportunities,” a spokeswoman for the fund told PEI.

“A local presence could also increase our exposure to private market opportunities and have the potential to generate millions in savings,” she added.

If the fund moves forward with an office in Asia, it will focus first on public market investments, and then move into private markets as it build its relationships in the region, PEI understands.

TRS had $1.3 billion invested in Asia-Pacific-focused funds as of May 31, according to an investor document. The capital is invested with five managers: $300 million in Forum Partners Investment Management’s second and third Asia funds; $350 million in CLSA Capital’s second and third funds; $150 million in Invesco’s debut Asia credit fund; $200 million in AEW’s second and third Asian funds, along with $50 million in co-investment for each fund; and $200 million in ARA Asset Management’s second Dragon fund.

The pension system ranked 18th on PERE’s 2017 list of the 50 largest investors in private real estate globally.

Jerry Albright, TRS chief investment officer, has proposed adopting a Canadian pension strategy – managing investments internally –  in the future. In line with this move, Albright is asking for 120 new hires in his growth plan over the next five years. The pension may hire fewer, according to discussions at the TRS February board meeting.

Its private investments are split between 20 percent directs, which TRS refers to as principal investments, and 80 percent through external managers.

North American pension funds with a presence in Singapore include Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.

News of the Asia office was first broken by AsianInvestor.

– With additional reporting by Meghan Morris