Welcome to Pension Funds Online

Pension Funds Online is the essential source for detailed financial and contact data on global pension funds and their advisers.

For advisers

  • Identify new funds to manage based on criteria such as asset allocation and AUM
  • View a complete picture of your prospects’ investments
  • Access direct contact details for key investment professionals
  • Export the complete database to run your own bespoke analysis
Find out more

For pension funds

  • Gain essential insight into the important issues facing pension funds
  • Source new service providers to help you manage your funds
  • Benchmark your fund’s performance against your peers
  • Update your fund’s entry online to ensure relevant advisers can contact you directly
Find out more
Advert alt text goes here

Pension Funds
Insider

No news is good news

Pensions experts are breathing a sigh of relief following the minimal changes announced in the latest Budget.

Despite speculation that pension tax allowances might be cut or adjusted, no such proposals were made. Instead, a 3% state pension rise and an increase in the lifetime allowance from £1m to £1.03m are the main pertinent components.

The Budget appears to have been designed with younger people in mind, with measures including changes to stamp duty for first time buyers - a move that makes political sense following the results of the last election where Labour took 64% of the 18-29-year-old vote, compared with just 21% for the Conservatives.

Barnett Waddingham's Malcolm McLean, welcomed the change in focus and lack of dramatic changes: "This was very much a steady as you go Budget, with no major surprises," he said.

While the focus was distinctly on the younger generation, the change to the Lifetime Allowance (LTA) is still significant for pension funds. The LTA has been adjusted in the opposite direction in recent years, making the increase a largely positive step. The LTA has seen several reductions since 2012, including from £1.5million down to £1milion in 2014.

The move was not a surprise either. Most of us in the industry expected to see the increase, but some feared an unexpected U-turn might be on the cards.

Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, said: "Fortunately, there was no U-turn in the LTA and this is good news, even if on the surface the increase isn't large. A small increase is welcome for those nearing the limit, but this is a complex area where people seek financial advice to avoid paying unnecessary tax."

One other advantage for fund managers is the additional security the greater amount provides; giving advisers an even more solid background when they are working with clients.

The 3% state pension rise was also a relief, while not being much of a surprise thanks to the Triple Lock, which is in place until 2020.

Overall, the quiet Budget and distinct lack of action on pensions point to a Government looking to steady the waters after what has been a turbulent time for both pensions and the wider financial community. The impact of Brexit is widespread and pensions have experienced huge changes in recent years.

A calmer period for the industry will no doubt give people a greater opportunity to adjust the status quo.

"No news is good news for pension investors," said Tom McPhail, head of policy at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"The stability of no change is a welcome relief after years of political interference and the salami-slicing of reliefs and allowances. There may have to be further changes at some point in the future, but in the meantime, investors can make hay while the sun shines."

Elsewhere in the Budget?

1. Individual Savings Account (ISA) allowance for 2018/19 to be frozen at £20,000
2. Annual subscription limit for Junior ISAs and Child Trust Funds for 2018-19 will increase in line with CPI to £4,260
3. Annual pensions allowance for the 2017/18 tax year is £40,000 and will remain the same for 2018/19

lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Spotlight on transaction cost disclosure

In line with the growing regulatory pressure on trustees and governance committees to deliver value for money for their members, the issue of cost transparency has been an area of increased focus for UK pension funds and their providers in 2017.

The FCA's Asset Management Market Study, which was published in June 2017, broadly criticised the investment industry for being uncompetitive and providing low levels of transparency. Since then, the FCA has established a working group tasked with standardising the disclosure of all costs and charges.

In parallel, the Local Government Pension Schemes launched a code of transparency in May 2017, outlining a standard method for all asset managers to report investment costs. In Europe, new regulations – in the form of MiFID II and PRIIPS – are increasing disclosure standards around investment costs from January 2018.

Why is this happening?

The FCA report highlighted uncompetitive pricing practices and opaque cost structures across the asset management industry, and announced its intention to address these shortcomings. Improving reporting standards is one strand of this process.

Auto enrolment has brought a greater fiduciary responsibility to workplace pensions, and the government is clearly keen to avoid any miss-selling scandals. Increased litigation in the USA around costs may also have heightened this fear, and the UK is therefore following Europe in terms of raising standards in this area.

Where is the spotlight falling and what is it going to reveal?

Since April 2015, trustees and independent governance committees of workplace pensions have been required to assess and report, through their Chair's Annual Statements, whether transaction costs and administration charges offer value for money. However, there was no corresponding imperative for asset managers to provide the transaction cost data required, nor a standardised calculation methodology, until the FCA ruled on this in September 2017.

Moving forward, investment firms managing funds on behalf of DC pension schemes must, from 3 January 2018, provide data on their funds' transaction costs, using the 'slippage cost' methodology. This is effectively a measure of the market impact – often referred to as the hidden costs – of buying and selling securities. Historically, this has been absorbed by the fund and not been reported separately.

The problem for asset managers is being able to accurately calculate and report transaction costs, and 'slippage costs' in particular. The challenge for trustees will be to interpret and assess this information, not least because of the variable results that are likely to arise from using the 'slippage cost' method.

These obstacles aside, the new disclosure standards will undoubtedly shine a light on many of the variable practices that exist in the asset management industry, ranging across the costs and revenues incurred in trading, such as broker commission and research, stock lending and box profits, to name a few.

What will be the likely outcome?

These new disclosure standards will help investors better understand the incidence and nature of transaction costs in their funds. It will also highlight the impact of higher portfolio turnover and poor capacity management – including in expensive asset classes – and point to the true cost of investing in popular multi-asset fund-of-fund structures.

Ultimately, it will show who pays for what. Competitive pressures will likely mean that fund costs will fall as managers cap fund expenses or pay more of these costs themselves, such as broker's research, for example. At the end of the day, while comparing a fund's net-of-fees performance to its investment benchmark is an appropriate long-term measure of success, over the short term investors also need to assess whether the costs they are paying represent good value for money.

Donny Hay, Client Director, PTL

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Contingency plan

For pension trustees, cash will always be king. However, the employer may not have the cash available to pay into the pension scheme at the rate that trustees would like. Or the employer may simply not want to pay that amount of cash into the pension scheme, preferring to invest it in the business. Contingent assets can be a workable compromise. They allow employers to pay cash into the pension scheme at a lower level or for a longer period while providing trustees with protection against risks which are of concern to them.
There are various scenarios in which a contingent asset may be used, including:
• as part of the funding package agreed by trustees and employers in relation to actuarial valuation discussions;

• as mitigation where there has been a deterioration in the employer covenant;

• to underpin investment risk taken by the trustees; and

• to obtain a reduction in the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) levy (in which case the contingent asset must be in the PPF's standard form and meet the other prescribed PPF requirements).

A contingent asset sits outside the pension scheme unless a 'trigger event' occurs, at which point trustees may call upon the contingent asset and seek to realise value from it.
The trigger events are usually keenly negotiated. Employers do not want to 'lose' the assets into the pension scheme too soon, whereas trustees want to ensure that they are adequately protected.
The starting point for trustees considering contingent assets is to identify what risks they are seeking to mitigate. Insolvency of the employer is a standard trigger event but others can be catered for, such as a funding level trigger whereby if the scheme funding level falls below a particular level, amounts tip from the contingent asset into the scheme.
Identifying the risks will assist the trustees in determining what type of contingent asset may be appropriate, although ultimately what type of contingent asset is available will depend on what assets the employer has in its business and the type of support it is willing to provide – this is a negotiation after all.
The most common types of contingent asset are:

• guarantees: the guarantor agrees to pay amounts to the scheme if the employer fails to;
• escrow arrangements: the employer places cash and/or securities into a third-party account held by a custodian. Assets tip from the account into the pension scheme following a trigger event;
• legal mortgages: the employer provides the trustees with a mortgage over real estate. Trustees can sell the property and realise value upon the occurrence of a trigger event;

• letters of credits/surety bonds: a third party bank (letter of credit) or insurer (surety bond) issues this in favour of the trustees. The trustees claim money direct from the bank or insurer when a trigger event occurs.

• asset-backed contribution structures (ABC): the employer places assets in a special purpose vehicle in which the trustees have an interest. An ABC typically has a dual function – to fund a pension scheme deficit by way of regular cash distributions and to provide contingent asset support, by way of access to the assets, in the event of a trigger event occurring.

Each type of contingent asset has its own pros and cons. Which one is best will depend on the specific circumstances and what the trustees and employer are seeking to achieve. However, the range of options available and increased familiarity with them in the pensions industry means a growing number of trustees and employers are finding that contingent assets are a viable solution.

Vicky Carr, Finance Partner, Sackers

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

The Time for ESG is now

Allianz-video-image.jpg

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

DC Administration Governance?

For many, exciting fund strategies and investment performances being discussed in swishy city offices will spring to mind - the fun and glamourous side of pensions. But the importance of administration in DC governance is vital, if not quite as exciting.

The PASA Standards were put in place as an outcome based guide to what good administration should look like, and they cover all types of pension scheme. However, there are some challenges and topics which are unique to DC arrangements. PASA feels there is a place, and a need, for additional DC specific administration standards, which could eventually be brought in to the PASA Accreditation process.

