UK - Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has poached Alex Turner from Hermes Real Estate to manage its UK office portfolio, just as other changes are being made to improve its performance.

Turner spent nine years at Hermes Real Estate where he was responsible for its office and industrial portfolio outside Central London.

He will take up the role of fund manager for USS's office investments, which constitute close to a quarter of the value of the pension scheme's overall £1.8bn (€2.03bn) real estate portfolio.

The appointment follows a series of property transactions worth more than £500m during 2009, although these have all been in the retail and industrial sectors.

At 31 March 2009, offices represented 24.2% of the total real estate portfolio owned by USS, with the biggest exposure in retail at 51.2%. This is likely to be higher today given the pension fund's recent shopping centre and retail park acquisitions.

The appointment of Turner, alongside Andrew Pettitt, has been described as an important development in the pension fund's ongoing real estate investment strategy.

"We welcome Alex Turner at a very exciting time for USS," said Graham Burnett, head of property at USS.

"Over the course of 2009, we have completed in excess of £500m of new acquisitions.  Alex's appointment will enable us to continue to pursue other opportunities during 2010 and beyond."

Turner has 15 years of commercial real estate experience, having worked within the fund management team at Royal London Asset Management prior to his nine years at Hermes Real Estate.

Meanwhile, USS has sold two high street bank units in Ipswich and Worcester for £5m and £4.435m, respectively, reflecting initial yields of 4.95% and 5.11%, respectively.

The pension fund has also announced that its Fitzwilliam House office building in the City of London is now fully let following an agreement on the part of Hardy Underwriting (a Lloyds of London subsidiary) to take on a 10-year lease for the top floor.