HarbourVest focuses on real assets with new hire

The Boston-based PE firm has hired Meketa’s Michael Dean as a principal on its secondary investment team to focus on real assets.

HarbourVest Partners, a Boston-based investment firm that has been focusing on private asset classes for more than 30 years, has decided to focus on real assets and has hired Michael Dean as a principal on its secondary investment team to be part of that effort.

Dean joined the firm from Meketa Investment Group, another Boston-based investment consultancy, where he served as head of real assets.

“We have been looking at investment opportunities in real assets for quite some time,” Brett Gordon, a managing director at HarbourVest, told Infrastructure Investor in a phone interview on Monday.

“Given the growing number of opportunities, we feel that it justifies a dedicated effort,” he added.

HarbourVest has found that the same people who are selling private equity assets are also trying to sell real assets. But unlike the private equity secondary market where there are lots of buyers and sellers, there isn’t that same competitive dynamic in real assets as there are still lots of sellers but fewer buyers.

“That has led us to reach the conclusion that now is the time to increase our efforts and increase our focus on real assets. We have some internal expertise already but we felt that we needed to strengthen that expertise and so as part of that we hired Mike Dean,” Gordon explained.

For HarbourVest, real assets include energy, infrastructure, timber, mining, agriculture and real estate. “How much we do in each is still yet to be determined but we’re expecting to build a platform that will give us expertise in all areas of real assets,” Gordon said.

The firm intends to grow the secondary team that will focus on real assets. Asked whether HarbourVest would also carry out primary and direct investments in real assets as it does in private equity and the debt side of its business, Gordon said that initially the focus would be on secondaries, simply because of the opportunities seen so far. According to Gordon, the asset class has experienced consistent deal flow with more than $20 billion worth of deals realised in the past three or so years.

“I would expect very quickly we will also be focusing on co-investments and primaries as well,” he said.

Dean will be reporting to Gordon, who along with one of the firm’s other managing directors – Fred Maynard – will be managing HarbourVest’s initial efforts in this space.

Asked to comment on Dean’s departure, Meketa stated the following in an e-mailed message: “We can confirm that Michael Dean has left the firm to pursue another opportunity. We wish him the best in his new endeavour.” Meketa did not say whether it had found a replacement for Dean.

Focusing primarily on private equity and debt to date, HarbourVest currently manages approximately $40 billion in assets on behalf of institutional clients. About 60 percent of that capital is through primary investments, while 30 percent is secondary, and the remaining 10 percent is invested directly usually on a co-investment basis.

In addition to its Boston headquarters, the firm also has subsidiaries in London, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo and Bogota and close to 300 employees.