Canadians stood out among the top global institutional investors in 2019. Notably, Oxford Properties Group has been named global real estate investor of the year, and Lisa Lafave, former senior portfolio manager with the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), receives honours for outstanding industry contribution in the IPE Real Estate Awards, announced yesterday.
That accounts for two of just three platinum-level awards bestowed annually to recognize top performers in real estate investment and/or affiliated with the European pensions’ industry. A total of 30 award-winners in various regions and categories were conferred as part of the IPE Real Estate annual conference for pension fund executives, occurring this year in virtual format, September 1-3. A panel of judges drawn from the investment and pensions sector chose the winners in each category based on a 20-point score matrix that ranks them against peers, and regionally, nationally and globally.
Oxford Properties garners accolades for hitting its target for CAD $60 billion in assets under management one year ahead of schedule, and for global diversification of its portfolio that has taken the real estate arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) from just 4 per cent of assets outside Canada in 2008 to the current 55 per cent global exposure. Robert Melia Watson, head of IPE awards management, particularly underscored Oxford’s expansion in the Asia Pacific during 2019, including acquiring Australia’s $5.4-billion Investa Office Fund and its role as lead developer and equity partner in a mixed-use office and purpose-built rental housing development in downtown Sydney.
Looking west to North America, the massive 28-acre Hudson Yards redevelopment is Oxford’s first in New York City and is the largest private development project in the city since the Rockefeller Center was built in the 1930s. This also positioned Oxford to take this year’s IPE silver award for investment in North America.
“Oxford’s investment strategy is simple to articulate, but can be difficult to execute — it buys, builds and manages high-quality assets in the world’s leading cities, while generating 20, 10 and five-year returns greater than 10 per cent,” the IPE awards documentation observes. “Moreover, it diversifies its business in several other ways, with no asset greater than 5 per cent of invested capital, no client greater than 5 per cent of gross revenue, and no single sector exceeding 20 per cent of the portfolio.”
Lafave is saluted for her 30-year investment career, including more than 20 with HOOPP, where she is credited with building a diversified European portfolio valued in excess of CAD $2 billion. It was through her steerage of HOOPP’s European holdings that the pension plan first became involved in the IPE Real Estate Awards, opening a door through which other Canadian entities like Oxford and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) have followed.
The award’s accompanying deliberations note that Lafave “left behind one of the world’s most respected institutional real estate investment strategies” when she moved from HOOPP to establish her own consultancy, Realine Investments. As managing director, she is focused on advising on investment opportunities in European real estate.
A strong advocate of environmental, social and governance (ESG) tenets, she was named a Canada Clean50 sustainability leader in 2016, and has long been active in industry advocacy, education and mentoring. “I’m also a passionate believer in diversity, inclusion and striving for the best social and risk adjusted returns,” Lafave reiterates.
The third platinum-level award, for the real assets and infrastructure investor of the year, goes to PensionDanmark — a Danish pension fund with €3.2 billion in infrastructure and real estate assets under management. Meanwhile, three other Canadian pension funds were silver award-winners in themed categories.
CPPIB took honours in three categories: investment in Asia Pacific; investment in emerging markets; and listed strategy. As did HOOPP, for: direct strategy; portfolio construction; and sustainable strategy. Ivanhoé Cambridge got the nod for opportunistic strategy.