Good DC administration is not simply the responsibility of a scheme's administrator. Oversight and governance is at three levels – the administrator/provider, the employer and the trustees. Regular communications and input from the scheme's employer and trustees are required to ensure that processes are holistic and effective, members are engaged, data is good, issues are identified quickly to avoid the dreaded rectification and that reporting is useful and clear - as well as understood by all parties.

We all know DC is on the rise, and there is more choice in terms of the type of arrangements available. Group DC arrangements such as Group Personal Pensions (GPPs) and Master Trusts have led to confusion for some employers in terms of defining responsibilities and rights to access for certain information. What belongs to the employer and what belongs to the trustees – where do the employer's responsibilities end and where do the administrators/trustees' start?

The arrival of automatic enrolment has led to a whole new market of employers appointing a pension provider, often for the first time. Many of these employers will not have a dedicated pensions or reward resource. If employers with established pensions departments are experiencing confusion over where the lines of responsibilities lie, what hope do employers with no experience of pensions and only a desire to do the right thing by their employees have?

Clear, useful and meaningful administration reporting is essential for good DC Governance to all involved. All stakeholders need to understand the content of the reporting and be able to identify what is essential, what is useful, what is a 'nice to have'. More importantly, robust, relevant and meaningful Service Levels (SLAs) need to be agreed. Skilful interpretation of the regular reporting will allow the administrator, employer and trustees to identify any service issues in amongst the detail.

Employers in a group arrangement should be aware providers produce administration reporting at a combined level. Knowledgeable interpretation of this reporting will identify where data is referring to activities across the book of business, rather than data directly relating to the service their employee members are receiving. Trustees are more likely to receive more scheme specific reporting, but is the information they are receiving meaningful and helpful to them in ensuring their members receive good outcomes?

As a first step towards producing DC specific Standards, PASA has invited key individuals from across the industry with wide ranging skill sets and expertise to form the DC Governance Working Group (DCGWG). With Board sponsorship, PASA has brought together people with a rich and diverse perspective who can ensure nothing falls through the gaps. The DCGWG met for the first-time last week (09/11/2017) to discuss the main issues impacting on DC administration, and agree key areas of focus.

The Group agreed six initial areas of focus; Data, Employers, Transitions, Decumulation, Reporting, and Controls and Procedures. The DCGWG is not a talking shop, its task is to produce meaningful standards and guidance for trustees and employers which are applicable across the DC universe. TPR is a welcome observer and is keeping a close eye on the group's findings as they develop. It is anticipated our initial findings will be published in Spring 2018.

Lucy Collett, member of the DC Governance Working Group and Secretary to the PASA Board & Kim Gubler, Deputy Chair of PASA

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

The Pensions Dashboard: where are we?

We need to get a grip on retirement saving. People need to know how much they have saved in various pensions during their working life, and where the money actually is now.

Beginning with a government consultation six years ago, the Coalition Government decided on 17 July 2012 that 'pot follows member' was the solution to address the proliferation of small pension pots. The majority of respondents had favoured the alternative 'aggregator' approach, mentioning reasons like lower administrative costs and better protection for individuals.

Enabling legislation for 'pot follows member', an initiative particularly associated with former Pensions Minister Steve Webb, exists in the Pensions Act 2014; but there has been no indication of when - or if - it will be commenced.

Instead, a groundswell of support has since materialised for the pensions dashboard concept, something very like the 'virtual aggregator' preferred by many back in 2012. In Budget 2016, the Government declared it would "ensure the industry designs, funds and launches a pensions dashboard by 2019. This will mean an individual can view all their retirement savings in one place."

The industry swallowed hard and put together a Prototype Project, managed by the ABI with Treasury sponsorship, which demonstrated in May 2017 that the idea was feasible. To retain momentum after the general election in June, industry contributors agreed on a further Project to research consumer needs, engage with the wider industry, refine technical standards and look at how it could be appropriately regulated.

In their report published on 12 October, "Pensions Dashboard Project: Reconnecting people with their pensions", the project group, managed by the ABI and including 16 contributors and the PLSA, set out its recommendations for what should happen next.

The key objective is that consumers should have a right to access information about all of their pensions in one place of their choice in a standardised digital format, through regulated services.

Now "all" is the ideal objective, but Rome wasn't built in a day: there is a general expectation that it might take longer to get trust-based schemes on board than contract-based pensions. An implementation plan and timetable is required. At first, just having all of an individual's pensions listed would be a plus; provided valuations followed in a timely manner.

However, there is a very strong consensus expressed that the DWP must make data about the State Pension available "from day one". Consumers see the State Pension as an anchor

of pensions information and for years to come, it will form the major part of retirement income for most people.

An equally strong consensus formed around compulsion: all pension providers and schemes must make data available. This will require strong Government backing, with legislation and an explicit completion date. Without this, it is unlikely that public sector and trust-based schemes – particularly defined benefit schemes – will contribute as there is no obvious commercial benefit for them, only a cost.

The concept has developed so that multiple pensions dashboards are now envisaged, regulated to ensure consistency, with a governance body to oversee the network, establish and manage data standards, security, and sharing agreements. A non-commercial service, endorsed by the Government, must also be made available in order to build trust and engagement with consumers.

The ball having been lobbed back into the Government's court, it was perhaps encouraging to hear the Pensions Minister declare only a week later that the DWP will take over responsibility for the pensions dashboard "at pace" and "provide a much fuller update in the Spring of next year. There will be absolutely no doubt that the dashboard will happen."

Let us pray.

Ian Neale,Director, Aries Insight.

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Dashboard Ready

Since the government announced the pensions dashboard in 2016, work has been undertaken by the pensions industry to make the concept a reality by 2019.

Although for some, the lack of immediate commercial benefit might temper their enthusiasm for the dashboard concept, its universal appeal to consumers is likely to convince doubters of its overall value.

In terms of its value to consumers, the numbers speak for themselves. More people have more jobs throughout their careers than ever before. Add auto-enrolment into the mix and your average millennial is looking at accumulating a collection of 10-15 different pension pots over their lifetime. The need for those consumers to have access that information quickly and easily is obvious, and it's only going to increase in over time.

So far, the dashboard project has been largely well-received by the industry, with most large pension providers already on board, including Standard Life, Legal & General, Aviva, Prudential and Now Pensions, to name a few.

The first phase of the project, which launched in September 2016, was designed to develop and test the technology that would allow data from multiple sources to be collected and presented to consumers. The scale of the delivery and collaboration of data is vast, with each scheme having its own set of nuances and complexities to be considered.

Carolyn Jones, head of pensions product, Fidelity International, was part of the team selected to work on the prototype project. The prototype was delivered in April 2017 and since then the team has been investigating further what both industry and consumers are looking for from the dashboard.

"There's a consumer view and then there's the industry – for example how are they going to respond, are they going to do this voluntarily?" she said.

The research found that from an industry perspective, including insurers, trustees, public and private sector schemes, most could see value of a dashboard to consumers – and this was significant enough to drive participation.

From a consumer point of view, full coverage, i.e. all schemes participating in the dashboard, will be essential to build trust and offer transparency.

So, wherever you stand on the dashboard concept, with compulsory participation looking likely and the dashboard set to be launched on schedule - preparation is essential.

Stay informed:

  • Find out if and when the dashboard will be made compulsory
  • First provider: Make your data is available early - it looks good to your members and helps build trust
  • Get online: Members will be able to click through to your scheme from the dashboard. Build a post-dashboard landing page and think about the immediate message you want to give them
  • Movers and shakers: Get ready for a high number of low value transfers as people will want to consolidate
  • Right data: Consumers will want to know simple data, such as the amount they will have in retirement or how much can they draw out now – make that data available

Lindsay Sharman

pensions@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

The economics of populism

To read this article please click here

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Pension proud

At the PLSA conference in Manchester last month I was challenged by a comment by Martin Fahy, the CEO of ASFA (Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia) the sister organisation of the PLSA.

He reflected on the prominence of the NHS in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 and questioned what the pensions industry needs to do to get equal billing next time?

The opening ceremony was an overload of British achievement. The £30 million spectacular, the brainchild of Oscar-winning British director Danny Boyle, included a segment where dozens of skipping nurses and children in pyjamas leaping acrobatically on massive hospital beds, with a large 'NHS' displayed.

It was a celebration of Britain's national health service, which has provided free, taxpayer-funded health care to everyone in the country since its foundation after the Second World War.

But there was nothing about pensions.

Love it or hate it everyone knows about the NHS. They know what it's for, what services it provides and, how to access it.

However, the same can't be said of pensions. Most people know very little about their pension, how it works or the retirement lifestyle it will fund.

What do we need to do to develop our pensions ambition? Our vision must be to ensure our retirement saving provision is the best in the world? Why would we even consider being second best?

Now this won't happen by accident, and it won't happen overnight. It will require a deliberate intention by policy makers, pensions industry determination, employer collaboration, creative engagement of our people but a societal change in the positioning of pensions is possible.

There are two main drivers of change, burning platform and burning ambition. Clearly if there is a burning platform, there is an immediacy to act. With pensions, there is a smouldering platform. Arguably by the time it's burning it's too late to change.

Burning ambition on the other hand needs a rallying cry. Is the prospect of a Zimmer frame flash mob, celebrating our pension prowess, at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2040 enough?

Peter Nicholas,Managing Director & CEO

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

More change, not less

There have been recent calls from the pensions administration market to be wary and cautious of service provider transitions as they have the potential to result in data loss.

