Barking & Dagenham said the majority of the funding for Aberdeen’s mandate would come from equities, with a further £12m drawn from cash holdings.Aberdeen was appointed only six months after the fund first tendered the mandate, beating 10 rivals to the position, and will be expected to return 4-5% above LIBOR.According to a report from the fund’s most recent pension committee meeting, it will also push ahead with plans to invest in social housing, examining two possible mandates recommended in a report by consultancy Aon Hewitt.The social housing investment would be part of its attempt to reach full funding, with the report describing the asset class as a “fairly secure investment” that could return 2-3% above index-linked Gilts.The local authority currently hopes to achieve full funding by 2033, raising coverage above the 71% funding it reported as part of its triennial valuation.Barking & Dagenham, one of the local authority schemes invested in a £700m Hermes Fund Managers vehicle, which last week announced £201m in new capital, also confirmed the amount committed by the Santander UK Group Pension Scheme.Reporting on HIF’s performance, the fund noted that Hermes held a second close at the end of last year, which saw an £80m commitment by the Santander scheme.“As a result, Hermes made a capital distribution on 24 January of approximately £5.8m,” the report added.Hermes was tied with Baillie Gifford as the fund’s best performing manager when measured by benchmark outperformance over the past 12 months.The firm, actively managing a £114m equity mandate, was also ahead of Hermes whem measuring absolute return performance, returning 12% compared with 11.2% for Hermes over a 12-month period. London’s Barking & Dagenham local authority scheme is to cut its exposure to global equity, instead allocating £50m (€63m) to a diversified alternatives mandate managed by Aberdeen Asset Management.The £666m fund also said it had drawn up a shortlist of managers for a proposed social housing mandate, but did not disclose their names.The appointment comes as the scheme agreed a new strategic asset allocation, cutting its global equity exposure by 6 percentage points to 45%.It also cut 1 percentage point from its strategic allocation to global credit and senior loans.
The Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIMFD) rules came into effect yesterday, prompting reaction from industry observers.The end of a one-year transitional period for AIMFD means EU member states are now required to put the directive into law.How they proceed could be a cause for concern.EU companies managing funds and non-EU managers marketing to EU investors must comply with the terms of the far-reaching directive, intended to protect investors. The directive has caused concern among those investing in alternative investment funds – as well as in fund-of-funds vehicles.Many real estate managers – particularly those not part of larger, more diversified investment businesses – are coming at the issue from “further behind”, according to John Forbes, of John Forbes Consulting.“Maybe for them it is more of a shock than for managers from other sectors,” he said.There is a clear distinction between the impact the directive will have on European managers and their non-European counterparts, said Glynn Barwick, regulatory lawyer at Goodwin Procter, with many non-EU managers using the transitional period to “put off” considering the directive.“They have struggled with the added complexity that comes from having to deal with the different private placement and registration regimes in each of the member states,” Barwick said.“Failure to comply through registration will be a criminal offence in most EU countries with the potential for significant fines and even jail terms.”Non-European managers have encountered contrasting obstacles during the 12-month transitional period that ended yesterday.“A US manager wishing to market a fund to European investors during the transitional period found that existing funds may not have been covered by AIFMD – but that new funds were, depending on the EU member state,” Barwick said.“Overall, managers will have to approach marketing in a more professional manner.”More data will help regulators monitor the sector. Jeff Rupp, director of public affairs at INREV, which has been in consultation on AIFMD since 2011, told IPE sister publication IP Real Estate the information would “hopefully help avoid future crises”.Grant Lee, asset management director at PwC, said: “In the age of big data, questions remain on the industry’s lips around what will be done with all this colossal amount of new data and whether the regulators will be able to digest this amount of information in a timely manner.”Rupp said the issue would be pulling all the data together and “putting it in the right format”.The next significant obstacle, according to Lee, will be regulatory reporting. “Even if this is outsourced to a service provider, the expectation is that managers have detailed oversight and an understanding of each field, any interpretations and calculations,” he said.“For those managers who do not outsource this ongoing regulatory burden, a number of more difficult fields are being worked through.”Detailed calculation of leverage – using the derivative calculation methodology under AIFMD – as well as liquidity management and stress testing, will increase requirements on fund managers, Lee added, with the first batch of reports due in late-January next year.And AIFMD cannot be looked at in isolation.“Other EU directives will also have a big impact,” Forbes said. “Solvency II will change the way life insurance companies look at investments, and IORP will do the same for defined benefit pension schemes.“This will have a big knock-on effect on investment managers.”The challenge for managers, Forbes added, is not “one thing on its own”, but the interaction of AIFMD, Solvency II and the revised IORP Directive, tax and the changing demands of investors, all together – a “particularly tangled bowl of spaghetti to unravel”.AIFMD – which is a requirement to be registered, rather than regulated – has the potential, Barwick added, to be more of a hindrance than a help.“The fact managers are not subject to regulatory control is akin to telling school children to attend morning assembly but not checking if they’re attending their lessons,” he said.Rupp added: “It’s been expensive, it’s been time-consuming, and some points still need to be clarified. “We need to make sure each member state does not come up with it’s own interpretation.”Ultimately, he added, investors will be choosing to invest in authorised fund managers with a “stamp of assurance”.
