The £1.3bn (€1.5bn) Cornwall Pension Fund has appointed two managers to a £60m global frontier-market equity mandate.The local authority fund launched the tender in May and saw interest from 17 applicants, reduced to a shortlist of 16 with the help of bfinance.HSBC Global Asset Mangement and Advance Emerging Capital have both been appointed, with the £60m funding split equally between the firms.In other news, France’s Fonds de réserve pour les retraites (FRR) is seeking a provider to evaluate the risks inherent in its €36.6bn portfolio. The reserve fund said the successful applicant would be appointed for four years, with the potential for a further one-year extension of the contract.Applicants have until 23 December to apply.The FRR has further concluded several other procurement exercises, reappointing Russell Investments to a panel of transition managers, alongside Goldman Sachs and BlackRock Advisors.The fund has also appointed two further asset managers to socially responsible equity mandates worth €150m, bringing to a close a nearly two-year process.BNP Paribas Asset Management and Kleinwort Benson Investors will be required to invest in thematic mutual funds, and the FRR said the approach would allow it to seek exposure to water, eco-technologies, waste management and renewable energy.Meanwhile, four of Sweden’s AP funds have appointed two companies to handle global voting services for the buffer funds.Institutional Shareholders Services (ISS) and Nordic Investment Services (NIS) were chosen for the high quality of their analysis, according to a statement by AP2.The joint tender by AP1-4 will see both companies working across all four funds’ portfolios.Finally, APUC, the body responsible for procurement of more than 50 of Scotland’s universities and colleges, is seeking to launch a defined contribution supplier framework for the higher education sector.According to the tender, the framework would accessible to higher education procurement services for London and other English regions, as well as Wales.Applicants, which are welcome to contact APUC until 9 January, must have an S&P credit rating of BBB or higher to qualify.
Its initial strategy was to focus on mezzanine – a form of debt that has a higher loan-to-value (LTV) ratio and supplements traditional senior debt – but the latest fund is able to provide whole loans that comprise both the senior and mezzanine parts.A number of investment managers have launched funds pursuing whole-loan strategies, which have the potential to be more nimble than those relying on there being another source for the senior debt.UBS Global Asset Management has launched a whole loan strategy, but, whereas this fund will retain full exposure, LaSalle is likely to syndicate the senior part after the deal is done, leaving it with mezzanine-type exposure.Amy Aznar, head of debt and special situations at LaSalle, said the recent increase in competition among senior debt providers supported a dual approach that targeted both mezzanine and whole loans.“We are seeing more liquidity, particularly in the senior side of the market, than we did six months ago,” she said.“In a lot of cases, mezzanine could be a very interesting way to team up with some of those aggressive senior banks.“It also gives us more confidence to invest in a whole loan, where, ultimately, we would have a syndication strategy for the senior, keeping the mezz.”The fund will offer single loans between £10m and £200m and lend up to 80% LTV across all real estate sectors, although it will focus on office, retail, industrial and residential assets.Last year, LaSalle launched a fund to finance residential and student accommodation developments in London on behalf of Dutch pensions group APG.Aznar said the fund was “significantly invested” but expected APG to provide further capital once the “first tranche” had been deployed, as LaSalle believes there are many more opportunities for the strategy. LaSalle Investment Management has raised £600m (€726m) for its latest real estate debt fund, which will provide mezzanine and whole-loan financing for real estate transactions in the UK and Germany.LaSalle Real Estate Debt Strategies II, which is already 25% invested, attracted commitments from 10 institutional investors across North America, Europe and Asia.It is the latest in a series of debt funds and programmes launched since LaSalle set up its European debt platform in 2010, and follows its UK Special Situations Fund, UK Junior Loan Programme and Residential Finance Fund.LaSalle was one of the first real estate fund managers to move into the commercial property lending market in Europe following the crisis.
According to the survey 2% of the funds are already using some form of flexible pension pay-out.Another 23% did not comment on the subject but a quarter said the topic had come up in discussions, and larger funds are more likely to have debated the matter; 8% said they had discussed the issue and decided against the introduction of a flexible pension element, while another 2% said they had decided in favour.But Swisscanto beleives that many Pensionskassen will wait until the pension fund of the Swiss federal rail operator, SBB, makes its decision and will then check the reaction of the media and the public.In the survey among Pensionskassen jointly managing CHF506bn (€413bn), Swisscanto also found that the average conversion rate used to calculate pension payouts from accrued assets has declined further.The average conversion rate is now 6.34% compared to 6.7% in 2011, with 43% of all Pensionskassen having decided on further cuts down to a target level of 5.99% in coming years.This is below the 6% threshold envisaged by the government in its ’Altersvorsorge 2020’ reform package.Additionally, for the first time, the average discount rate applied by surveyed Pensionskassen has fallen below 3% to 2.89%.Swisscanto calculated that the adjustment of the conversion rate over the last 10 years has decreased pension payout levels by 9.4%. Four out of ten Swiss pension funds have never debated the possibility of introducing variable pension payouts, according to a survey by the Zurich-based asset manager Swisscanto.Faced with low returns from capital markets, demographic challenges and high discount and conversion rates, Swiss funds may in future have to cross-finance pension payouts from active members’ assets.A solution to the problem is to adjust the technical parameters, as many are currently doing, or to introduce a bonus element to a guaranteed minimum pension for future pensioners – a measure which was introduced by the Pensionskasse of PwC in Switzerland in 2005 and by the energy Pensionskasse PKE only at the beginning of this year.As in the Netherlands, which has seen widespread pension benefit cuts in recent years, such measures could be highly unpopular.
Less than half of the almost €7.6bn in defined benefit obligations (DBO) reported by the 37 companies listed in the prime segment of the Austrian stock exchange (ATX) are funded via a Pensionskasse or insurance-based Betriebliche Kollektivversicherung (BKV), data collected by arithmetica shows.According to the actuarial consultancy’s managing director, Christoph Krischanitz, this will not change any time soon.For all domestic companies, both listed and unlisted, he estimates that approximately €20bn in unfunded pension promises are still on the books.“This Austrian situation, where a lot of the DBO remains unfunded, shows the limits of the IORP Directive,” Krischanitz said. He pointed out that these funds remained outside the regulatory framework, as only an intermediate financial service provider – i.e. a pension fund – can be regulated, but the supervisory body cannot control the pension promise an employer made directly to its employees.“And the more regulatory requirements you impose on pension funds, the more expensive and less likely further outsourcings are going to be,” Krischanitz said.In Austria, he “does not see any major outsourcings ahead”, mainly because it costs a lot of liquidity, especially now with lower discount rates being applied.In 2013, the spread of the discount rates applied by companies “tightened”, with the lowest remaining at around 2%, but the highest dropping from 6.75% in 2012 to 4.9% in 2013.Further, a lot of the on-book reserves are earmarked for pensioners, which cannot be outsourced to an external provider in bulk, but would have to be approached individually.Overall, around 35% of the DBO in the ATX prime is funded, with companies in the industry segment showing the highest funding level at just under 50% on average.But Krischanitz stressed that most companies had enough capital to finance the pension promises, which made up less than 10% of capital in all companies.For many, he added, it is even below 5%.
