Chicago pension picks IFM, Ullico

Chicago Park Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund has made a $20m maiden allocation to the asset class.

A pension plan entrusted with helping parks and recreation employees in Chicago invest for retirement has made its maiden commitment to infrastructure.

Chicago Park Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund (PEABF) is allocating $20 million to the asset class, investing $10 million with Industry Funds Management (IFM) and $10 million with Ullico Investment Company.

PEABF detailed the allocation on its website. Dean Niedospial, executive director for the $420 million pension, did not respond to a voicemail message requesting comment. It was unknown if the Chicago Park Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund would be allocating more capital to infrastructure.

The pension began an infrastructure manager search in February, releasing a request for proposals (RFP). Brett Christenson, chief operating officer (COO) with investment consultant Marquette Associates, as well as Marquette senior client analyst and assistant vice president Mark Spychalski, advised PEABF on the search.

PEABF interviewed IFM, Ullico as well as JP Morgan Asset Management (JPMAM), meeting with Rena Pulido, business development director for IFM; Ullico president and chief executive Edward Smith as well as Ullico infrastructure investments group managing director Sonia Axter and vice president Jeff Murphy; and Steven Weddle, a managing director of global real assets for JPMAM and Jason Psome, a JP Morgan Chase managing director. A spokeswoman for JP Morgan in New York declined comment.

For Australia-headquartered asset manager IFM, securing the $10 million PEABF commitment marked another client win in the US.

In July, the Rhode Island State Investment Commission (SIC) invested $50 million with the IFM Global Infrastructure Fund. Earlier in 2013, the $7.1 billion fund secured a $100 million commitment from the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) and a $100 million allocation from the New Mexico State Investment Council (SIC).

Ullico, or the Union Labor Life Insurance Company, began its infrastructure programme in 2012, netting Rialto Water Services, a water and wastewater treatment project in California, for its first-ever infrastructure investment. In June, Ullico invested in a wind farm project.

Prior to joining Ullico, Axter and Murphy worked for Bechtel Group and Deutsche Bank Group. A spokesman for Ullico in Washington, D.C., did not respond to a request for comment.