The scheme is currently split between final-salary and career-average benefits – with new proposals to make all members career average for earnings up to £50,000, and defined contribution savings thereafter.Balloted scheme members rejected the proposal, with staff at 69 universities in USS set to take up industrial action on 6 November.University College London (UCL), a USS employer, described the industrial action as premature and told its employees UCU had been asked to submit an alternative proposal but had yet to do so.The Union did submit a request to USS trustees to change the calculation of actuarial assumptions on the basis it did not share its “pessimistic” outlook.However, the trustees refused.Negotiations on changes to USS are being held by a joint negotiation committee (JNC) with representatives from the UCU and UUK.The union was asked to submit its alternative proposal at or before the next committee meeting in two weeks, with negotiations concluded and a final propsal for USS Trustees by January 2015.Nigel Waugh, UCL HR director, said the UCU’s notification of industrial action was premature.“The UUK and UCU continue to negotiate on a way forward for keeping a core DB pension across the sector,” he said.“No amount of industrial action will reduce the deficit of the fund, nor identify a panacea that does not include benefit change and contribution increases.”The USS scheme reported positive investment results until the end of March, but its chairman warned that the triennial valuation would reveal deeply concerning figures.The UCU said it would be consulting its branches on alternative proposals in the next week. A London university has urged the UK’s University and College Union (UCU) to submit an alternative proposal for benefit reforms in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) instead of industrial action.Universities UK (UUK), the representative group for employers in USS, made a proposal that would see USS change from final salary to a hybrid scheme with career-average benefits.Trade union UCU made counter arguments against the proposed reforms, attacking the statistical methodology, describing figures used during negotiations as “dodgy” and “misleading”.Changes to the benefits structure at USS are expected to help repair an estimated £8bn (€10.1bn) deficit in the £41.6bn scheme, one of the largest in the UK.
“The Chinese economy is not on a sound basis, and there are big risks, even though the state still has some ability to control the economy,” she said.For this reason, Veritas had almost completely pulled out of China, she said.She said it was particularly important in these times when markets were so uncertain to think long-term and focus on achieving a stable return.Real estate returned 5.0% in the period, up from 3.0% in the first half of last year, with direct investments outpacing fund investments, with returns of 5.4% and 2.0% respectively.Fixed income investments generated a return of 1.1% in the first half, down from 4.2% in the same period last year.The very good yield on fixed income investments seen in the first quarter had now been evened out, she said.“The market turbulence of recent weeks has shown that diversification is the alpha and omega when it comes to managing an investment portfolio for a pensions company,” Bergring said.Veritas’ total investment assets grew to €2.76bn at the end of June from €2.60bn at the end of December last year Finland’s Veritas has reconsiderd its exposure to China and all but pulled out of the country, while also reducing risk over the first six months of the year in anticipation of market turmoil caused by Greek bailout negotiations.The Finnish pensions insurer said it returned 5.8% in the first six months to June, up from 4.6% in the first half of last year. Listed shares were the highest performing assets in the period, generating a 13.3% return, compared with 6.7% in the same phase of last year, according to the interim report.Niina Bergring, investment director at Veritas, said: “We have anticipated the problems in China and Greece and reduced our risk level during the spring.”China in particular was causing headaches, having proved disappointing compared to expectations at the beginning of the year, she said.
