Philippe Busslinger Departs OMERS to Head Up Wren House

Institutional Asset Manager reports Wren House appoints new CEO:

Wren House Infrastructure Management Limited (Wren House), a London-based global infrastructure investor, has appointed Philippe Busslinger as Chief Executive Officer.

Busslinger is a highly experienced, successful and well-regarded infrastructure investor, having been the Head of Europe for OMERS Infrastructure (formerly Borealis Infrastructure) since 2015 and a managing director and member of the OMERS Infrastructure investment committee since 2012. Before joining OMERS, Busslinger worked in the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs for over seven years and at McKinsey & Company.

Busslinger has an impressive track-record of infrastructure investment experience, having led the deployment of over €4 billion of equity during his time at OMERS Infrastructure and overseen many other acquisitions and portfolio realisations. Philippe has also been responsible for a Europe-wide infrastructure portfolio of over EUR12 billion, having served as board member for a number of its key portfolio companies, including HS1, Associated British Ports, Autobahn Tank & Rast, Exolum and London City Airport.

Philippe will be joining Wren House at an exciting time, with it having recently announced its first investments in the US and France, with the acquisitions of I3 Broadband and Almaviva Santé respectively.

Busslinger will assume responsibility for ensuring that Wren House continues to achieve its growth and global ambitions, including the deployment of significant capital into quality infrastructure assets globally, the delivery of above market returns on its portfolio and the continued growth and development of its high calibre team of professionals.

Stefano Berra of Moningstar also reports Wren House hires OMERS Europe head as new CEO:

OMERS Infrastructure’s Europe head Philippe Busslinger has joined Wren House Infrastructure as its new CEO, the latest senior executive to leave the Canadian pension fund investor.

Busslinger will take the helm of Wren House, the London-based infrastructure investment arm of the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), in early 2022, a Wren House spokesperson told Inframation.

He will replace former CEO Hakim Drissi Kaitouni, who set up the investment manager in 2013 and left earlier this year after eight years with the company.

Busslinger has led OMERS’ European team since 2015 as a senior managing director, having first joined the Canadian pension fund in 2009 and sat on its investment committee since 2012. Before that he worked at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey & co.

During his time at OMERS, he oversaw the deployment of EUR 4bn of equity into infrastructure assets and managed an EUR 12bn overall infrastructure portfolio, including sitting on the board of portfolio companies HS1, Associated British Ports, Autobahn Tank & Rast, Exolum (formerly called CLH) and London City Airport.

A spokesperson for OMERS said the firm’s global head of infrastructure Annesley Wallace will lead the European team for an interim period.

Wren House, which currently has about USD 3bn (EUR 2.6bn) of infrastructure assets under management, said Busslinger will be tasked with boosting its investments in the sector globally and invest another USD 4bn over the next four years. In his new role he will lead a team of 20 investment professionals.

The investor recently made its first investment in the US, buying Illinois-based fibre-to-the-home operator i3 Broadband, and in France, acquiring private hospital operator Almaviva Santé from Antin Infrastructure.

Wren House and OMERS have worked together on several investments in the past, and are both shareholders of the UK’s largest port group ABP, London City Airport, and Thames Water. Last year, the KIA-backed firm also sold a stake in Australian power network operator Transgrid to OMERS.

Managing directors Piotr Sochocki and Karl Lim, who have led Wren House in the interim since Kaitouni’s departure, will remain at the firm.

Busslinger’s departure follows the exit of OMERS managing director Marco Pugliese, a London-based telecoms specialist who joined Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) earlier this month to spearhead investments in digital infrastructure. OMERS’ New York-based director Marco Fontana also recently left the pension fund manager to join KKR Infrastructure.

The moves followed a change in leadership at OMERS, which manages Ontario municipal employees’ pension pot, with Wallace replacing former global head of infrastructure Ralph Berg in April. Observers have also said they could signal a slowdown in investments and shift of focus towards portfolio management.