Whilst it is right to highlight some of the problems encountered with this type of service transition, there is a much greater risk that we continue to scare trustees into not undertaking these vitally important market transactions.

One major reason standards in the pensions administration market have not dramatically improved over the long-term, is because the market does not act like any other rational market.

A mixture of inertia, fear and an acceptance of generally low standards means that trustees are too reluctant to change provider, which has driven down standards. The free market, when acting rationally, will inevitably and progressively mean standards improve when buyers move their business from under-performing suppliers, to those that innovate and deliver quality at a lower price.

The shopping habits of millions of people has not changed because the top three supermarkets colluded to agree on marginal improvements – they improved because Amazon invented a wholly better and more convenient way to shop.

Buyers moved their money and the top supermarket monopoly was broken, for the good of consumers. Innovation and improvements occur because businesses want to attract and retain customers.

If it's impossible to do this because trustees are continually told of the perils or problems of changing administrators, then how will this market ever really improve?

What the pensions administration market needs more than anything else, is for it to behave like a rational market.

Service transitions inevitably uncover issues with past service provision, or seek to highlight the unscrupulous behaviour of the incumbent provider – neither of which tend to come as much surprise to the transferring scheme trustees, as a mixture of these reasons tends to be the motivator for the initial decision to change.

Alongside highlighting the risks and issues we also need to clearly articulate the benefits, such as improved member service, thorough data integrity and quality assurance, as well as often bringing online new communication and digital services.

A truth often overlooked is that scheme administration transitions are simply not as complex as they once were five or ten years ago. Project management, data assurance, systems, programming and communications have evolved exponentially.

Yes, transitions involve risk, it would be naive and short-sighted not to acknowledge that, but the real risk for schemes is not taking that leap and continuing to accept poor standards and slow incremental change.

The biggest threat trustees face in terms of a transition, is generally the transferring party. Staying with them and hoping for the best is not going to improve things though and it certainly isn't going to see standards across the market improve.

Trustees should take steps now to protect themselves against the incompetence or uncooperativeness of their current administration through an exit project.

This can be achieved by setting and agreeing a schedule of exit services and for guarantees or penalties to be put in place that provide suitable motivation for a full, timely and comprehensive exit.

The only way to really improve this market is to promote, protect and encourage change.

We can do this by highlighting the success stories and improvements that transitions can bring and by encouraging trustees to take a closer look at the tools and processes that we now use that have dramatically improved the quality and robustness of these processes.

Jenny Monger FPMI,Business Design Manager, Trafalgar House

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Changes are coming

With 8.5million more people now in a workplace pension scheme since its launch in 2012, so far automatic enrolment has been hailed as a resounding success. But April 2018 will see the next phase of its roll out and both employers and employees will be required to increase their minimum contributions – something trustees should prepare members for ahead of time.

The overall minimum contribution will increase from 2% to 5%. Within that, employee contributions are increasing threefold, from 1% to 3%, while employer contributions will go up from 1% to 2%. Further increases are scheduled for April 2019, with an 8% contribution split into 5% from employees and 3% from employers.

While some schemes are already contributing more than the new 5% minimum, many are not, meaning this next phase will impact their members directly. For trustees, the challenge will be not only to communicate the new figures, but also to give members the wider context for the increase, as well as being able to explain the differing contributions for employers and employees, before they appear on payslips in April.

The most straightforward reason for the increase is that at its current level, the minimum contribution is not sufficient to give members adequate savings for retirement. But at the 2017 Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association conference in October, Chris Curry, director of the Pensions Policy Institute, told delegates that pinpointing a single answer to how auto-enrolment and the debate around contributions fits into the wider financial landscape is difficult.

He said: "Nearly every response to our consultation suggested there might need to be an increase in minimum contributions, there was no consensus at all about what the right level should be, how it should be implemented, when it should be implemented, or who should bear the burden of doing that."

In addition to identifying the key messages, considering how to communicate that message to members is equally important. Engagement is the key word and trustees must ensure the information they share is clear and concise, avoiding jargon and focusing on the information members actually want to receive.

Ruston Smith, chair of Tesco Pension Trustees, told delegates at the PLSA conference: "The objective is to see how we can improve engagement to create more personal ownership so people can make more informed choices."

Smith highlighted the fact that members often receive financial information from a variety of sources, meaning pensions information is difficult to decipher, even for the most well-informed. He mooted the idea of a cohesive statement style across the industry in the future to make it easier for scheme members to understand the information they receive.

"There's been some phenomenal work done, but bring it back to the person who has all those statements coming to them; and we're all trying to keep it simple using different words. We have to think more holistically about engagement."

Trustees should also consider the limited time members have to digest and understand new information. People are distracted with multiple priorities, meaning communication about auto-enrolment needs to be short and relevant.

Whatever approach trustees choose, getting the right message across to scheme members in the right way is essential for a smooth transition in April when the increase takes effect.

Jamie Jenkins, head of pensions strategy at Standard Life, told PLSA delegates: "It's an astonishing feat so far, but the job is only half done and we are counting on employers over the next couple of years to get contributions not just in, but up."

Written by Lindsay Sharman

Helpful Links;

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Enhancing decision making through cyclicality and dynamic asset allocation

When I think back to my university education in the 90's, the lectures that really stood out for me were those on time-series analysis and understanding how economies and financial markets move up and down.

As a student, keen to learn the ways and wherefores of investing, it was almost an epiphany moment – the realisation that if, as an investor, I could better understand how markets fluctuate, I would be far more equipped to make better investment decisions.

For the past two decades, I have stood by that learning and spent most of my career on building, applying and improving models of economies and financial markets.

Education is cyclical

Fast forward to 2017 and I've just returned from an INQUIRE Europe Conference in Switzerland. There, one of the interesting papers that was presented concluded that the vast majority of so called 'anomalies' that have been reported in the literature, actually cannot be replicated.

This finding is close to my heart, as it confirms what I have learned over the years: when trying to understand how markets fluctuate, it is essential to apply a sound and strict set of methodologies and techniques to prevent finding unreliable or spurious results.

Such a methodology is also needed to distinguish between the two views that I was presented with as a student. Firstly, that markets and economies move in completely unpredictable ways, that they are fully random without any underlying structure. The second is that there actually is some underlying structure to be found, while recognizing that the world remains a highly uncertain place. So, education and focus on topics at a given time can be cyclical.

Cyclicality as a stylized fact

My personal conclusion, fortunately supported by many others, is that the second view of the world is the most realistic one: if one looks carefully there is indeed some structure to be found.

Such structures are typically referred to as 'stylized facts'. Stylized facts are characterisations of how markets and economies move up and down which most people agree upon to describe reality.

One important type of stylized fact that is found, is cyclicality. Cyclicality comes in different forms, the simplest example of which is the change in seasons from Spring, Summer, Autumn to Winter, 'seasonality'. This is a mechanism which everyone is familiar with that repeats itself and impacts the economy as the seasons change.

Business cycles – a more complex example – are about medium term alternating patterns in overall economic activity, driven by structural and behavioural forces. But when thinking about cyclicality, a word of warning is in place – while cyclicality may indicate an average way of how markets and economies tend to fluctuate, it does not offer a crystal ball and also under the cyclicality assumption the future is still highly uncertain.

Stronger together

How can we use our understanding of cyclicality to enhance investment decision making? Well, if conditions change over time and contain some information about how the future might unfold, than a logical consequence is to start thinking about how this information could be used for dynamically changing an asset allocation over time.

Models that manage to capture cyclicality in a realistic way can provide relevant information to those with an asset allocation expertise.

The (almost) epiphany moment at university has served me well (so far), but if we are able to build better dynamic asset allocation strategies by using cyclicality, investors will make even better decisions and people will be more likely to achieve their goals. And for any investor, that is the ultimate aim.

Hens Steehouwer, Head of Research at Ortec Finance

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

The Pensions Dashboard

The Pensions Dashboard is a government backed initiative which was first announced in the 2016 Budget. The aim is to provide all pension savers with the opportunity to access details of all their pension savings in one place, to aid decision making around retirement planning by improving their understanding of projected finances at retirement, the importance of financial advice and the benefits of actively managing retirement savings. An added bonus is that this should lead to improved efficiencies and lower costs for providers, fairer market competition and an improvement to the levels of consumer understanding in relation to long-term savings.

The journey from the 2016 announcement to the proposed delivery date in 2019 continues to take shape, with the prototype demonstrated to the Government and key stakeholders earlier in 2017 by the dashboard project group, managed by the Assurance of British Insurers ("ABI").

The General election in June 2017 has not surprisingly impacted on the government's engagement with the pension dashboard project, leading to recent calls from the ABI and other key stakeholders for "firm Government direction on its plans for pensions dashboard". The ABI has published a paper "Pensions Dashboard Project – Reconnecting People with their pensions" and within the paper has outlined the following key steps they feel will need to be addressed in order to achieve the target of providing consumers with all of their pensions in one place in a standardised digital format by 2019:

- Legislation to ensure all pension providers and schemes make data available
- An implementation plan/timetable and governance body which will lay the foundation for the required standards for all involved
- Produce a non-commercial platform, which government enables consumers to access their data via regulated third parties

It remains to be seen how the Government will react to the ABI's proposal but it is clear that in order to move forward with the project the Government will need to re-engage and decide whether delivering the ABI's recommendations is a priority and compelling schemes to make data available will become a legislative requirement. Without such commitment and support it remains to be seen if the pensions dashboard will be on target to be available by 2019. However, what is clear is that there has been an overwhelmingly positive support to ensure the pension dashboard is available, as this will improve the levels of engagement with consumers and hopefully result in improving retirement outcomes.