A UK Conservative politician has put forward proposals for corporate governance reform that seek to empower shareholders and put an end to the “ownerless corporation”, with a modified version of the Swedish model of a shareholder nomination committee one of the suggested measures. Chris Philp, a UK MP and member of the Treasury Select Committee, made the proposals in a paper co-ordinated with the High Pay Centre, a think tank campaigning against excessive executive remuneration.In the paper, the politician called for mandatory publication of pay ratios, annual binding shareholder votes on executive pay, and mandatory shareholder committees.Some of the proposals are similar to corporate governance reforms outlined by Theresa May shortly before she became the new prime minister in July, although the High Pay Centre noted that Philp “started pursuing this long before” May made her speech. The annual binding vote on pay that Philp proposed would be a retrospective vote on actual pay awards; shareholders of UK listed companies already have a binding say on remuneration policy, although this vote is held every three years.The shareholder committee envisaged by Philp is based on shareholder nomination committees in existence in Sweden. It would consist of the top five shareholders based on holdings over more than 12 months, with the next largest shareholders joining the committee in the event that one declines.According to the paper, a list of shareholders declining to take up a position on the committee would be published, “so that their own investors or clients could seek an explanation as to why the opportunity had been declined”.The chair of the board and an employee representative would be non-voting members; Philp specifies that the employee representative should not be from a trade union.Under Philp’s proposal, the shareholder committee would replace the nomination committee in recommending the appointment and removal of directors to an annual general meeting (AGM).It would also have other powers, which combined “will re-empower shareholders and make boards more accountable”, according to the paper.’Provocative agenda’Reactions to the MP’s reform plan were mixed.At the UK’s Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA), Joe Dabrowski, head of governance & investment, said that the association welcomes Philp’s proposals as ”a valuable contribution to the debate about how to make companies more accountable for their top pay awards”.He struck a measured tone in assessing the specific proposals.“Giving shareholders and other stakeholders a greater say over the companies they are invested in is certainly a sensible recommendation,” said Dabrowski. ”It is important, however, that an appropriate balance of rights is struck across all shareholders.”The proposed shareholder committee, meanwhile, should be made up of “engaged investors, rather than simply the largest investors, and it is important that this point is not lost through an arbitrary selection process.”PIRC, a proxy and engagement advisory company whose clients include pension funds, welcomed the “attempt to re-boot corporate governance reform” following prime minister May’s speech in July.Alan MacDougall, managing director at PIRC, said that although the High Pay Centre report is to be welcomed “there are still challenges”.He suggested some tweaks on the proposed shareholder committees, including that these also comprise pension fund trustees, and more than one employee, who should also be able to come from trade unions. “Shareholder committees have been successful in Sweden, but are untried in the UK,” he said. “Expecting the top five shareholders in a company to embrace serious reform will require considerable preparation and potential conflicts must be recognised if they are to succeed.”The report by Philps featured supportive statements from Paul Myners, a former FTSE 350 chairman, City Minister and the author of an influential report on institutional investment in the UK, and Neil Woodford, head of investment at fund manager Woodford Investment Management.Myners said Philps “has produced a provocative agenda to rectify the weakness at the core of modern corporate ownership”.Myners noted that although the development of the role of non-executive directors has helped address the “fragmentation” of ownership of major companies, most non-executive directors “remain detached from shareholders”.“They are elected with North Korean-like majorities by uninterested shareholders, selected through a process led by the chairman which would also be familiar to those in Pyongyang,” he said.Implementation of Philp’s agenda “would represent a transformational change in the democratisation and accountability of ownership”, according to Myners.Woodford, meanwhile, noted that Philp’s proposals reflect some of the best practices already in effect around Europe.By adopting these, he said, “we can help boards become more accountable for their long-term performance with, I believe, meaningful benefits flowing to shareholders and the broader UK economy”.But not everyone agreed that the measures outlined by Philp will encourage long-termism.Mike Fox, head of sustainable investment at Royal London Asset Management, criticised the pay proposals as the wrong approach to ensuring that “executive pay remains tied to long-term, sustainable business performance”.“We believe that imposing an annual binding vote could be detrimental, forcing shareholders to focus on shorter performance periods when evaluating whether performance has merited the remuneration paid to senior executives,” he said.,WebsitesWe are not responsible for the content of external sitesLink to ‘Restoring Responsible Ownership’ report by Chris Philp MP
