Ontario Teachers builds Asia team

A number of Toronto-based investment professionals have transferred to the fund's new Hong Kong office, with Alison Nankivell expected to head its regional private equity division.

Alison Nankivell, director of funds Asia at Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, will become head of Asian private equity in its newly-established Hong Kong office in the coming months, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter. 

A fluent Mandarin-speaker, with 22 years’ experience of doing business in Asia, Nankivell joined the C$127 billion (€95 billion; $123 billion) pension fund in November 2012 from Canada’s export credit agency, Export Development Canada. At EDC, she held Beijing-based positions including chief representative for Greater China and most recently, senior portfolio manager responsible for EDC’s private equity investments in Asia, according to her LinkedIn profile. 

Since leaving EDC, Nankivell has been based in Canada and was expected to arrive in Hong Kong in late June or July to take up her position, one industry source told Private Equity International. 

However, an OTPP spokeswoman said her departure for Hong Kong has been temporarily delayed for personal reasons, so there is currently no private equity head in the office. 

Asia has long been a region of interest to Teachers'. We look forward to continuing to build relationships with local partners and exploring new direct, co-investment and fund opportunities in the market.

Jim Leech, president and chief executive, Ontario Teachers' 

Nevertheless, the spokeswoman did confirm that OTPP has already transferred a number of investment professionals to Hong Kong. Portfolio manager Raju Ruparelia and senior investment associate Christian Dunne have both moved from Toronto, as has a member of the fund’s public equity relationship investing team, Fady Abdul-Nour.

“All are fully engaged in the region and look forward to building our business there and welcoming more fellow employees who will be hired locally as the year progresses,” she added in the e-mailed response. 

OTPP’s plans to open in Hong Kong have steadily progressed since it confirmed the decision in November last year. 

In May, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission awarded the pension fund licenses to carry out type one, four and nine activities, which include dealing in securities, advising on securities and asset management, according to an earlier company statement. 

“I am pleased to confirm that our Asia subsidiary and its proposed responsible officers have received formal approval for these licences,” Jim Leech, OTPP president and chief executive, said in an earlier statement.  

“Asia has long been a region of interest to Teachers'. We look forward to continuing to build relationships with local partners and exploring new direct, co-investment and fund investment opportunities in the market.”

Canadian institutional investors are some of the most active foreign LPs in Asia and they have a reputation for being savvy investors. “LPs from Canada know the energy sector very well, in some cases even better than the emerging market energy and mining managers,” an Asia-based LP from a US pension told PEI in an earlier interview. 

Canadian LPs have also been increasing direct investment in the region. 

Ontario Teachers' will celebrate the official opening
of its new office in Hong Kong's Central district in
September 2013

For example, in June 2012, OTPP acquired a 9.9 percent stake in Kyobo Life Insurance for $400 million. The deal was its first direct investment into Korea, taking the stake from Korea Asset Management Corporation.

Moreover, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which opened its Hong Kong office in 2008, plans to grow its nine-strong investment team in the coming months, according to a previous PEI report. OTPP and CPPIB both have existing offices in London and New York.

OTPP is also diversifying its Asia portfolio and will increase its allocation to India, having committed to ex-Temasek executive Manish Kejriwal’s new firm Kedaara Capital, PEI reported earlier. The firm also plans to increase its commitment to Latin America.  

OTPP has a 26.18 percent allocation to alternative assets and a 7.54 percent allocation to private equity, according to PEI’s Research & Analytics division. Fund commitments in Asia Pacific include Unitas Capital’s pan-Asia funds, FountainVest Partners’ two China-focused vehicles, and TPG’s Newbridge Asia funds II and III.