Four hires from public, private sectors boost First State’s infra group

The new appointees are joining the Australian fund manager from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, CalSTRS, Enbridge and Veolia.

First State Investments has made four senior hires to its infrastructure team in the US as the firm seeks to raise more institutional capital from the North American market.

The Australian fund manager has brought on investment professionals with experience in public and private sector infrastructure finance, a “direct response to growing institutional investor appetite for infrastructure investments,” according to a statement.

The build-out of First State’s infrastructure group, which manages more than $8 billion in capital, comes after the firm was acquired by Japanese bank Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation in October for A$4.13 billion ($2.93 billion; €2.58 billion) from Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The deal is set to close this year.

The hires include John Ma, who previously served as chief of staff at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, playing “a significant leadership role” in major projects such as the $4 billion redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B and the $1.5 billion Goethals Bridge replacement project, First State said. In his new role as a director, he will oversee the origination and assessment of new investment opportunities in North America.

Diloshini Seneviratne has joined the firm from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System where she was responsible for developing, building and launching the pension fund’s infrastructure portfolio. First State appointed Seneviratne to the board of the management companies that oversee some of the firm’s funds, according to the statement.

Leigh Cruess and Terry Mah have joined as senior advisors. Cruess previously worked for 18 years with Canadian energy company Enbridge, and Mah was most recently head of North America for UK environmental consultancy Veolia Group.

“Infrastructure continues to be an attractive investment for institutional investors, due to the higher yields and stability offered by this asset class,” Heather Brilliant, managing director, Americas and acting chief operating officer said. “Our four new appointments help us further our growth ambitions and enhance our capacity to serve institutional clients across the Americas,” she added.