James Melsa, Pension Consultant at Quantum Advisory

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Cost Transparency


Johan Cras managing director of Kempen, speaking at the annual PLSA conference in Manchester on Thursday addressed some of the issues facing the investment and pensions industry once cost transparency becomes a regulatory act.

With effect from 3 January 2018, transaction cost disclosure in the workplace must be visible.

The regulations set out by the FCA will primarily effect those involved in the DC workplace pensions market.This includes those who provide services in that market, such as pension providers and asset managers, and the governance bodies of pension schemes, such as trustees and Independent Governance Committees (IGC)

But what effect will it have?

Johan suggests that once the "can of worms has been opened" the industry won't know what to do with the information and fears that terms and costs will be misunderstood.

Understanding costs are vital, it is therefore key to communicate costs in a relative way.

If an investment is costly it does not necessarily mean that schemes investments are operating inefficiently.

The cost needs to be placed in to some context, for instance it costs more to transact in an emerging market, but if the market is performing well the returns are value for money and that is key. Value for money is key and not cheapest is always best.

Alison Bostock, PTL, in a discussion earlier in the week also agreed that there might be a negative impact regarding cost transparency, in that there needs to be clear understating of what the costs are and why? but in the same breath see positive sees the potential in "shining a light" on things that might be wrong.

Alison says that taking a closer look into investment fees is important, schemes can check if they are paying the right cost for the services that they receive, are they getting value for money? They will be able to see trading efficiency and get a better sense of what's going on.

www.fca.org.uk/publications/market-studies/asset-management-market-study

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

The importance of engagement

People know they need to save, but they lack guidance on how much to save. There is a higher level of people saving but the amount saved is at an all-time low. This could lead to many people disappointed in their retirement.

Speaking at the annual Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association conference in Manchester Guy Opperman, Work and Pensions Minister, said getting people to save more is crucial and "more is needed to be done" he "doesn't underestimate the problems but the fundamentals are positive"

And whilst auto-enrolment has had positive impact with "8.7 million people auto enrolled" it does not mean that people will be able to sit back and wait for retirement. "Auto enrolment is the first stage of engagement, basic payments will not get people a retirement" says Chris Curry, Director, Pensions Policy Insitute.

Speaking earlier at the conference Linda Gratton states that individuals would have to save 25% of their income from the day they start working to end up with a sustainable income from their pensions.

So how do we bridge the gap between too much and not enough? And perhaps more importantly, how does the industry ensure individuals engage with their own savings?

Ruston Smith, Chair, Tesco Pension Trustees, emphasises the importance of making communications simple.

"Simplify the jargon, we currently work in a regional sense when trying to make things simple" Individuals are reading a different set of words from different employers, and when people move jobs and location this can get very complicated. "The dashboard can be a centralised place to make things simple." Ruston says that the average person in an average 12-hour day consumes the equivalent of 35gb of information.

Richard Butcher, Chair PLSA, suggests that setting targets will help those that are disengaged to better understand what they are required to save.

These targets are laid out in the consultation paper – Hitting the Target.

The papers central proposal is that the UK should develop a set of 'national retirement income targets' The identification of a target annual income to achieve a desired standard of living would help savers by giving them a clear and understandable goal. On the basis of this goal, savers would then be able to calculate the amount of savings necessary to deliver the target income.

The paper states that there are three categories of saving; £10,000 to less than £15,000 is adequate to provide an individual with a 'minimum' standard of living in retirement; £20,000 to less than £25,000 is adequate to provide an individual with a 'modest' standard of living in retirement; and £35,000 or more is adequate to provide an individual with a 'comfortable' standard of living in retirement

Richard states that the minimum target of £10,000 a year needs to be realised by everyone. He invites responses to the detailed questions set out in the report by 12 January 2018 "and we'll be touring the country over the next six months, listening to anyone with an interest in helping people hit the target"

https://www.plsa.co.uk/Policy-and-Research-Document-library-Hitting-the-target-delivering-better-retirement

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

The Troubles with DB Transfers

Read all about it

Paul Pettitt, Managing Director

Origo-logo.jpg

Origo is a not-for-profit, FinTech company dedicated to improving outcomes for consumers by transforming the financial services industry's operating efficiencies. By bringing together different organisations and groups in a non-competitive environment, Origo identifies and addresses cost and efficiency issues through the creation and maintenance of a range of industry solutions.

As a development partner of the HM Treasury's Pensions Dashboard project, Origo's Pension Finder service powers Pensions Dashboards, enabling consumers to safely find and return their pension information to their Dashboard screens.

Thanks to Origo's Options Transfers service, pensions transfer times have dramatically reduced to an average 11 calendar days, providing smooth, fast and safer transfers for consumers.

Find out more: www.origo.com


Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Good governance?

Good governance is fundamental to the effective operation of pension schemes and to achieving good outcomes for members.

TPR is concerned that some schemes are not achieving the standards of governance that it expects, and has launched a new, targeted campaign to drive engagement with good governance practices.

The campaign will assist schemes by issuing publications that revisit the key elements of good governance in a clear and accessible format.

The approach taken in the first publication ("Good Governance" issued on 18 September 2017) is very practical, drawing out specific points to consider and using case studies.

All schemes should review the guidance, even where current standards are high, to confirm they measure up.

Governance is relevant to all aspects of a pension scheme.

It is a vast topic and not always easy to work out how to make a start on reviewing aspects of scheme governance.

It is therefore very welcome that TPR has approached 21st Century Trustee from a perspective of addressing key themes which are the basics of good governance.

Schemes will benefit from the structure of this ongoing campaign.

TPR's approach will give schemes the opportunity to consider each component as it is launched, enabling them to review, assess and decide whether changes would be beneficial over time.

Helen Baker, Partner at Sackers.

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Royal Mail staff vote to strike over pension scheme

Royal Mail announced earlier this year it would close its current defined benefit (DC) scheme in March 2018

Although the pension fund is currently in surplus, Royal Mail, which was privatised in 2013, said its current annual contribution of £400m a year would increase to £1.26bn.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU), which has 110,000 members, said the vote was "sparked by the company's attack on the pension rights of hard-working postmen and women and the refusal of the employer to engage seriously over pay, working hours, future job security and the need to improve and grow the service to the public."

Royal Mail said the current scheme must be closed because it is unsustainable.

Douglas Hamilton, head of pensions strategy at Royal Mail, said its proposals are fair: "We have never hidden the fact from our DB scheme members that the benefits they build up from April 2018 will be smaller than they are now.

"The company cannot afford the plan in its current form, but with our current DB cash balance proposal we have moved a long way compared to the defined contribution (DC) proposal we originally put forward.

"This is not about cost-cutting - Royal Mail will continue to pay broadly the same in pension contributions after its proposed changes as it does now."

More than 60% of Royal Mail employees in the UK are in a DB pension scheme, while the figure for the UK private sector is under 5%.

In place of an existing defined benefit pension scheme, which provides a guaranteed income in retirement, Royal Mail is offering a different kind of DB scheme that instead gives employees a cash lump sum linked to the value of their contributions.

First published 05.10.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

PASA to mediate on administration service transfers

The service is designed to resolve the issues experienced by schemes during the transfer of administration services from one provider to another.

Margaret Snowdon, chair of PASA, said the service is a natural extension of its work in this area.

She said: "Changing administrators might be a relatively rare occurrence, but when it does happen the process must be smooth, safe and hassle free for all concerned - this is only possible when the ceding and receiving administrators work in co-operation."

"We have been very clear on its position in this area, publishing our Code of Conduct on Administration Provider Transfers in 2013 and requesting that all members adhere to it."

"The introduction of our mediation service was therefore a natural extension of our work here."

Snowdon added that PASA aims for trustees to be able to rely on the organisation as a means of indicating the quality of service provision.

She said: "As well as empowering administrators to be the best they can possibly be, we want trustees to be able to reply on us for quality of service, which starts with the appointment and exit processes."

From 1 January 2018, PASA members will be required to comply with the Code of Conduct and PASA will interceded if a need is identified around unreasonable delays, fees, or expectations."

PASA's mediation service will be voluntary and non-binding, seeking to bring all three parties; the scheme, ceding and receiving administration providers together for practical and fair solutions in line with good industry practice.

The mediators will be independent of administration firms to avoid conflict of interest and PASA intends to publish details of the scheme for formal launch in January 2018.

First published 05.10.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Annual ONS Pension Schemes Survey records highest ever membership levels

It is an increase of 17.1% on the 33.5milllion members recorded by the survey in 2015.

The survey, which looks at data on the membership of schemes and the contributions made, also found that active membership of occupational pension schemes was 13.5 million in 2016, split between the private (7.7million) and public sector (5.7million).

The OPSS covers both private and public sector occupational pension schemes registered in the UK.

It collects information about scheme membership, benefits and contributions from a sample of occupational (trust based) pension schemes consisting of two or more members – including those that are winding up.

The rise in Defined Contribution (DC) membership in recent years is likely to be due to the workplace pension reforms which meant DC arrangements (including group personal pensions), were the most likely route for employers to meet their new obligations under automatic enrolment.