The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has dropped the Tier 3 category for Stewardship Code signatories after half of the asset managers deemed to have the weakest statements on stewardship improved their reporting and the other half quit the code.In November last year the FRC assigned asset managers to one of three “tiers” based on the quality of their reporting on their stewardship approach. The Stewardship Code is a voluntary set of principles designed to encourage asset managers and other investors to engage with the companies in which they invest and exercise voting rights.Tier 3 was the lowest tier, for signatories seen as needing to make significant reporting improvements to ensure their approach was more transparent. Forty asset managers were assigned to this category, and were given the choice of either improving their reporting or being removed from the list of code signatories.Of these, around 20 improved their reporting to a Tier 1 or Tier 2 standard, while the others decided to remove themselves from the list.The FRC’s decision comes as it prepares to review the Stewardship Code. It intends to ask “broad initial questions” about its approach to the review as part of a formal consultation of its corporate governance code that it will launch later this year.A detailed consultation on specific changes to the Stewardship Code will be held next year.Luke Hildyard, policy lead for stewardship and corporate governance at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, said the FRC’s decision to drop Tier 3 was an “understandable measure”.“[Tiering] was always going to be a tricky process, as those signatories that fall into the lowest tier were likely to resign, on the basis that being a non-signatory sounds better than being classified in the third tier,” he said.He encouraged the FRC to follow up on this step by promoting awareness of the code so that investors understood the difference between signatories and non-signatories, and raising the code’s standards so that being a signatory became more meaningful.
NEST’s investment team was prepared to consider established and new funds and was open to segregated mandates if appropriate and beneficial to the scheme, she added. Last year it awarded its first segregated account to CoreCommodity Management.Regarding the ESG approach, the spokeswoman said managers would be expected to exclude bonds issued by companies that manufacture controversial weapons, in line with NEST’s divestment policy. NEST CIO Mark Fawcett said in a statement this week: “NEST already has exposure to UK investment grade corporate bonds and expanding into this asset class is a natural progression as our assets under management continues to grow.“Adding global investment grade corporate bonds to our funds supports NEST’s diversification strategy and gives us opportunities to earn the best stable returns necessary in order to support our long-term investment objectives.”According to NEST’s annual report, as of the end of March 2018 three asset managers had been appointed to run investment grade bond mandates: BlackRock (short duration bonds), BMO Global Asset Management (ethical sterling bonds), and Royal London Asset Management (sterling corporate bonds and short duration bonds).In addition, JP Morgan Asset Management ran a global high-yield bond fund, Legal & General Investment Management ran short-dated gilts, and State Street Global Advisors ran funds investing in conventional and index-linked gilts.In September, NEST called for managers to come up with innovative ways of accessing unlisted infrastructure debt, real estate debt, and corporate loans for the growing DC scheme. The National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) has launched a search for global investment grade corporate bond managers for a potential allocation for its retirement date funds.In a notice published earlier this week, the £4.5bn (€5.1bn) defined contribution (DC) master trust said it was seeking active managers to provide the latest “building blocks” for its investment portfolio.NEST said it was interested in managers with “a high quality repeatable investment process, a robust risk management framework and [that] consider environmental, social and governance [ESG] factors”.The scheme did not specify the potential size of the mandate. A spokeswoman for NEST told IPE the allocation would depend on “a number of factors” including valuations at the time of procurement.
