UNITED STATES - Santa Barbara County Employees Retirement System has approved a Request for Information to hire a discretionary separate account real estate manager.

"We want to move beyond just investing in commingled funds and take the programme to a separate account level," said Vincent Brown, chief executive officer of the pension fund. "To do this we need to hire a manager with experience in this structure."

PCA, the pension fund's consultant, is expected to generate the details of 10 or 11 firms which might be considered for the mandate and a final decision on the account will be made by June before contract negotiations begin.

Santa Barbara County has a relatively small real estate holding, compared with other US public authority pension funds, worth $35m (€26m), at the end of February.

Its real estate portfolio is currently made of up three core and value-added commingled fund investments: RREEF America II, CB Richard Ellis Strategic Partners US Value V and Rockwood Capital Real Estate Partners Fund VIII.

The existing real estate portfolio makes up 2.2% of the pension fund's $1.6bn in assets, although this is well behind its 6% targeted allocation to the asset class.

"One of our investment goals for this year would be to invest $30m in real estate," said Brown.

The overall investment strategy for this account has yet to be decided. But potential strategies could include both core and value-added US real estate.