Vince Smith Hughes, retirement expert at Prudential said: "The increase in the number of people joining company pensions schemes shows the success of auto enrolment and how people increasingly recognise the need to provide for their own retirement."

The number of people retiring without a pension has fallen significantly over the last 10 years and people retiring now tell us that they expect to live on about £18,000 a year.

"Our research shows auto enrolment is encouraging people to make better plans for retirement with nearly three out of ten saying they could save an additional £100 a month," added Smith Hughes.

"That's good news because over the past 10 years, responsibility for providing a retirement income has shifted from away from government to individuals and the best approach is to save as much as you can as early as you can."

First published 05.10.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

GDPR juggernaut

I seem to remember that one of Steven King's early films was about a chap driving across America in the dead of night when, for whatever reason, a truck starts harassing him. Presumably it starts at a low level before stepping up to intimidation and then, finally, arriving at terror – it being a Steven King film, after all. Can anyone remember what that was called?

Mentally I have the image of impenetrable dark stretching in all directions shattered only by a steaming hulk of blindingly lit metal, bearing down in a cloud of snorting exhaust fumes and deafening noise. That's sort of how I feel about GDPR at the moment.

The General Data Protection Regulations, to give them their full name, come into force late in May next year. According to many they are a simple extension of the data protection rules we have lived, and possibly breathed, for many a year, updated to reflect the fact it is the 21st century now and we all communicate, store and exchange data electronically. There is, many will tell you, nothing to fear.

That might be a fair analysis (although it wouldn't make a very good horror film) but I am still in terror, for three reasons.

Firstly, a breach of the current data protection rules could, in the worst cases, result in a fine of up to £500,000. The worst kind of breach of GDPR could result in a fine equivalent to €20 million (or 4% of annual worldwide turnover, whichever is greater). That is a staggering, eye watering step up that scares me witless, even though I think I'm doing okay. The sword of Damocles just grew in length from, say, 1 meter to 40!

So, I think I'm okay, but this is what makes me sweat: I don't know that I'm okay. We use good service providers – large reputable firms that are already all over this, but it is not that core operation that scares me. It's all the little peripheral things where this could go wrong.

Does one of my co-trustees have a box of old pension scheme papers sitting almost forgotten in his study, his attic, or maybe even his garage? We archive old papers for schemes long wound up – someone has to keep this stuff in case there's a question later.

What happens if in box 12, somewhere toward the back of file 48, there is a bit of sensitive personal data that we don't need to keep anymore and that we haven't catalogued? How good are we and our service providers, really, at deleting data that is no longer needed?

Then there's all the unanswered semi-legal (or actually legal, I suppose) questions. Should we be in touch with ex-service-providers to find out what they are doing? Should our minutes record member names, or indeed any other identifier, any more and if not, how do we link our decisions to scheme governance? The list gets longer every time I talk with people about this.

Data protection is important – it should be cultural, not just procedural – but we have always held, and will continue to hold, a lot of personal data. GDPR rightly ups the ante, if for no other reason than we have the World Wide Web and email now. But the known unknowns and unknown unknowns scare me witless and, right now, I think I'd rather stare down a truck in the dead of night.

Written by Richard Butcher, Managing Director, PTL.

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Women leading the way in pension saving increase

Prudential's 'Class of?' research, has tracked retirement finances, plans, and aspirations of people retiring each year since 2008.

Data from the research showed one in four (23%) of those retiring in 2008 had no pension savings at all, but this has dropped to one in seven (14%) of those planning to retire in 2017.

Prudential said the data reflects the success of government and employer initiatives, such as auto-enrolment, to encourage savings.

Women have led the way in reversing the pension saving trend – in 2008 32% of women stopped work with no private pension savings, compared with 19% in 2017.

Just over one in six men retired without a pension in 2008 (17%) while just nine per cent will do so this year.

Prudential said the growth in pension saving rates has taken place against a backdrop of 'massive upheaval' in UK pension saving rules and worldwide financial volatility and political upheaval.

In the face of these challenges retirement incomes for new retirees have struggled to recover from the sharp fall they took immediately after the financial crisis of 2007 to 2008.

The Class of 2008 expected to live on £18,700 a year – a figure that fell to £17,800 in 2009 and continued to fall until it bottomed out in 2013 at £15,300.

Since then a slow recovery has taken place, but even now, retirees in 2017 expect to live on £18,100 a year – still £600 a year short of those who gave up work 10 years ago.

Vince Smith-Hughes, retirement income expert at Prudential, said: "The past 10 years have been a decade of constant change with pension freedoms, the new State Pension, the roll out of automatic enrolment and the abolition of the default retirement age, to name just a few."

"The financial crisis, the subsequent recession and ongoing political change have all added to the uncertainty, however, despite all of this, the message about the importance of retirement saving seems to be getting through, demonstrated by a significant increase in the numbers reaching retirement having saved for their future."

First published 28.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Inquiry into pensions freedoms 'critical'

The inquiry will assess whether the reforms are achieving their objectives and whether policy changes are required, following up on the first inquiry in 2015 shortly after the reforms were introduced.

The government said the inquiry has a 'wide scope' and will look at what people are doing with their retirement savings and how they make those decisions, the information and guidance available, and the way the pension market is working.

One of the major concerns about the new freedoms is the potential for scams – fraudster target people thinking about moving their pension pots.

Police data shows that more than £43million of people's retirement savings has been lost to fraud since the policy was announced, with some scammers even fraudulently using the Pension Regulator's anti-scammer kitemark.

The Committee has asked for written evidence and recommendations on a number of topics, by Monday 23 October, including: what are people doing with their pension pots?; Is there adequate monitoring of decisions?; Are people taking advice?; Will the pensions dashboard help consumers make informed decisions?; Is Pensionwise working?; Is there sufficient product competition in the market?; Are the government and Financial Conduct Authority taking adequate steps to prevent scamming?; and are the reforms part of a coherent retirement strategy?

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) said the inquiry was essential as the choice for consumers has increased.

"The freedom for people to spend their pension pots is a good thing, but the choices are now harder," said Graham Vidler, PLSA director of external affairs.

"Alongside the FCA's retirement outcomes review, we see this announcement of a Work and Pensions Committee inquiry as critical to making the market work in the interests of consumers."

Jon Hatchett, partner at Hymans Robertson, warned that pension freedoms have encouraged consumers to access savings early and expressed concern that it would lead to more 'pensioners in poverty' in the future.

He said: "Unless action is taken now, there's worse to come over the next decade or two – it is vital savers get the right advice if they are to avoid poor financial outcomes when they retire."

First published 28.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

PLSA launches final DB Taskforce report

The report looks at a range of options for pensions schemes facing the challenges of underfunding, weak employer covenants, and lack of scale.

It makes three main recommendations: a new chair's statement for DB scheme trustees; making it easier to standardise and simplify benefits; and exchanging covenants for funding.

The chair's statement would be produced annually to demonstrate they are operating in line with best practice in areas including governance, investment performance, and cost transparency.

This would also provide the cultural impetus for trustees to consider consolidating services, investment or governance where it offers the prospect of improved outcomes for their members.

Standardising and simplifying benefits would enable schemes to retain member benefits while simplifying the structure of schemes.

The UK's 6,000 DB schemes manager tens of thousands of different benefit structures, PLSA said.

The report also proposes new measures to help schemes backed by weaker covenants, which would mean that schemes could benefit from turning the uncertain promise of future support into tangible funding.

To implement the changes, the industry and the Department for Work and Pensions would need to collaborate.

As part of the Taskforce work, PLSA also undertook employer research to ascertain the level of interest in consolidation.

Among surveyed employers, almost two-thirds (65%) said they would support the principle of consolidation with support for shared administration (72%), shared external advisers (66%), shared governance (64%) and pooling assets under one asset manager (54%).

Ashok Gupta, chair of the PLSA DB Taskforce, said: "More than 11 million people rely on DB pension schemes for some or all of their retirement income, but there is a real possibility that without change we will see more high profile company failures such as BHS or Tata Steel.

"It is vital that action is taken to address covenant risk, underfunding and the current lack of scale in the majority of schemes and our proposals have the potential to transform the industry – helping to ensure more members get their full benefits, reducing sector inefficiency, addressing the issue of stressed schemes and enabling sponsors to concentrate on growing their businesses.

Gupta added that the industry and government need to 'grasp this opportunity' and tackle serious flaws that threaten the security of people's retirement.

First published 28.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingotnplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

The good, the bad and the ugly

By common consent the legislation we are bound by is unduly complex, convoluted and too damn much. Some of it is undoubtedly necessary. A lot could be improved by better drafting: a focus on the wood as well as the trees.

We can all think of laws we could well do without, though. Regulations that address an imagined offence, of which the government produces little or no evidence that it actually happens or is likely to happen, are one example. 'Just-in-case' is no good reason for swelling the statute book.

Good legislation should not only be evidence-based; it should be enforceable – and enforced. In 2006 a government obsessed with the idea that everyone would recycle their tax-free cash back into a pension scheme decided to ban recycling.

That legislation was a joke: it had no effect, because it was unenforceable. To be caught, you had to shop yourself.

Other legislation while in principle enforceable, is brought into disrepute by not being enforced. Think back to the introduction of stakeholder pensions: employers had merely to designate a scheme. How many were prosecuted for failing to take that simple step?

