River and Mercantile taps Aviva’s Berry to head new infra unit

Ian Berry will be joined by former colleagues ‘in the near future’ to establish the business and develop a pipeline of investment opportunities.

Ian Berry
Berry: After helping establish Aviva Investors’ infra business, he will do the same for R&M as head of infrastructure

London-based asset manager and advisory firm River and Mercantile has hired Ian Berry, most recently head of infrastructure equity at Aviva Investors, to head its new infrastructure business.

The first infrastructure investment initiative will be the launch of an infrastructure equity fund, the firm said in a statement, to which it will add a range of infrastructure strategies “over time”.

Berry, who helped build Aviva Investors’ infrastructure business when he joined the firm in 2009, will be joined by “former colleagues in the near future”, according to the statement.

“We will be putting together a team that will support not just the establishment of the business, but also to manage the investments and develop the established pipeline,” James Barham, group chief executive of R&M, told Infrastructure Investor.

“We’ve identified a significant pipeline of immediate and near-term investment opportunities across a range of sectors – such as energy from waste” he said. “We’re also looking at fibre networks, small-scale wind and solar projects and a range of other interesting sustainable sectors.”

Barham declined to comment on the fund’s target size, but said it would likely be sterling-denominated as R&M will seek to raise capital from UK-based pension funds and institutions initially. Geographically, it will target opportunities in the UK and Europe.

Asked what led to the decision to launch an infrastructure business at this time, Barham replied: “It’s an area we’ve been looking at for some time. There are significant government deficits in the developed world and there’s a real need for large amounts of capital to fund infrastructure. The increased commitments to decarbonisation means governments will need to incentivise greater investment from the private sector over the coming years.”

While the pandemic did not play a role in the firm’s decision, it has created the need for economic recovery, which also creates opportunities for investment in sustainable infrastructure, according to Barham.

In addition to recognising the opportunity in the broader economy, launching an infrastructure business “also coalesces very neatly with the requirements and needs of our clients”, Barham said.