Actuarial Association of Europe (AAE) – Michael Renz has been elected chair of the AAE, starting his one-year tenure last month. Renz was also chairman of the German Actuarial Association between 2009 and 2011. Philip Shier of Ireland was elected vice-chair. Christoph Krischanitz of Austria and Falco Valkenburg of the Netherlands were re-elected as chairs of the investment and financial risk committee and pensions committee, respectively, both for three years.KAS Bank – Petri Hofsté and Peter Borgdorff have been nominated as supervisors for the Dutch bank by its supervisory board. Their appointment will be ratified at an extraordinary general meeting later this year. The supervisory board said it aimed to appoint Borgdorff as chairman. Hofsté brings experience from KPMG and ABN Amro, as well as APG and De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), where she was chief financial risk officer. Borgdorff is director of PFZW and was previously a director of the Dutch association of industry-wide pension funds. Both nominees are independent of KAS Bank, and the DNB has given its approval.Société Générale Securities Services (SGSS) – Pascal Jacquemin has been appointed chief executive for the French bank’s German securities business. He replaces Frédéric Barroyer, who will be moved to another position within the company, the bank said. He started in his role in September and will report to global head of SGSS Bruno Prigent.BNP Paribas Investment Partners – Colin Harte has joined the French asset manager as a portfolio manager in its multi-asset team. He will report to CIO Colin Graham, head of the tactical asset allocation and research team. Harte spent 11 years at Baring Asset Management as director of fixed interest and currency. He has also been at Gartmore Investment Management and Norwich Union Investment Management, which became Aviva Investors.Capital Group – Álvaro Fernández Arrieta and Mario González Pérez are to head up the investment manager’s new office in Madrid as business development managers. Capital Group is a US-based manager with $1.4trn (€1.1trn) in assets. Fernández Arrieta joined from French manager Amundi Asset Management in July. González Pérez has been with Capital for more than 10 years.Pioneer Investments – Morten Simonsen has been hired to lead Pioneer’s new office in Denmark, joining as head of sales. Simonsen joins from PineBridge Investments in London, where he was head of the Nordic region. Prior to this, he was head of institutional sales at Alfred Berg Asset Management.J O Hambro – Bogdan Popescu as been hired as director of European sales for French-speaking Europe. He joins from Hilbert Investment Solutions, where he was head of marketing and client solutions. He has also had spells at Skandia Investment Group and East Capital Asset Management.Lincoln Pensions – Matthew Harrison has been appointed managing director of the covenant advisory firm, joining in December from EY, where he was director of its pensions advisory business. Lincoln Pensions, a wholly owned subsidiary of US group Lincoln International, recently rebranded its UK operations, leading to the addition in its management structure.Finisterre Capital – Christopher Buck has joined the asset manager as head of credit research. He joins from Barclays Capital, where he was head of corporate credit research for Latin America PFA, Pensioenfonds UWV, UK Pensions Regulator, Actuarial Association of Europe, KAS, Société Générale Securities Services, BNP Paribas Investment Partners, Capital Group, Pioneer, J O Hambro, Lincoln Pensions, Finisterre CapitalPFA – Henrik Heideby has resigned as chief executive after more than 13 years, sparking a search by the largest Danish pensions provider for his successor. He resigned to take on more directorships and provide strategic advice. The DKK425bn (€57bn) provider said Heideby planned to leave at the end of the year. The board said it had begun searching for a replacement and would appoint someone before the end of 2014.Pensioenfonds UWV – Peter Ploegsma, employer’s chairman of the €5bn pension fund of UWV, provider of employees’ insurance, has announced his departure on 1 December, following a change of employer. Ploegsma has been chairman for two and a half years. The pension fund’s board said it had entered discussions with the UWV about the appointment of a successor.UK Pensions Regulator (TPR) – Fred Berry has been appointed to the newly created role of lead investment consultant. Berry joins from Mercer, where he was a principal in its investment business. The newly created role adds to the regulator’s expertise in both defined benefit and defined contribution investments, it said.
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund saw double-digit property returns for the second year running, as investments overall grew by 7.6% and the largest European asset owner continued to gradually rebalance holdings away from the Continent.At the end of 2014, the Government Pension Fund Global said assets stood at NOK6.4trn (€706bn), up by NOK1.4trn over the course of the year.However, changes in the value of the kroner accounted for around half of the increase, and investment returns for only NOK544bn, according to the fund’s annual report.Additionally, on the back of a sharp decline in oil prices over the second half of 2014, the fund was only paid NOK151bn in oil revenue. The amount of revenue was significantly down compared with 2013’s transfer of NOK241bn and is the least money paid into the fund by the government since 2004, when a payment of NOK138bn accounted for two-thirds of the year’s revenue.When measured in international currency, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) said the fund returned 7.6% over the course of 2014.The figure increased dramatically when measured in kroner, with asset returns rising to 24.3%.Real estate returns, which stood at 10.4% last year, rose to 27.5% when measured in kroner – the fund’s single-best performance measured in either kroner or international currency in five years – while equities returned 7.9%.The increased kroner volatility came as the fund grew its exposure to emerging markets and their currencies.Compared with five years ago, the fund’s exposure to European equity and fixed income had fallen from more than 52% of assets to just 37.7%.The volatility boosted returns in fixed income, which overall stood at 6.9%.However, its largest single exposure, to US Treasuries, returned 7.3% when measured in international currency, growing to nearly 15% in kroner.According to the report, the fund increased the number of currencies in which it was invested by three to 47 – adding Ghanaian cedi, Mauritian rupee and Nigerian naira to its currency basket after both Ghana and Mauritius were added to the fund’s universe.Slovenia, in which NBIM also only began investing in 2014, accounted for the fund’s largest frontier-market holding by the end of the year, worth NOK4.8bn, while investments in Mauritius and Ghana were valued at NOK82m and NOK15m, respectively.Since the end of 2012, NBIM’s share of investments in Asia grew from 12.9% to 15.5% and exposure to Oceania and the Middle East rose by 0.2 and 0.1 percentage points to 2.3% and 0.3%, respectively.While NBIM’s holdings in Africa remained steady at 0.7% of total assets since 2012, the fund’s overall value increased by NOK2.6trn over the same period.The fund also continued to grow its property portfolio, increasing nearly threefold in size to NOK141bn and now accounting for 2.2% of assets, up from 1%.Yngve Slyngstad, chief executive at NBIM, said: “Never before have we made as many property investments as we did last year, and we will continue to step up these investments in the coming years.”A large part of the asset growth came from acquisitions in the US, which now accounted for 35% of the property portfolio, up from 18.7%.The UK also remained an important country, accounting for 28.4%, up by 1.4 percentage points.The fund transferred ownership of 11 listed real estate holdings from the equity team to the property team over the course of 2014, with the NOK33bn in holdings returning 6%.Read Yngve Slyngstad’s thoughts on NBIM’s approach to investments in a recent issue of IPE
SBZ, the €5bn industry-wide pension fund for healthcare insurers in the Netherlands, is to remain with Syntrus Achmea for the time being, as the pensions administrator’s new IT system should be able to accommodate SBZ’s “relatively simple” pension plan.Adri van der Wurff, the scheme’s chair, told IPE sister publication Pensioen Pro that its pension arrangements were not managed on the system Syntrus plans to drop, adding that the continuity of pensions administration was not at risk for SBZ.He said SBZ’s actuarial contributions and its non-mandatory participation set-up made the scheme fairly straightforward.He added that the pension fund was now assessing whether it wanted to extend its contract with Syntrus when it expires at the end of next year. Syntrus Achmea Pensioenbeheer confirmed that SBZ is the only industry-wide pension fund of its 23 sector clients that will have its administration carried out using the new IT system.Last week, Syntrus Achmea announced that it would terminate its loss-making service to industry-wide pension funds, as its new IT system could not cope with a number of complicated pension plans.As a consequence, several sector schemes, including those for hairdressers, dental technicians and the cold meat industry (VLEP), have been forced to seek providers.Some have expressed concerns that Syntrus Achmea would shut down its ‘old’ system too quickly and argued that they had been left in a weakened position for negotiating new admin deals.Meanwhile, Stipp, the €1bn scheme for the temporary employment sector, announced on its website that it is close to concluding a contract with PGGM for carrying out its administration from 2018.The pension fund – a Syntrus Achmea client – has been looking for a new provider for the past year, having “insufficient innovation” on pensions communication at Syntrus, according to Erwin Bosman, its workers’ chairman.He said Stipp had not been surprised by Syntrus’s announcement, “as we had our doubts already about the future quality of service, as well as the extent the provider was prepared to invest for us”.Bosman said PGGM would set up a new administration system for defined contribution arrangements for Stipp that would take the scheme’s specific characteristics into account.“This will enable us to share our views at the start of the process,” said Bosman, who added that PGGM could also deliver on communication.Elsewhere, the €4.2bn pension fund for the grocery industry, Levensmiddelen, said it was also in an advanced stage of tendering for a new provider.Rick Grutters, its employee chair, said that this had been part of a “periodical orientation” and was not because his scheme had been dissatisfied with Syntrus’s service.On its website, Levensmiddelen said Syntrus’s announcement that it would cease servicing sector schemes had served as an impetus to speed up the selection process for a new provider.
