Canada’s Public Sector Pension Manager Adds New Private Debt Chief

Francis Blair will help PSP Investments debt division’s focus on distressed companies.

PSP Investments has hired credit analyst Francis Blair to oversee distressed credit investment and private debt.

Blair’s position aims to boost the firm’s private debt division, and was created for him, Jeff Rowbottom, his boss and PSP’s managing director of investments, confirmed. The company manages the investments of the C$153 billion ($117.1 billion) Public Sector Pension Investment Board, one of Canada’s largest public pension plans.

“There are investment opportunities now [in distressed companies in the retail space] and there will likely be when we hit some sort of cycle,” Rowbottom told CIO. He said Blair’s role was created because the agency wanted internal expertise about distressed companies. “We wanted some in-house capabilities to deal with these opportunities, whether it be 12 months or 24 months down the road.”

Blair’s previous roles were partner and senior credit analyst at Milford Sound Capital and managing director at Solus Alternative Asset Management, reports Bloomberg. His Solus responsibilities have been taken over by other Solus analysts.

Blair will help run PSP’s private debt arm, which had C$8.9 billion ($6.8 billion) in assets under management as of March 31.  He will help the fund manager expand its debt financing functions to focus on distressed companies. The debt group will also make direct investments and co-investments. Its current debt portfolio consists of healthcare, technology, and industrial assets. Three-quarters of its portfolio is North American-based, with the remainder in Europe.

Private debt investments have become a growing market within public pension funds in recent years, allowing the funds to shift cash into long-term assets. They also tends to offer higher returns than public assets, despite having less liquidity.

PSP’s private debt returned 8.2% in the year ended March 31.

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