A spokesperson for TPR told IPE: “We are being clearer about our expectations for deficit repair contributions. Trustees who are undertaking their triennial valuations should negotiate robustly with their employer to secure a fair deal for the pension scheme.“If affordability has increased for employers and they are in a better position to tackle the deficit in their pension scheme and shorten recovery plans, we will expect them to do so.“We are being tougher with companies that should be balancing their duties to pension savers with returns to shareholders. If a scheme could be better funded then we are checking whether the balance is right.”LCP blamed the disparity on an increase in dividend payments rather than a drop in plan contributions.All of the companies in the LCP study reported their pension obligations under International Accounting Standard 19, Employee Benefits (IAS 19).Mortality changes and GMP FTSE 100 companies paid out seven times more in dividend payments to shareholders than they made in contributions to their defined benefit (DB) pension schemes last year, according to consultancy LCP.The report’s lead author and LCP partner Phil Cuddeford warned: “Companies should be proactive in implementing long-term strategies if they are to meet the incoming regulatory requirements in the updated DB funding code, due to be consulted on later this year.”The Accounting for Pensions 2019 report estimates that FTSE 100 companies handed shareholders £90bn (€102bn) in dividends but made pension contributions totalling £13bn in 2018.The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has been increasing pressure on UK DB scheme sponsors to address the balance of dividend payments and deficit reduction contributions. LCP reported that GMP had added £1.3bn to FTSE 100 scheme liabilitiesMeanwhile, LCP also found that FTSE 100 schemes had an overall accounting surplus on an IAS 19 basis through the whole of 2018 – the first time this has been the case in two decades.At the same time, the slowdown in the rate of improvement in UK mortality assumptions led to reduced IAS 19 liabilities.However, LCP also warned that mortality calculations among FTSE 100 sponsors contained an subjectivity element worth an estimated £50bn – equivalent to double either the discount rate or inflation assumptions.The consultancy said this potential variation was caused by the wide range of available inputs and the potential for exercising judgement when calculating liabilities.Meanwhile, LCP reported that the effect of accounting for the impact of guaranteed minimum pension (GMP) equalisation was less than initially feared.LCP’s researchers said the average estimated cost of correcting historic gender inequality across FTSE 100 sponsors was roughly 0.4% of liabilities, or £1.3bn in total.This figure was substantially lower than preliminary forecasts made in the run up to the decision in the Lloyds Bank case in October last year. Nonetheless, six FTSE 100 companies face a bill totalling £100m or more to comply with the judgement.The issue of GMP equalisation hit the headlines in October when the UK’s High Court ruled that the payments – which date back to 1990 – must be recalculated to ensure men and women receive equal treatment.Prior to the ruling, some estimates put the cost of GMP equalisation at roughly 1-4% of liabilities, while others were as high as £32bn in total across UK DB schemes.The LCP findings broadly confirmed those revealed earlier this month by KPMG, which found that 70% of sponsors surveyed faced a liability increase of less than 1%, with 13% reporting an increase of less than 20 basis points.In relation to other key IAS 19 assumptions, the study found a majority of companies reported: discount rates in a range of 2.7-2.9%;RPI inflation assumption of 3.2% against break-even inflation of 3.4%; anda CPI assumption arrived at by deducting a premium of 1-1.1% from the RPI assumption.LCP estimated that possible future reform of the RPI inflation measure could move individual pension liabilities by as much as 20 per cent in either direction.Finally, the consultants warned that increased enforcement activity by the UK Financial Reporting Council, plus potential changes to the International Accounting Standards Board’s asset-ceiling guidance, IFRIC 14, both represented risks for DB scheme sponsors to consider.
