Edi Truell: For his next trick, saving pensions

What do rhinos and retirement funds have in common? This investor and deal maker has an interest in both, and many projects besides. Jamie Dunkley tries to keep up

It has been 30 years since Edi Truell cut his teeth as a trainee with a Wall Street bank, yet there isn’t a hint of business-speak as he raves about the progress of one of his most recent investments.

”Imagine you’re into a weird combination of things,” he says in the City office of his venture capital empire. “Something like rhinos, Porsche 911s and gardening. We can produce a specialist magazine for you that have all these things in it – plus we’ll include a fourth thing to shake things up a bit.”

He’s talking about Imagine Publishing, a company that he and his brother Danny majority-own through the investment vehicle Disruptive Capital Finance.

Imagine owns 19 print titles, including All About History and Photography for beginners, he says, and then it’s on to the next project. 

“This one [Atlantic Supergrid Corporation] is about developing a 1,000-mile cable under the Atlantic to import power from Iceland to the UK. We have an energy crisis and they’ve got   unbelievable amounts of spare power. We have lots of projects... they’ll probably be another one tomorrow.”

Mr Truell made his name as the founder of the private equity giant Duke Street Capital in 1998, where he also gained a reputation as one of the City’s most astute deal makers; he sold his 30 per cent stake in the company before the financial crisis. His next venture was Pension Corporation, which now controls £10bn of assets, and although he maintains a stake in the business (which is tipped to list on the London Stock Exchange) through the Truell Charitable Foundation, it is other interests that now take up most of his time.

One of these is Tungsten, an electronic invoicing business that listed on London’s junior AIM market last October and now processes invoices for customers including Kellogg’s, Tesco and Unilever. Tungsten has also ventured into the public sector, having secured a lucrative contract with the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and now it has set its sights on the NHS and other government organisations.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is about the closest you can get to the NHS over there and they have all the same efficiency problems,” says Mr Truell. “We think we could save them about  3 per cent to 4 per cent of their total spending.”

He added: “We recently met with a senior member of the UK Government and discussed the savings that we could help them make.  We received a very enthusiastic response and are optimistic that this will lead to real savings for the UK public sector. I’d like to think we can save the cost of an aircraft carrier.”

Other interests include the insurance technology specialist Tantalum Corporation, but the spotlight for the past 18 months or so has been on a job across the Square Mile, with Mr Truell having been asked to chair the London Pensions Fund Authority by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

The £4.8bn scheme provides benefits to almost 18,000 employees working for 318 charity, private sector and local government employers.

It pays retirement benefits to 35,000 pensioners, many of whom used to work for the Greater London Council and the Inner London Education Authority.

Since being appointed at the end of 2012, he has stamped his mark on a scheme that he hopes to mould into a version of the highly successful Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, rather than a typical, poorly funded UK public sector pension scheme.

“One of the first things I did was to ask the team why we held so many gilt-edged securities yielding 2 per cent.

“The response I got was that it was because they were safe. I and the new board regarded then as ‘safely guaranteeing bankruptcy’ and we are moving our portfolio into longer- term investments like infrastructure, housing, private assets that over 20 to 40 years will make us better returns.

“It’s what the Ontario scheme has done so well. Eventually I am aiming for 45 per cent of our assets to be  going to be in private illiquid assets and then 55 per cent in mega-cap corporates.

“It’s going well but my next challenge is to get more funds involved, partner with other pension funds and we can save a ton of money. They may be based in any part of the country – it doesn’t matter.”

His approach has sparked a debate across the UK pensions industry, with many experts now calling for co-operation among public sector schemes.

Julian Brown, a director of the consultancy JLT Employee Benefits, says: “Local government pension schemes are increasingly looking at joint manager search and selection exercises when appointing fund managers.

“If a number of the schemes go to the market in a single, simultaneous and co-ordinated manner – as three of them have done for a recent infrastructure tender process – then this will provide them with the scale and buying power of a merged entity.

“But crucially it will still allow them to retain local accountability, and thus deliver on their key localism agenda. Not only does this collaborative effort achieve fee discounts from the managers who tender to run the larger combined mandate, but a single search exercise also saves on investment consultancy fees.”

Whatever happens, it’s unlikely the City is going to see the back of Mr Truell any time soon, with flotations of Imagine and Tantalum expected in the future.

There’s never a dull moment when Edi Truell is around, even if it’s not always as exciting as rhinos, Porsche 911s and gardening.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing