IFM bolsters infra debt team

The Australian funds manager has made two hires to its debt team, and hopes to add another pair in the coming months to increase its presence abroad.

Industry Funds Management (IFM), the Australian fund manager owned by 30 superannuation funds, has increased its global infrastructure debt team to 17 with the announcement of two hires in Melbourne and London.

Linda Cunningham will be the part-time investment director based Melbourne. She will focus on broad-based debt for all of IFM, a part of which will be dedicated to infrastructure debt, according to Robin Miller, the global head of infrastructure debt.

Hannah Lindberg will be based in London as a Europe-focused investment analyst, and she will be focused solely on infrastructure debt, Miller said. Cunningham started this week, and Lindberg will start June 24th.

Prior to their appointments, Cunningham and Lindberg’s experience was primarily in the lending and banking universe. Cunningham was most recently chief manager for commercial lending at AMP Capital / AXA Group, where she worked for about two years.Prior to that, she was chief manager of risk management in the institutional banking team at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Lindberg also worked at Barclays for three years, most recently as the vice president for its restructuring business support team.

Cunningham and Lindberg’s addition bring IFM’s infrastructure debt team to 17 people, with 14 in Australia, and three in London, Miller told Private Debt Investor. The team is expecting to hire at least two more people in the coming months – one addition to London and one in New York, Miller revealed.

“My personal mandate is to lead a global team,” Miller said.

IFM’s infrastructure debt business is run entirely separate from its infrastructure equity one, in order to ensure the firm has no conflict of interest, Miller insisted. While the infrastructure equity team will look to take certain risks and take cheap debt, the debt team will prefer to stick to high-quality debt that is more stable, but may not have as much of an upside. As such, IFM’s infrastructure debt team hardly ever underwrites the debt for the equity team’s investments, Miller said.

IFM’s infrastructure debt team provides loans for infrastructure projects at an annual interest rate of between 1.5 percent and 5 percent, with a maturation time of between five and 20 years, depending on the specific needs of the project, Miller said. In essence, Miller likes to consider infrastructure debt as a replacement for sovereign bonds for IFM’s clients.

“It may seem boring in the investment world because it’s low-risk, but that’s what we want,” Miller said. “We will always put risk management before returns.”
The IFM Debt Investment team has about A$15 billion (€11 billion; $14 billion) assets under management overall, and about A$2 billion of that is infrastructure debt, Miller said. Although most of that remains in Australia, IFM actually anticipates a higher rate of growth internationally, Miller added.