One, and only then because, again, he self-reported.

This issue has been raised again by the government's new plan to ban cold calling about pensions, in response to their consultation about pension scams. It bears the hallmarks of a knee-jerk reaction to undesirable behaviour: simply banning it won't work.

There's no value in legislation which is unenforceable, or not enforced.

Scammers won't be deterred by legislation making their activity illegal, unless and until the likelihood of being caught and convicted is significant AND the penalty is severe enough to render their activity uneconomic. They often treat fines for transgressions as part of the cost of doing business.

That's all that will happen, by the way: the government does not intend to impose criminal sanctions and custodial sentences on those in breach of the proposed ban on cold calling.

The Information Commissioner's Office, which will be lumbered with enforcing the ban, will need to prove a clear pattern of offences: a concerted effort to reach thousands of potential victims, and that the calls were not exempted by any of the inevitable categories, such as having had some dealing with the firm in the past.

I suspect the government will find it too difficult to draft legislation that defines an offence in such a way that scammers cannot find ways around it.

Only pensions are to be prohibited, so as long as that keyword isn't mentioned, and the message is about any other kind of investment opportunity, the call will be exempt.

Or the scammer could simply skip abroad and carry on, blissfully outside the reach of the ICO.

There are better ways of preventing undesirable behaviour than simply banning it. For example, think of the rules governing investments by member-directed pension schemes (SIPPs and SSASs). Rather than trying to prohibit certain investments, the pensions tax legislation prescribes punitive tax charges instead. That works: people don't put their buy-to-let into their pension scheme.

The way to counter the scammers is to make it much harder for them to succeed.

Thankfully, the government is not, it seems, going to rely on a simple ban.

Moves are afoot to add to the hurdles around pension liberation, starting with a plan to empower HMRC to refuse to register a pension scheme without solid evidence of an active sponsoring employer behind it.

This extension of HMRC discretion amounts to unstated recognition that human behaviour cannot be constrained by legislation alone.

If the limitations are accepted, we may see more of the good and less of the bad and the plain ugly which litter the statute book today.

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

AXA IM launches China fund

The fund is the latest in the AXA IM short duration range, which is made up from 10 strategies with assets under management worth €25 billion globally.

China's fast-growing economy provides significant investment opportunities, and AXA IM said it wants to provide its clients with access to its bond market.

Jim Veneau, head of fixed income Asia at AXA IM, said China has risen to become a major power in the global financial market and they believe its accelerating financial integration presents significant investment opportunities.

He said: "From a risk-reward perspective we believe the Chinese bond market is attractive, despite the inherent risks, as recent global monetary accommodation has left most global rates at historically low levels."

Since 1978, China's GDP growth has averaged nearly 10% a year, which is the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.

"We want to give our clients exposure to this rapidly accelerating bond market, currently the third largest in the world, and the significant opportunities it has to offer," said Veneau.

"At the same time, we appreciate the need to mitigate risk in today's environment and our approach seeks to provide attractive returns, while keeping duration short and managing volatility through the market cycle."

The lead fund manager, Honyu Fung, aims to limit the duration of holdings to less than three years to deliver a compelling risk-return profiles; AXA said a shorter portfolio duration mitigates volatility from changes in the market level of interest rates.

Shorter duration also mitigates credit risk with greater visibility into an issuer's cash flow sources and needs - this allows the manager to build higher conviction and higher yielding positions while mitigating the impact of inflation and interest rate risk through diversification.

"The team running this fund is based in both Hong Kong and Shanghai with our joint venture partner, AXA SPDB Investment Managers," Veneau said.

"We believe the complementary capabilities of both will allow the fund to effectively capitalise on market developments in both offshore and onshore Chinese bonds and actively capture cross-border arbitrage opportunities in the onshore (CNY) reminbi, the offshore (CNH) renminbi and the hard currency Chinese credit markets."

First published 21.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

MMC UK announces largest longevity risk transfer for UK pension fund for three years

The transaction, which reinsures the longevity risk of £3.4billion ($4.3 billion) in pension liabilities, will provide long-term protection and income to the fund if the covered participants live longer than expected.

It also lowers the risk that MMC will face unexpected pension contributions due to an increase in pensioner life expectancy.

The fund's trustee chose Prudential Financial and Canada Life Reinsurance for the longevity reinsurance that helps secure the pensions of about 7,500 plan participants.

The reinsurance is divided equally between the two reinsurers and Mercer Ltd led the advice.

To efficiently transfer the longevity risk from the pension plan without the payment of an upfront premium, the trustee established a wholly owned insurance company on the 'Mercer Marsh' captive platform with its own independent board of directors.

This is Prudential's second reinsurance agreement using a captive structure: the first was the record £16 billion longevity risk transfer transaction with the British Telecom Pension Scheme in 2014.

"The MMC UK Pension Fund transaction reflects the fact that de-risking is the new normal," said Amy Kessler, head of longevity risk transfer at Prudential.

"In every industry peer group, companies are choosing to reduce the longevity risk embedded in their pensions through buy-ins, buy-outs and longevity hedging and a full range of solutions exist to help secure pension promises and reduce risk to funding levels."

Kessler added that "a great deal of uncertainty about future longevity improvements" remains in the industry.

"Pension plans that decide to keep their longevity risk rather than hedge it are maintaining a risky strategy - the timing may be particularly good for non-UK sponsors to accelerate their de-risking plans to take advantage of comparatively low sterling exchange rates," she said.

First published 21.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

PLSA launches assessment tool with KPMG

The service, launched in collaboration with KPMG, also helps boards to make sure their governance measures up to The Pension Regulator's (TPR) best practice.

As part of the service, the tool anonymously captures and reports the views of each trustee board member, as well as other relevant stakeholders.

The report is then reviewed by KPMG, which adds commentary, insight, and suggestions before working with the PLSA to facilitate a workshop.

The workshop is where findings are discussed and next steps agreed.

Available to non-members as well as PLSA members, the service aims to provide trustees with practical guidance, and the reassurance of knowing their schemes' governance has been reviewed by experts.

KPMG said the service will provide a valuable resource.

"While Trustee boards put a significant amount of time and effort into ensuring that their pension schemes meet the high standards demanded of them by the regulator, it can be a daunting task," said David Fairs, partner at KPMG.

"We are delighted to be working with the PLSA to offer this service, which is designed to provide trustee boards with a tool to assess how they are doing and set practical steps to improve governance.

"It will also give them reassurance that these decisions have been reviewed by independent specialist third parties."

The Pensions Regulator said it welcomes tools that enable trustees to assess current governance levels and set targets for improvement.

Lesley Titcomb, TPR chief executive, said: "As part of our work on 21st Century Trusteeship we would like to encourage trustees to regularly assess their board effectiveness and we welcome initiatives developed by industry to support TPR's drive to improve governance."

First published 21.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

2018: The Year of Deferred

There is a lot of comment in the press about issues that impact the provision of administration services for deferred members of DB schemes.

These range from scams, to the increase in the requests for cash equivalent transfer values (CETVs) and as a consequence, the challenges administrators experience with the transfer process itself.

Looked at separately, each have a potential impact on administration costs, services and our ability to meet member needs.

Looked at altogether it strengthens the argument that 2018 is the year that Trustees should engage with their administrators to develop a strategy for their deferred population.

I am not, for one minute, suggesting that deferred members are any more important than pensioners - of course that is not the case - but they are our future pensioners, our work to be done and often represent a significant proportion of the total scheme membership and liability.

Furthermore we know that the Pensions Regulator (TPR) is renewing the focus on data and, for DB schemes, the deferred population is often where a large proportion of the data issues lie.

This is more than a passing interest, with TPR already having forewarned trustees that they will be asked about quality of data and the extent to which they are looking to improve this on the Scheme Return.

Although we don't yet have all the detail, there is no hiding from the fact that we will all be held to account. Compliance has to be a high priority.

Good data is at the heart of the Pensions Dashboard. And how beneficial will it be for all stakeholders if deferred pensioners engage with their legacy pension savings and administrators do not have to spend so much time (and money) tracking down members who have forgotten about their pension benefits?

Above we have looked at some of the compliance and engagement considerations, but there is a lot of industry 'noise' at the moment about the rise in requests for CETV figures.

This has impacted the majority of administrators and yet, whilst everyone has acknowledged the rise in numbers and we are seeing actions, in the meantime, we still need to manage this work in a way that ensures we do not fall foul of the disclosure regulations.

Conversations need to be broadened to look at how that increase is managed, how processes can be improved (although recognising that there is a role for the industry here) and whether proactive provision of CETV information, either at retirement, annually or online, would be a help or a hindrance.

Practically, administrators are often constrained in their ability to routinely provide CETV information because these are frequently calculated using a standalone modeller provided by the Scheme Actuary.

This makes provision of bulk information either on paper or online a challenge. A way to make this information easier to produce and more readily accessible to members may be a priority for some schemes.

The question of cost cannot be ignored, but nor can the fact that the increase in CETV requests experienced when the Freedom and Choice agenda was introduced has not abated – this is now business as usual for administration providers and it is important we adapt and recognise this.

De-risking initiatives and preparation for the 'end game' are still high on the agenda for many trustees and scheme sponsors.Only individual schemes will know where they have data issues that need to be rectified to support strategic objectives.

