Hunt for Yield Drives Sampension CIO Henrik Olejasz Larsen’s Innovation

With interest rates in the cellar, Denmark’s third-largest pension fund is turning to property and infrastructure to take returns to the next level.


Investors the world over have to contend with low yields, but few feel the pressure like Henrik Olejasz Larsen, CIO at 250 billion Danish kroner ($38.2 billion) Sampension. To prevent a surge in the krone, the Danish central bank has cut rates even deeper into negative territory than the European Central Bank has, forcing Larsen and his team of 25 to widen their search for yield.

The Hellerup-based fund, which manages the retirement assets of 283,000 municipal and corporate employees, has moved into less liquid asset classes such as infrastructure and property in a drive for yield. “We need to be flexible enough to be able to take on liquidity risk,” says Larsen, 56, who spent a year as chief risk officer at state pension titan ATP before joining Sampension in March 2007. “That means taking a look at what is available in the alternative space.”

Real estate accounts for 10 percent of the portfolio, with Danish residential property a favorite. “We give up liquidity there” compared with bonds, says Larsen, but “we get at least the same stability and better inflation protection.” Other notable alternatives include timberland and natural resources (totaling 4 percent) and a modest 1 percent in global macro hedge funds.

Losses on the interest-rate-hedging part of the portfolio trimmed Sampension’s overall return to just 0.6 percent last year, but the fund has returned 63.5 percent over five years. Tight cost controls help. “We run with very low admin costs,” Larsen says. “It’s part of our culture and what our members expect from us.”

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2016 European Money MastersClick below to view profiles.

Investor Lifetime AchievementRoger GrayUniversities Superannuation SchemeGermanyStefan HentschelEvonik IndustriesU.K. CorporateTony BroccardoBarclays UK
Retirement FundCentral and Eastern EuropeKatrin RaheSwedbank Investment
Manager Lifetime AchievementPascal BlanquéAmundiNetherlandsMark BurbachBlue Sky GroupSmall CountriesPaul DroopBank of IrelandFranceSalwa Boussoukaya-NasrFonds de Réserve pour
les Retraites
SwitzerlandAdrian RyserMigros-PensionskasseU.K. PublicMark LyonEast Riding Pension FundScandinaviaHenrik Olejasz LarsenSampension