Ohio SERS ups PE allocation to capitalise on higher returns

Small- and mid-cap funds have been alpha generators for the pension system's PE portfolio, according to chief investment officer Farouki Majeed.

School Employees Retirement System of Ohio will ramp up its private equity allocation to at least 12.5 percent, up from the current target of 10 percent, to benefit from the asset class’s higher returns in a low-return environment.

The $14.46 billion pension system plans to increase its focus on co-investments and avoid venture capital in fiscal 2020, according to October board meeting documents acquired by Private Equity International.

Buyouts, which includes small/mid-cap and mega/large buyout funds, comprises 75 percent of Ohio SERS’ $1.42 billion private equity portfolio. Venture capital and special situations make up 4 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Small and mid-cap buyout funds account for 75 percent of the $1.12 billion buyouts portfolio and drove the alpha returns for the private equity portfolio, chief investment officer Farouki Majeed told Private Equity International.

The pension system re-upped $192 million across four funds in fiscal 2019, including a $7 million co-investment with Freeman Spogli’s FS Equity VII fund in CRH Healthcare, an urgent care center platform in the southeast United States.

The commitments were based on portfolio fit, performance of the funds, the people leading the funds and the process of the funds, and Ohio SERS has been unafraid to decline re-ups if these criteria were not met. It has declined re-ups with nine managers in the last three years, Majeed said.

Ohio SERS reviewed more than 100 opportunities and met with several new managers this year, none of whom met SERS’ investment criteria and return expectations, according to its annual investment plan for fiscal 2020.

The pension system added two co-investments this year, bringing up its total co-investments to four as of October. The allocation to co-investments increased from 1 percent at the end of 2018 to roughly 2.5 percent, or $36 million, as of October, Majeed said. The portfolio generated an internal rate of return of 16 percent as of 30 June.

Ohio SERS’ most recent co-investment commitment was $10 million to Francisco Partners V – Prince Co-investment Fund.

The pension system has sought fee reductions through discounts for early investors, co-investments and large investor discounts, and the fees it pays its managers have stabilized at an average of 1.5 percent, according to October meeting documents. The average management fee for the four re-ups and one co-investment in fiscal 2019 was 1.2 percent, the annual investment plan said.

Buyouts returned 18.86 percent over one year, 19.92 percent over three years, 19.61 percent over five years and 17.86 percent over 10 years as of 30 June, according to October meeting documents.