Perhaps worth bearing in mind is that these are likely to be the very same data issues that are currently impacting on member servicing and operational efficiency - probably risks that should already be managed.

In many respects I have only covered the tip of the iceberg. In reality we are talking about projects - some of which have the potential to be large and costly - and prioritisation of time and spend will be an important input to any discussions.

Administrators need to make it their new year's resolution (if not before) to be 'front foot', not only asking trustees about their priorities and objectives in relation to their deferred membership, but to be clear about the challenges they face, the benefits that can be realised and how everyone can work together to better meet the needs of all stakeholders.

This, for me, reinforces the message that planning for 2018 is a time to focus on deferred members. This should include evaluation of the potential benefits based on objectives, the risk of not doing something and the output should drive priority.

This should then be assessed against cost to determine the business case.
The administrative challenges of looking after deferred DB members aren't going away – even if we'd like them to. It's time to bite the bullet and make 2018 the year to overcome this challenge for the benefit of all.

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Now: Pensions to top up non-taxpayers' pension pots

Non-taxpayers are typically those earning less than £11,000 and they are currently missing out on the tax relief they would receive in a 'relief at source' scheme.

The majority of occupational and trust based schemes operate on a net pay basis, Now: Pensions is the only net pay scheme to offer a top up to its membership.

Troy Clutterbuck, interim CEO of Now: Pensions said: "Net pay offers savers several benefits but, through no fault of their own, non-taxpayers continue to miss out on the government top up they would receive in a relief at source scheme."

"To address this inequality, for a second year, we are putting our hands in our own pockets to top up these members' pension pots."

Now: Pensions says that while the amount these savers are missing out on is relatively small, around £10 per year for somebody earning £11,000, as the nil rate tax band rises this amount is going to increase.

"We continue to talk to the Treasury and HMRC to find a way to resolve this anomaly over the long term, but progress has been disappointingly slow and a solution to this problem remains elusive, Clutterbuck said.

Members of pension schemes who don't pay income tax, are permitted to basic rate tax relief (20%) on pension contributions up to £2,880 a year, which means HMRC will top up a net contribution of £2,880 to a gross £3,600.

However, this tax relief is only available where the pension scheme operates on a relief at source basis – it is not available for schemes that operate a net pay arrangement.

Members of Now: Pensions schemes who do not pay income tax will be able to claim the relief by filling in a claim form so Now: Pensions can liaise directly with HMRC.

First published 14.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Plumbing industry pension scheme secures £560m buy-in

The transaction completed in June 2017 and represents just over 10% of the £5.1bn of bulk annuity business written in the first half of 2017.

The scheme has just under £2bn in total assets and the buy-in reduced the level of risk in its investment strategy, as well as reducing volatility in its funding level.

Alan Pickering, chairman of the trustee said the buy-in was a result of good decisions and hard work.

He said: "The challenges we are facing have been well-chronicled and we are working with the Department of Work and Pensions, The Pensions Regulator, and other stakeholders to find solutions that play fair by all concerned.

Adding that the buy-in is the result of "clear decisions" taken by the trustees, alongside hard work by the executive team, Pickering said employers and members alike will benefit from the increased security the policy brings.

LCP was appointed as an independent specialist buy-in adviser for the transaction.

Clive Wellsteed, head of LCP's de-risking practice and lead adviser to the trustee said there had been significant insurer interest in the transaction.

He said: "We are pleased to have helped the trustee manage the competitive dynamics and achieve such a good result for the scheme."

The transaction included a price lock mechanism that allowed the trustee to lock the buy-in price to the value of the scheme's pooled corporate bonds and then transfer the ownership of these pooled funds to L&G.

Matt Wilmington, director of strategic transactions at L&G said the buy-in demonstrated how the company works effectively with pension schemes.

"Working with our colleagues in LGIM and with the Trustee's adviser, LCP, we were able to transition assets efficiently and generate both cost and time savings," he said.

First published 14.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Emerging market equity most popular asset class with pension schemes

The Investment Considerations Survey, by Camradata, found more than half of those surveyed said they would consider investing in emerging market equity.

Global Equity was the second most popular asset class, while diversified growth funds and corporate bonds were also selected by 40% or more respondents.

For the most recent six-monthly survey participants shared their considerations about investments, asset classes, asset allocation and financial markets for this year.

Camradata managing director, Sean Thompson, said: "While emerging market equity and global equity were selected by most investors, all asset classes are being considered to some extent right now including private equity, private debt, infrastructure, high yield bonds, and Japanese equity and many others."

Top of investment concerns was the low yield environment, which the market continues to experience, followed by the importance of meeting total return objectives – an issue that is high on investors' agendas.

Thompson added: "Investors also appear to be more concerned about protecting capital and economic uncertainty than market volatility.

"The uncertainty around Brexit, Trump's leadership and the challenges of optimising market performance, and balancing risk over return, are also issues that will impact investment decision making."

While Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is also a hot topic in the asset management industry, more than half of pension schemes, consultants and investors did not expect asset managers to have integrated ESG into their investment strategy.

"Contrary to the views of investors and consultants, most asset managers have integrated ESG into their investment process," Thompson said.

In terms of interest rate rises over the next year, over 70% of respondents said they didn't expect any changes in the UK or Euro interest rates, whereas 61% believe interest rates in the US will increase by 25bps over the same period.

Thompson concluded, "Most respondents are pretty neutral about the outlook for investments in the US, UK, European and global financial markets over the next year.

"However, there appears to be slightly more optimism in the market especially with the European and global financial markets, but slightly more pessimism with the UK and US markets."

First published 14.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

I want holes not power drills

I have a wonderful power drill. It was given to me as a Christmas present a few years ago along with 103 drill bits for use in wood, metal or masonry as required. It's a high trust brand, Bosch, a brand that is enslaved for many other domestic tasks in my house - refrigeration, dishwashing, microwaving and clothes washing.

But for most of the time my Bosch drill-set sits idle, in a cupboard, alongside my spirit level, my electronic measuring device (which I must admit I have never used for anything other than as a fancy laser pointer) and my wire stripper for electrical cables.

Despite its almost perpetual apparent obsolescence I have a power drill. In reality, I don't want a power drill, I never have.

However, from time to time I need a hole.

I'm not really interested in the features of my drill, not its torque, its maximum impact rate, the size of its drill spindle thread, its chuck capacity, nor its lithium ion battery – I just want my hole.

It's the same with pensions, not many people want a pension. For most of their lives pensions are not top of mind. Information on their pension sits in the back of a drawer, or on a pile of things they "must" read or as an unread email in an ever-growing inbox.

They don't know, and in many cases don't want to know, the features of their pension - but they do want their "hole", in this case a retirement lifestyle that is certain and assured.

So why as an industry are we still so fixated on the drill? Surely the overriding purpose of pensions is to deliver good member outcomes, to deliver the "holes" they want and need. Yes, the "drills" must be well built, reliable and quality controlled (governed) so they can deliver to their purpose, the "hole" the member expects.

What can we do to shift our focus to the members' reality? How can we shape our communications to focus on the "hole" and not the "drill"? When are we going to make member marketing and communications capability as much an essential competency around a trustee board table as investment management capability?

Admittedly there is an even bigger picture, many people don't even know they need a hole. But interestingly I have had a greater interest in holes since I have had my drill.

Written by Peter Nicholas,Managing Director & CEO

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

RPMI Railpen appoints Ortec Finance

Railpen has adopted Ortec Finance's 'performance attribution solution' which will enable the scheme to monitor and improve its investment management process.

The new technology evaluates the impact of all investment decisions the scheme makes, positive or negative, complex or simple, bringing clarity to the investment process.

RPMI Railpen is the trading name of the Railways Pensions Investments Limited, authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Railpen comprises more than 100 sections with complex analytical and reporting requirements.

The company also provides a range of services to pension scheme trustees, such as communications, trustee training, scheme balloting, pensions technical and regulatory services and scheme governance.

Stuart Slater, head of risk and performance at Railpen, said: "We chose Ortec Finance to support us to achieve our mission to pay members' pensions securely, affordably and sustainably."

"To accomplish that goal, we invest the scheme's assets to generate strong investment returns over the long term, so the quality of the analytics and the capabilities of the Pearl system, coupled with its managed service, made Ortec the obvious partner."

Ortec Finance designs, builds, and applies solutions for asset-liability management, ex-ante and ex-post risk management, performance measurement and risk attribution, and goal based financial planning.

Its global client base comprises leaders in the sovereign wealth, pensions, insurance, investment management and private wealth management markets.

Lucas Vermeulen, UK managing director at Ortec, said: "Enhanced insight will enable Railpen to monitor and improve its management process, and provide clients with timely and relevant information about their investment gains and losses - both in absolute terms as well as relative to market and benchmark."

First published 07.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

PLSA paper published on good governance

The paper, Good Governance – how to get there: A PLSA discussion paper, emphasises that good pension fund governance depends on the people providing it.

It says that the quality of the input into the governance, will determine the quality of a scheme's governance.

These inputs, the paper says, are mainly to do with the quality of scheme governance bodies and the support they in turn can draw upon.

The paper identified four key characteristics of effective boards or committees – the first being collective knowledge of the technical areas relevant to pension fund administration, on issues including investment, legal and actuarial matters.