The UK’s “just about managing” pension funds need a radical rethink of how to tackle widening pension deficits, mounting costs, and volatile markets, according to leading industry experts.Ahead of last year’s Autumn Statement, the government’s first post-EU-referendum budgetary update, the focus was on prime minister Theresa May’s new term: “just about managing” families – abbreviated to JAMs for the sake of a soundbite. However, there was hardly any mention of the “just about managing” in the pensions world.As Mark Wilkinson, a principal at consulting firm Mercer, describes them: “These are some of the smaller defined benefit [DB] schemes in deficit, essentially managing on a valuation to valuation basis – a hand to mouth existence, you could say.“They cannot magic up more money as their sponsor employers are also struggling. So there is a real challenge about the options available to these kinds of schemes.” According to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), the aggregate deficit of the 5,794 DB schemes increased to £224 billion at the end of December 2016, from a deficit of £195 billion a month earlier. The number of schemes in deficit also increased marginally to 4,339, representing three quarters of all schemes.Richard Murphy, a partner at consulting firm Lane Clark & Peacock, says the key challenge for the industry is to avoid adding to the number of JAMs.“Over the next few years, some schemes will fail and end up in the PPF, and others will struggle – it will be more realistic for industry to work with trustees and employers to ensure that a wider group of schemes avoid ending up as JAMs,” he said.Schemes in deficit have to submit a recovery plan to the Pensions Regulator. This can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the scheme and sponsor, including the employer’s plans to invest in sustainable growth.“We are committed to working closely with employers and trustees that are facing significantly challenging circumstances,” a spokesman at the Pensions Regulator confirms.One way forward, Murphy says, is rethinking investment strategy to target higher-returning assets, as well as improved diversification.“It is clear that if pension funds invest defensively, they will never achieve the return they require,” he says. “It is also clear that old style mix of equities and bonds are being replaced by hedging of interest rate and inflation to a much higher level.”Murphy adds: “We are seeing strong interest in a much more diversified range of assets such as private equity and absolute bonds.”Collaboration and consolidation Another radical plan is to consolidate the smaller schemes along the lines of the industry-wide pension schemes in the Netherlands and Australia. The UK already has seen some consolidation with the pooling of local government pension schemes and multi-employer funds such as the Railways Pension Scheme and the Universities Superannuation Scheme. The pensions market has also seen the launch of new DB master trusts, such as TPT Retirement Solutions (formerly The Pensions Trust), which provide services such as management, administration, and governance as well as investment.The Pension and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) – the UK’s retirement funds trade body – published an interim report from its DB Taskforce in October 2016. In it, the association called for an investigation into the potential for scheme consolidation to achieve greater economies of scale.Joe Dabrowski, head of governance and investment at the PLSA, said: “We have found that, with the smaller schemes, they have fewer resources and much more limited access to the right advisers or investment strategies. In some cases, we found that schemes at the bottom end of the size spectrum are paying proportionately more for their services, in comparison to larger schemes, due to their limited bargaining power and typically lower expertise.”This was backed up by recent research by consultancy Spence Johnson, which found that schemes with less than 100 members typically struggled to secure fund prices below the UK’s 75-basis-point price cap.The PLSA will publish its final report at its investment conference in March, outlining what it says will be the best way forward and the risk to members’ benefits of maintaining the status quo.Richard Butcher, managing director of independent trustee firm Pitman Trustees (PTL), agrees that there is a sound argument to be made for consolidation, but argues there are constraints to this happening.“In principal it is the right thing to do, but in practice it’s not workable without compulsion,” he says. “The idea of consolidation is that you can definitely drive economies of scale. So while the argument is sound, there are a number of barriers not least from employers and trustees who fear their influence will be reduced.”Inflation (un)protectedThe other proposal the PLSA is examining is conditional indexation, whereby struggling schemes could temporarily stop paying pension increases, or pay low increases, to help bring them back on track. The body will make its recommendations on conditional indexation in March.Dutch pension schemes have conditional indexation rules. A number of funds have fallen below the funding threshold required to increase benefits, and this year 10 pension schemes will cut payouts to pensioners in order to address funding difficulties.Mercer’s Wilkinson adds that, while DB benefits are in theory ‘guaranteed’, there should be some flexibility about payment of those benefits.“There is a case for changing the law so that you can go back to members to ask them to accept a lower level of benefit – for example, conditional indexation – in exchange for greater security and a lower risk of ending up in the PPF. As long as properly communicated and explained, members could well be in favour,” he says.However, Steve Delo, chief executive of independent trustee firm PAN Governance, warns that any “tinkering” with members’ benefits would be impossible to do without strong governmental intervention and such flexibility would introduce a new “moral hazard”.“There is a need for some creative thinking around this whole issue surrounding the JAMs,” Delo says. “But all parties involved need to know that there is no magic bullet solution – and it is very much a case of the stable door having been left open a long time ago.”UK pensions minister is expected to publish a green paper with proposals for DB reform in the coming weeks.
