USS hires infra veteran to focus on direct investments

The UK’s second-largest pension fund has hired Gavin Merchant, formerly a director at public-private partnership investor Equitix, to become a senior investment manager focusing on direct infrastructure investments.

Universities Superannuation Scheme, the UK’s second-largest pension fund with £32 billion (€37 million; $51 million) of assets under management, has hired an infrastructure veteran to help develop the pension’s direct infrastructure investment programme, USS announced today.

Gavin Merchant, formerly a director at UK public-private partnership investor Equitix, has joined USS as a senior investment manager within the pension’s Private Markets division. Merchant brings over 15 years of experience in infrastructure and will report to Mike Powell, USS’ head of alternative assets. Prior to his tenure at Equitix, Merchant was an investment director at ING's European Infrastructure Fund and a vice president for global infrastructure investments at Merrill Lynch.

In addition to Merchant, USS has also recruited three new analysts for the Private Markets division, covering investments in private equity, infrastructure and timberland. The four new hires effectively doubled USS’ Private Markets team. 

USS started its alternative assets programme in 2007, with the aim of channelling 20 percent of the pension’s assets in private equity, infrastructure, hedge funds and timberland. The firm now has a team of 17 professionals targeting alternative investments. 

According to information from InfrastructureConnect, USS has a target allocation to infrastructure of 3 percent and a current allocation of 2.5 percent, amounting to £800 million.