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PM seeks infrastructure investment from pension funds

written by Bella Palmer
boris-johnson

Johnson said he wanted a greater share of private-sector investment in British infrastructure to be financed by domestic institutional investors

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged British pension fund managers to put more of their clients' money into illiquid long-term investments in infrastructure and unlisted companies, raising the prospect of fatter management fees as a reward.

In a joint letter with finance minister Rishi Sunak, Johnson said he wanted a greater share of private-sector investment in British infrastructure and start-ups to be financed by domestic institutional investors.

It's time we recognised the quality that other countries see in the UK, and back ourselves by investing more money into the companies and infrastructure that will drive growth and prosperity across our country, Johnson and Sunak wrote to investment managers in a letter released late on Wednesday.

British pension funds rarely invest in infrastructure assets, in part due to regulatory hurdles. Johnson said his government would seek to remove obstacles and costs to making long-term, illiquid investments in the UK.

Pension funds from Canada and Australia, as well as sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East and elsewhere, have been big investors in some British infrastructure projects as well as in commercial property.

But British defined contribution (DC) retirement funds are nearly 80% invested in publicly listed securities like shares.

Older defined benefit (DB) schemes are usually required by regulation to prioritise certainty of returns and invest heavily in British government bonds.

Currently employer-provided DC retirement plans are normally limited to charging a 0.75% annual fee.

However, Johnson said the government was working on reforming the cap on fees that DC funds can charge to ensure that they are not penalised for over-performance.

The chief executive of the Investment Association, Chris Cummings, said investment managers would welcome being able to offer a wider choice of funds.

Getting this right will require a new partnership between the regulatory authorities and industry to ensure that pension funds, and retail investors, have access to transparent, well governed funds that return good value for money, he said.

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