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John Valentini, President and CEO of Fiera Private Alternative Investments reveals UK growth plans

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John Valentini, President & CEO of Fiera Private Alternative Investments spoke to Jessica Beard at City Wire Real Assets and discussed Fiera’s plans for UK growth despite the latest Brexit ‘bump’:

Canada-headquartered Fiera Capital is targeting growth in the UK when it comes to private assets as the chief executive called Brexit an ‘unfortunate bump in the road’.

Speaking to Citywire Selector, John Valentini, president and CEO of Fiera Capital’s Private Alternative Investments division, revealed plans to roll out a private debt strategy in real estate in the UK.

This is while the group is also working on the creation of a real return fund, which would be diversified across different private assets segments.

Fiera Capital has been building up its presence in the UK in the post-referendum period. This was first with the acquisition of EM equities manager Charlemagne Securities, before actively working to set up a private alternatives business and infrastructure office. This follows its purchase of real estate house, Palmer Capital, at the end of 2018.

Valentini said:

“I am still of the belief that in the asset management business, this is the best place to be. Brexit is a bump in the road, it’s unfortunate and it’s a distraction today. Hopefully it won’t drag until next year, it will get back to normal situation.”

The largest growth areas in the business have been in infrastructure and private credit so far, however agriculture is one of the biggest up and coming trends in the market, he said.

UK: an infrastructure hot spot

When it comes to infrastructure, the UK is the leading market in Europe, said president and CEO of Fiera Capital’s Infrastructure division Alina Osorio.

Osorio said half of her fund’s exposure is in North America, while Europe makes up the remaining 50%. Of the five assets in Europe, four are in the UK and one in Spain.

‘The UK is easy; it’s a market that has adopted private infrastructure for a long term. There’s a strong penetration of private capital in this country with a long history and track record so there is a lot of very varied opportunity.’

Under the ongoing Brexit negotiations, the UK has become more competitive when it comes to currency, as well as from an interest rate perspective.

“We live in a very competitive world and it is fair to say there is more capital than there are opportunities and so people like us have to be very careful in what we look for because you don’t want to chase valuations.

“In a lower interest rate environment and potentially even recessionary times, infrastructure does well. People go to quality or certainty.”

Osorio said the current political situation in the UK has put many investors off, however she remains less fearful than most.

“We think fundamentals for demand of infrastructure and population growth will continue and a lot of our analysis around stay-cation and the demand is driven from within the UK. We don’t think the world is going to fall apart and we have a longer-term view.”

Originally posted by Jessica Beard, CityWire in September 2019.