Edhec said its research provided an “explicit estimate” of costs applied to a range of strategies and showed the impact of using different implementation rules or stock universes.Among the major findings highlighted by the authors, the paper found that conclusions about transaction cost levels and strategy implementation challenges were heavily dependent on the stock universe under consideration.The researchers also found that, for commonly used beta indices built on liquid universes and integrated implementation rules, the impact of transaction costs on returns was small. These costs did not cancel out the relative return benefits over cap-weighted indices.A key issue with smart beta strategies was that they typically entailed higher replication costs than cap-weighted market indices, the researchers said.“While this is obviously true, the crux of the question is not whether transaction costs are higher but whether, after accounting for such costs, there are any benefits in terms of net returns,” they said.The study noted that while the importance of accounting for transaction costs in the evaluation of smart beta strategies was not doubted, relatively little was known about the magnitude of these costs.As a result, there was limited information related to the impact of implementation aspects – such as the selection of a liquid universe or turnover controls – on transaction cost levels.Lionel Martellini, director of Edhec-Risk Institute, said the results of the paper provided an important contribution to the analysis of smart beta strategies from a practical perspective.“Moreover, the methods we use are not computationally intensive and they draw on easily available data, making them easily replicable for practitioners who wish to analyse smart beta strategies,” he added.Given its “transparent methodology and benign data needs”, Edhec said its replication cost analysis could be easily applied to other strategies.The study was conducted as part of the Amundi research chair at EDHEC-Risk Institute on “ETFs, Indexing and Smart Beta Investment Strategies”.The full paper is available here. Investors will be able to assess net returns arising from smart beta strategies through a new transaction cost measurement approach put forward by a research paper from EDHEC Risk Institute.Currently, smart beta providers do not routinely report transaction cost estimates for their strategies, and performance evaluation often relies on simulated gross returns, the research said.“A reasonable expectation from an investor’s perspective is that providers should disclose the level of transaction costs generated by their strategies so as to allow for information on net returns,” the paper said.The paper – ”Smart Beta Replication Costs” – was written by Edhec researchers Mikheil Esakiais, Felix Goltz, Sivagaminathan Sivasubramanian, and Jakub Ulahelis.
Last year, Dranken reported asset management costs of 0.25% and administration costs of €207 per participant, which compared to 0.17% and €76, respectively, at Detailhandel.Pension contributions amounted to 27% of salary at Dranken, and 21.6% at the larger scheme.Dranken indicated that, given the difference in funding, there was a reasonable chance of a one-off pensions increase for its participants as a result of the merger.At July-end, its funding stood at 115.4%, whereas Detailhandel’s coverage was 111.4%. The €738m Dutch pension fund for the drinks sector – Dranken – plans to merge with the €20bn fund for the retail industry next year.On its website, the scheme explained that pensions accrual could be more effective and cheaper as part of Detailhandel.Dranken has more than 21,000 members affiliated with 300 employers, whereas Detailhandel has 1.1m participants in total.Last year, the industry-wide schemes for furnishing (Wonen), shoemakers (Schoenmakerij) and the textile wholesale sector (Textielgroothandel) all joined Detailhandel. The €329m sector scheme for the leather industry also plans to join next year.