The Canadian pension fund’s recent hires include asset management managing directors Timm Degenhardt in London and Nandit Gandhi in New York, as well as US-based managing director Matt Mendell, who focuses on origination.

This caught my attention early this morning and since my blog covers Canadian pensions and is called "Pension Pulse", it wouldn't be right not to cover such a high profile departure.

First, my thoughts on Philippe Busslinger, the now former Head of Europe at OMERS Infrastructure and new CEO of the Wren House, the London-based global infrastructure subsidiary of the Kuwait Investment Authority.

I've never met Philippe but covered plenty of deals he and his team have worked on and I was always thoroughly impressed. He's also very highly regarded by my network of infrastructure experts.

There are a lot of talented people at Canada's large pensions investing in infrastructure. Off the top of my head:  Emmanuel Jaclot at CDPQ, Scott Lawrence at CPPIB, Lincoln Webb at BCI, Dale Burgess at OTPP, Patrick Samson at PSP and Tim Formuziewich at IMCO

There are others but these people just came to me because they're all excellent infrastructure investors and are all very highly regarded. And of course, they are all men!

There's only one woman heading up infrastructure at a large Canadian pension and that's Annesley Wallace, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Infrastructure at OMERS.

True, Scott Lawrence at CPPIB reports to Deborah K. Orida, Senior Managing Director & Global Head of Real Assets at CPPIB,(real estate and infrastructure) and Suyi Kim was recently named Senior Managing Director & Global Head of Private Equity at that organization, but there's only one woman solely focused on one of the most important infrastructure portfolios in the world, and that's Annesley Wallace.

Why is this important? It's important for a few reasons because when Ms. Wallace was appointed Global Head of Infrastructure at OMERS, it obviously squelched the ambitious aspirations of other highly qualified candidates. 

"Keep in mind, Annelsley was only 39 years old when she was appointed to this position and she's excellent and highly regarded," one high-ranking OMERS official told me earlier today. 

He added: "Philippe knew she would be there for a long time and took this opportunity to head up Wren House, one of the best infrastructure investors in the world and a partner of ours on many great deals, including London City Airport (along with OTPP). We think very highly of him and look forward to working with him and Wren House on other deals in the future." 

In my opinion, OMERS losing top talent to other investors isn't a great thing but it shows you the depth of talent they have in their infrastructure team. 

There's nothing evil or sinister going on here, when you hire really top talent, it's not always easy to keep them, it's a very competitive market, especially for top infrastructure talent, one of the most popular long-term asset classes.

And let me share something else, even though I've never met or spoken to Philippe Busslinger, I know he's extremely highly regarded among his peers and in the infrastructure investor community at large.

Moreover, this was a competitive process, I'm sure Wren House met a few extraordinary candidates for this top job, and they chose Philippe, which speaks volumes to me. 

What about Annesley Wallace and OMERS Infrastructure? She too is highly regarded and she has a great team to lean on. I expect her to name someone to replace Philippe in time, most likely from within but maybe go outside. We shall see.

My point is to be careful about reading too much into departures at OMERS Infrastructure, there's nothing structurally or culturally wrong going on there.

Over the last few years, they have lost top people to large alternative shops like Blackstone, KKR and global infrastructure investors like Wren House but that shows how highly qualified and regarded their senior infrastructure people truly are.  

Alright, let me wrap it up there. I want to publicly congratulate Philippe Busslinger for being named CEO of Wren House, I know he will lead this organization in the right direction and they will make incredible investments over the next decade. I have no doubts about this.

As far as Annesley Wallace and OMERS Infrastructure, I have no doubt that she will be a great leader too and lead this important division to new heights. She definitely has the backing of her CEO and that tells me everything I need to know about her and her leadership skills.

Below,  infrastructure is a crucial element in all aspects of economic and social activities, and is essential to the quality of life, the green transition and successful sustainable development. 

There's an interesting Zoom dialogue with top infrastructure investors featuring Deborah Orida (fast forward to minute 1:36:00) . Listen carefully to this discussion.

I also embedded an interesting discussion on green infrastructure's decade for delivery.