Silver Creek hires UC investment director with eye on real assets

Jessica Hans, who has also worked at the Blackstone Group, says this point in the market cycle brings opportunity to uncorrelated sources of yield.

Seattle-headquartered Silver Creek Capital Management has hired an investment director from University of California Investments to serve as a managing director, with a focus on expanding private credit and real assets investments.

Jessica Hans will report to deputy chief investment officer Art Zaske in the Seattle-based role, which will also see her join the firm’s real assets and investment committees.

“We see a lot of opportunity, particularly at this point in the market cycle, in investing in uncorrelated sources of yield that are sensitive to inflation,” Hans told Agri Investor. “As a former LP, I know that real assets have a very important role in institutional investors’ portfolios, so it’s an exciting time for the firm.”

Hans joined the University of California Office of the President as an investment analyst in 2014 and held positions culminating in a stint as investment director, according to her LinkedIn profile. It shows that prior to joining UC Investments, Hans held positions at Bain & Company, Credit Suisse, the Blackstone Group and the Climate Corporation.

Silver Creek was founded in 1994 and has $8.6 billion in assets under management, advisement and uncalled capital on behalf of public and corporate retirement plans, insurance companies, foundations, endowments and family offices. In addition to real assets, the firm also manages fund of funds products focused on private credit and other markets.

Twin Creeks Timber is Silver Creek’s joint venture with a group that includes the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, the Washington State Investment Board, the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund and the California State Teachers Retirement System. Twin Creeks was launched in 2015 with a portfolio of 260,000 acres of US South timberland and currently manages at least $1.3 billion and at least 650,000 timber acres that include Pacific Northwest properties.

In late 2021, Twin Creeks partnered with the non-profit Conservation Fund and sawmill operator WKO to purchase assets from lumber producer SDS Lumber that included 96,000 acres of timberland divided among the firms.

Hans described her experience at UC Investments as management of a natural resources portfolio that included a variety of investments across direct equity into companies, commitments to real asset strategies and co-investments alongside managers. She said that in addition to the desire for non-correlated returns, the university’s 2014 decision to move away from fossil fuel investments increased its interest in farmland, timber and agribusiness.

Hans, who joined the firm after initial discussions with Silver Creek president Bob Ratliffe, said the collaborative model the firm has helped develop through Twin Creeks is a good one.

“It’s an extremely favorable structure for LPs,” she added. “You don’t have an additional layer of fees for intermediaries. For a relatively targeted strategy in one of the real asset sectors like ag or timber, it’s a cost-effective structure.”

In addition to timber, Silver Creek’s real asset strategies include investments in aggregate reserves used in construction such as hard rock, sand and gravel. Silver Creek’s website also describes a regenerative agriculture strategy focused on farming and ranching in the Northern Great Plains about which Hans and the firm declined to share further detail.

“These domains are extremely specialized, so if you work with a multi-product large asset management firm, you might not be getting best in class operational partners. If those firms had those partners, the fee load might be way out of line,” Hans said. “What Silver Creek has put together is the ability to recognize that. The firm’s history as a fund of funds business gives it a unique perspective of understanding how to structure investments that are advantageous for LPs and align the interests of GPs and LPs the best.”