NEW YORK -- Investment firms owned by minorities have gained an increased stake in one of the nation's largest pension funds through a program overseen by Verizon Investment Management Corp., the subsidiary that manages Verizon Comunications Inc.'s $48.6 billion fund.
At the end of May, Verizon increased assets committed to 19 minority-owned investment organizations to $785 million, up from a previous total of $450 million committed to 15 firms.
The $335 million increase comes on the fifth anniversary of Verizon's Diversity Managers program, which was established to attract minority-managed funds.
"Investment companies must meet high thresholds before we commit pension assets to them, and we have now identified 19 firms that meet our institutional criteria," said Britt Harris, president of Verizon Investment Management Corp. "Not only do these firms have a five-year track record of competitive results, but they also have demonstrated that they have carefully defined investment programs; well-developed, financially independent organizations; and strong leadership."
Because there are a greater number of minority-owned companies now involved in managing Verizon's pension fund, the company this month established a program liaison office for the Diversity Managers program. The liaison office will monitor the results of existing firms and continuously review opportunities for further minority-firm participation.
"We have an ongoing commitment to this investment program," said Harris. "We see minority investment firms as an emerging market that brings potential value to our broad mix of pension assets. Verizon has taken a leadership role through the asset levels we've committed to minority-owned firms, and we intend to use our new liaison office to build on that role."
In the U.S. investment management market, there are now more than 100 minority-owned investment firms. Although this represents five percent of the nation's 2,000 investment firms, minority firms manage less than 0.7 percent of corporate pension fund assets. Verizon's $785 million commitment, which is among the largest in the nation, is more than double the national average.
Of the 19 minority-owned firms with Verizon commitments, four are new: EARNEST Partners, Piedra Capital, Utendahl Capital Management and Taplin, Canida & Habacht.
They join 15 firms already managing Verizon pension assets: Ariel Capital Management, Syndicated Communications Venture Partners IV, Black Enterprise Growth Partners, S.W. Pelham Fund, Provender Opportunities Fund, Pharos Capital, Solera Capital, Hispania Capital Partners, Capri Select Income Fund, NCM Capital Management Group, The Edgar Lomax Company, Paradigm Asset Management Company, Seix Investment Advisors, Hughes Capital Management and Pacific Alternative Asset Management Company (PAAMCO).
Four of the funds are Hispanic-owned: Hispania Capital Partners, Seix, Piedra and Taplin. Six are women-owned: Solera, PAAMCO, the African American-owned firms of S.W. Pelham and Hughes, and the Hispanic-owned firms of Seix and Taplin. The remainder are African American-owned.
Verizon's new liaison to these firms is Conrad Francis, director - Investment Management at Verizon Investment Management Corp. He is based in Stamford, Conn.
Other Verizon diversity programs also benefit minority businesses nationwide. Last month, for example, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg earned the National Minority Supplier Development Council's Leadership Award in recognition of the $1.5 billion that Verizon spent in 2001 with minority and women-owned suppliers.
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 133.8 million access line equivalents and approximately 29.6 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and nearly 248,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.