UK - LV=Asset Management (LVAM), the asset management arm of UK's largest friendly society, has announced ambitious plans to expand its fund management arm with 12 new funds and the development of a multi-manager capability, targeted at institutional and retail investors.

LVAM, which manages about £8bn (€11.5bn) of assets, has hired Tom Caddick from F&C Investments to spearhead the effort to develop the new multi-manager business. He joins in December.

The fund manager, which has traditionally focused on balanced management of life insurance and with-profit funds, also intends to more than double its 38-strong team over the next three years.

Howard Meaney, who joined early this month from international real estate consultants Cushman & Wakefield to manage the existing £800m property portfolio, is managing the first of 12 funds to be launched by the New Year.

The new real estate open-ended investment company (OEIC) will invest primarily through direct investment in UK commercial property.

LVAM will initially make its expanded fund range available via the pension portfolio of at- and post-retirement provider Tomorrow, whose new business operations LV= has the option to acquire from Swiss Re later this year.

Steven Daniels, managing director of LVAM, told IPE Real Estate the platform would enable the friendly society to look for additional business outside the group in due course.

He was not concerned about timing of the real estate fund launch, which comes at a time when the UK property market is widely believed to have peaked.

"What we have now and will continue to have is a lot of cash," he said. "We expect to be able to take advantage of opportunities where there are distressed sellers out there to buy quality properties at good prices."

Ann Roughhead, who was hired in April from Citigroup, is overseeing the growth plans. Having gained board approval in July for the expansion project, she has recruited heads of product development, fund operations and marketing to the team and is looking to make further hires.