August 14, 2019 / 12:57 PM / 11 days ago

Canadian pension giant plans hiring spree in Asia, Europe

* Asia staff may triple; mulls Singapore, Mumbai offices

* London to stay Europe hub, headcount may pass 50 - CEO

* Real asset allocation could hit 32%, up C$11 bln

By Simon Jessop

LONDON, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, one of the world's biggest pension funds, plans to hire "extensively" in Asia and Europe over the next two years and could shift an extra C$11 billion ($8.3 billion) into infrastructure and other real assets, its chief executive told Reuters.

The fund currently employs around 1,200 people across hub offices in Toronto, London and Hong Kong, while a further 1,500 work at real estate subsidiary Cadillac Fairview.

Outgoing Chief Executive Ron Mock told Reuters that Ontario Teachers' (OTPP) could triple its current Asia headcount of around 25 people and is considering opening offices in Mumbai and Singapore.

OTPP managed around C$191 billion ($144 billion) in assets as of the end of 2018 for 327,000 working and retired teachers.

Mock said China, India, Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines were all areas likely to see further investment.

"We plan on growing our European and Asian operations extensively," said Mock.

"Asia represents a growth opportunity over the next 10-15 years... you can't just set up on a dime and take down on a dime when you're investing in private assets like private equity and infrastructure."

Despite political turmoil in Britain as the country inches closer to leaving the European Union, Mock said London would remain its European base and headcount could rise from around 30 to more than 50 over the next two years.

"London remains, and will remain, our home base for the UK and for Europe," said Mock.

OTPP said in July that Mock would be replaced on Jan. 1, 2020 as chief executive by Jo Taylor, who has previously led the teams in both Europe and Asia.

Brexit fears have not prompted OTPP to withdraw or postpone investment in Britain, Mock added.

OTPP is set to release its half-year results on Aug. 21.

While much of its money is spread across a range of public and private assets, Mock said OTPP was spending a lot of its time sourcing deals in infrastructure and private equity.

Currently, around 17% of OTPP's assets are invested in Europe, with around 60% of that - some C$10 billion - in Britain, largely in private assets including lottery operator Camelot and Bristol airport.

Despite being keen to add to its real asset and private equity holdings in Europe and Britain, strong competition from other institutional investors meant securing the best deals was tough.

"It's not easy, at this point in time, given pricing, particularly in infrastructure and (a) few other spots," he said, but overall, the allocation to real assets would go up. At the end of December, OTPP's allocation to real estate, infrastructure and other 'real-rate' assets was 25%, or C$49.6 billion.

"We are opening up our asset mix to allow it to range from 26% to 32% of the total fund, and so we will be looking at... probably moving up somewhere in the neighbourhood of C$11 billion".

$1 = 1.3252 Canadian dollars Reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Susan Fenton

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