US/UK - The New York-based Teachers Insurance and Annuities Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), the second largest retirement plan in the US with assets of $420bn (€281bn), has launched its first overseas office in London.

The London office, which is already up and running, is intended to bolster the organisation's exposure to the UK and European property sector, the organisation confirmed to IPE today.

Paul Wilson, a former head of retail investments at Invesco Real Estate, will lead the office, for which the fund is planning to hire five or six more people over the next 18 months.

Tom Garbutt, managing director and head of TIAA-CREF global real estate, commented: "This office will strengthen and enhance our global real estate platform in the United Kingdom and Europe, which will help us to continue to grow and actively manage our real estate investment portfolio in these markets and beyond."

He added: "While we have been direct investors in European real estate markets for 13 years, we believe that having our own local, dedicated and experienced investment professionals on the ground will add to our understanding of these markets.  In turn, this allows us to strengthen our relationships with other market participants and increase our access to what we determine to be attractive long-term investment opportunities on behalf of our clients."

TIAA-CREF, which has invested approximately $4bn of its $25bn global real estate portfolio in Europe, spends around $600m annually on European properties, with a focus on retail, logistics and commercial space. reported earlier this year that TIAA-CREF was thinking of creating some form of co-operation with European pension funds to exchange ideas about new initiatives, from which its "core", its higher education non-profit pension business, could benefit. (See earlier IPE story: TIAA-CREF mulls European co-operation)