Tuur Elzinga, FNVThe new steering group will also seek to ensure that workers who are negatively affected by the move from average to degressive pensions accrual are compensated.As the government has made clear that it will not contribute to the transition costs, the redistribution issue must be solved within individual pension funds, according to Tuur Elzinga, the FNV’s lead negotiator.The costs of transition have been estimated to range from €25bn to €100bn, depending on the degree of compensation.Part of the pensions agreement would also allow workers to take out a lump sum of up to 10% at retirement to help pay off a mortgage, according to the ministry for social affairs. Credit: Mark PrinsWouter Koolmees, Dutch social affairs ministerThe pension negotiators agreed to slow down the increase of the retirement age for the state pension (AOW) by three years, to reach 67 in 2024.The current AOW retirement age of 66 years and four months is to be fixed for two years.In addition, the government’s plan to raise the retirement age by one year for every year of additional longevity after 2024 is to be reduced to eight months for every year of extra life expectancy.The decision carried an annual price tag of €5bn for the government, said Koolmees.The government also promised that workers in physically demanding jobs would be allowed to retire up to three years earlier, and the current tax burden for employers that allowed workers to take early retirement would be eased temporarily.In his letter, the minister said that the individual sectors must establish which occupations would be subject to the option of early retirement, and that schemes must be financed by employers.Pensions accrual for self-employed workers would not be made mandatory, but made easier.FNV, the Netherlands’ largest trade union, said it would put the negotiation results to its members, who can have their final say on 15 June.In the past, negotiation results have been rejected by unions’ members. Pensioners and port workers in particular have already made it clear that they do not support the draft decision.Pension contractThe negotiators have not agreed on reforms to the Netherlands’ second pillar, but have set up a steering group with representatives of the government and the social partners to develop two options for a new pensions contract.In his letter to parliament, Koolmees said that one option would focus on individual pensions accrual combined with a collective benefits phase – the option favoured by the Dutch government.The other would aim for a collective defined contribution accrual method without financial buffers or nominal guarantees, he said.The new contracts, however, would only be completed once all variable factors were established, including assumptions for future returns for pension funds and the discount rate for liabilities.A dedicated committee – chaired by former finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem – has already started looking at the possibility of an adjustment of the discount rate for liabilities, which currently stands at 2.3%. The committee is also expected to come up with new return parameters.Degressive accrual The two large metal and engineering sector schemes PMT and PME, which both have funding levels just hovering above 100%, were among the pension funds that were facing rights discounts next year before Koolmees’ decision.Retirement age Dutch employers, unions and the government unexpectedly reached an agreement in principle on elements of pension system reform last night, with concrete decision made on the state retirement age and retirement options for workers in physically demanding jobs.The parties also agreed to create a dedicated steering group to flesh out a new pensions contract, as well as how the current average pensions accrual method was to be replaced by a degressive method.In addition, Wouter Koolmees, the minister for social affairs, said in a letter to parliament that he would temporarily ease the rules for pension benefit cuts by reducing the minimum required funding ratio for pension schemes from 104.2% to 100%. He said that the adjustment of the rules would significantly reduce the prospect of cuts.It means that, during the transition to a new pensions system, only pension funds with a coverage ratio of less than 100% for the past five years will have to apply unconditional benefit cuts to improve their funding level to 100%.
Denmark’s PKA has hired Jon Johnsen, part of the three-strong leadership team at the country’s biggest commercial pension fund PFA, to replace CEO Peter Damgaard Jensen when he retires in March.The career shift for Johnsen — who is chief operating officer at PFA in charge of customers and services — was announced by both PKA and PFA this morning.Stephanie Lose, chair of PKA’s supervisory board, said: “Jon is coming to PKA with great experience in the pensions industry. He has achieved really great results in his current role, he has a personality and some fundamental values which fit in with PKA, and he is not least an able leader.”PFA – where Johnsen has worked since 2009 – said the COO’s last working day would be 30 October, which will leave him with a four-month break before taking the reins at PKA. PKA manages four labour-market pension funds with assets of around €36.8bn.Allan Polack, PFA’s group chief executive, thanked Johnsen for his “great effort” at PFA. Jon Johnsen, incoming CEO of PKA“As part of the management team for more than a decade Jon has contributed strongly to PFA standing today as market leader with a broad-based value proposition for customers and low costs,” he said.“I understand Jon now wanting to take the step ahead and wish him all the best in his new role,” Polack added. PFA said Polack would lead the firm’s customers and services area in the future.Johnsen said via PFA that his time at the DKK576bn (€77bn) pension provider — an “incredibly exciting and educational period” — had passed quickly.In PKA’s announcement, he said he was both happy and proud to get the opportunity to lead the labour-market pensions provider.“It is one of the biggest and most respected pension funds here, and it is a big legacy that I have to live up to,” he said.Before joining PKA, Johnsen worked as technical and business director at IT provider KMD, where he was on the management team from 2003 onwards.Before that, he was a management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Alongside his role as COO at PFA, Johnsen is also chair of PFA Bank and a member of the supervisory boards of Letpension, Ringkjøbing Landbobank and Forsikringsakademiet (Insurance Academy).