The second characteristic is having more general skills, such as an ability to communicate effectively and commercial acumen when dealing with external advisers; and the third is cognitive diversity, through board or committee members with a range of different backgrounds and perspectives.

The PLSA says the fourth key characteristic is to have executive support for the day-today running of the scheme, enabling the governance body to concentrate on key strategic decisions.

On the back of identifying the key characteristics, the PLSA says governance bodies that demonstrate them will make good decisions, increasing the likelihood of good outcomes for scheme members.

In turn, it says, this means The Pensions Regulator (TPR) should concentrate on ensuring individuals who are appointed to boards and committees have the appropriate knowledge and experience.

Joe Dabrowski, head of governance & investment, at the PLSA, said: "Pension schemes are affected by the fortunes of their sponsors and the wider economy, so cannot guarantee success - but governance bodies that are expert, effective and diverse give them the best possible chance of success."

"The regulation of the pensions industry currently is characterised by a focus on outputs and there is a wide range of different regulations setting out expectations of boards and committees, largely concerned with process rather than with ensuring that governance bodies are appropriately skilled."

Research from TPR has shown highly varied standards of governance, with only half of surveyed schemes saying all their trustees meet standards set out in the Trustee Knowledge and Understanding (TKU) Code of Practice, while 24% say they never disagree with external advisors and 58% say they rarely do, suggesting a lack of capacity to challenge advice.

"Regulatory oversight should instead focus on ensuring the right people are appointed to governance positions and let them take decisions in the best interests of their scheme," Dabrowski added.

First published 07.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Worldwide pension fund assets increased in value in 2016

The figures from the world's 300 largest pension funds, show a return to growth year-on-year after a 3.4% decline in 2015, while cumulative growth in assets since 2011 now stands at 23.4%.

The top 20 funds in the research by asset size experienced a higher increase than the overall ranking, growing assets by 7.1% over the period.

Figures also showed that the top 300 pension funds together now represent 43.2% of global pension assets, rising from 42.5% in 2015, as estimated against figures from Willis Towers Watson's Global Pensions Asset study.

Roger Urwin, global head of investment content at Willis Towers Watson, said: "The search for attractively priced assets at acceptable risk continues to be a driving force in shaping the fortunes of pension funds and their ability to meet respective missions and objectives."

"This is increasingly hard and reduces the shine from a year in which the largest asset owners have been able to achieve superior growth in this year's figures."

Urwin added that the ability of leading asset owners to adapt to the changing investment environment, through improvements in governance and the ability to learn from their peers, has been central to the result.

He said: "The desire of asset owners to implement best-practice and sound governance across their organisation has strengthened and will be a key factor in their future success."

According to the research, North American funds have shown the most noticeable annualised growth rate over the last five years, growing by 6.7% during the period.

Funds from Europe and Asia-Pacific regions showed annualised growth rates of 3.1 % and 2.8% respectively.

The US continues to hold its position as the country with the largest share of pension assets across the top 300 funds, representing 38.6% spread across 134 funds.

Meanwhile, Canada has overtaken the UK as the fifth largest country by share of pension fund assets, accounting for 5.4% (5.3% in 2015).

The UK now accounts for 4.8%, falling from 5.4% of total assets in 2015.

First published 07.09.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingotnplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

What's next for the war on scammers?

Pension scams are generally unregulated investments offering 'guaranteed returns' that are too good to be true?there's a clue there?the returns quoted are such that individuals will easily make up the amount disinvested today and so will be "no worse off".

The investment opportunities include exotic sounding investments like hotels, vineyards or other overseas ventures. The truth is that these schemes tend to attract very high management fees and often end in bankruptcy, with assets sold on to new owners. This leaves the investor with little or nothing of their original stake.

As well as losing their pension savings, individuals could also get a huge tax bill. The liberation of pension assets before age 55 will very often be classified as an unauthorised payment. Such payments typically attract a 55% tax charge applied to the amount of the unauthorised payment.

If the individual is lucky, this will be levied only on the amount of money paid up front to the individual, but it could be levied on the full transfer of assets.

To add salt to the wound the tax bill will arrive sometime later?giving the blissfully unaware person plenty of time to have spent the money.

In March 2017 alone a record £8 million of pension savings were lost, and now the government finally looks set to do something about it.

There is an estimated 250 million cold calls made each year offering members of the public a free pensions review or incentives to release pension funds early, but the fraudsters don't stop there. They send emails and texts which are just as convincing and dupe innocent people out of their retirement funds.

This blanket ban on all cold calls, texts and emails will send out a clear message to the public that no legitimate organisation will contact them about their pensions, so if they are contacted, they'll know it's a scam. The heavy fines - up to £500,000 - for companies that flout the ban should also reduce the amount of fraud too.

The scammers are very good at what they do and have a very detailed understanding of this narrow area of legislation. The ban on cold calling is the latest jump forward in the ongoing arms race between the pension industry, HMRC and regulators on one side and the scammers on the other side.

In order to solve the underlying problem, the government need to enact into law a system whereby fraudulent advice is identified ahead of the assets being transferred. This is incredibly difficult to achieve and will cause delays to the legitimate movement of funds.

In the meantime, a law which enables Trustees to block payment of a transfer value where there is a suspicion of pension liberation, would enable Trustees to act more decisively.

Trustees have a duty of care towards members and accept this responsibility on a day to day basis. It is difficult for legislation to remove the right of individuals "do something stupid" if they want to. However, certainly for transfers from trust based schemes, trusteeship offers a useful system for members to engage with.

The need for greater legal protection for Trustees and providers taking reasonable steps to protect a member from pension liberation would significantly help in the fight against the scammers.

Robert Palmer, Partner and Actuary at Quantum Advisory

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

New appointments at LGIM and Now: Pensions

Morten founded Now: Pensions in the UK in 2011 and over the past six years he has played an integral role establishing the company as one of the UK's leading auto enrolment providers with over 1.3 million members and more than 26,000 participating employers.

The Board thanked him for his significant contribution in building NOW: Pensions from the ground up to its current position as a leading provider of pensions in the auto enrolment marketplace.

The chairman of the board of Trustees Nigel Waterson said: "Morten Nilsson has made a huge contribution not only to the success of NOW: Pensions, but to the whole automatic enrolment project in the UK. He leaves an indelible legacy in the UK pensions sector."

Troy has been with NOW: Pensions since August 2016 joining as CFO from Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group where, during a 15-year career with the firm, he held several key roles including CFO UK Employee Benefits and commercial director, Latin America and Canada.

Meanwhile, Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) has expanded its Active Equity team with the appointment of Nigel Masding as lead manager of the Real Income Builder Fund.

Nigel joins LGIM from Longview Partners, where he was a partner and global equities research analyst, and prior to this, he was a senior equities portfolio manager at HSBC Halbis Capital Management.

Nigel has also held positions at First State Investments and McKinsey & Company.

Designed as an outcome-oriented fund, the L&G Real Income Builder Fund launched in January 2015 for long-term income oriented investors, with a broad applicability across institutional and retail clients.

First published 31.08.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Finnish fund drops US stocks from portfolio

Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company, a $53billion (45 billion euro) public pension fund has reduced its exposure to stocks, with most of that reduction coming from US stocks.

Varma CEO Risto Murto told Bloomberg News: "It seems as if there is no president in the UK – if I look at what is the moral and practical power, there is no longer traditional president."

Since entering the White House earlier this year, Trump's presidency has quickly become characterised by Twitter outbursts, including recent defence of white nationalist protestors in Charlottesville.

Murto said Trump's apparent inability to work with Congress is particularly worrying, given the global ramifications of decisions made in Washington.

"The lesson from 2008 is that if we have a problem in the US, then we all have a problem," he said, adding that Trump's response to demonstrations in Charlottesville is a "breaking point if you look at how business leaders reacted."

Murto's comments come as investors grow increasingly uncertain about the U.S.'s future economic prospects.

U.S. stock markets shot up to record highs in the months after Trump's election, as investors bet Trump would cut corporate taxes, boosting bottom lines. But that agenda now appears threatened, and the mood in the market is growing more cautious.

Several prominent analysts in the US have stated that the country's economy is showing signs of a downturn ahead.

Analysts at HSBC, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley recently said that the traditional relationships between stock, bond and commodity markets are beginning to break down, a sign of a market correction ahead.

Trump is due to meet with Finland's President Sauli Niinisto for first time meet in the White House on Monday.

First published 31.08.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Pension Funds concerned about executive pay, says PLSA

The PLSA also said that 86% of pensions funds believe executive pay in those companies is too high.

The figures follow the announcement of corporate governance reforms by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

For the first time, listed companies will have to publish pay ratios between chief executives and the average UK worker.

The package of corporate governance reforms is designed to enhance transparency of big business to shareholders, employees, and the public.

New laws will force all listed companies to reveal to pay ratio between bosses and workers.

The reforms will also include the world's first public register of listed companies where a fifth of investors have objective to executive annual pay packages.

Luke Hildyard, stewardship and corporate governance policy lead, at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, said the announcement should be welcomed.

"For the average chief executive to receive 128 times the average pay of their staff is hard to justify and appears disproportionate in almost any circumstances," he said.

"We are hopeful that today's announcement is a concrete step forward that will see a more measured and transparent approach to executive pay."

The new scheme will be set up in the autumn and overseen by the Investment Association, a trade body that represents UK investment managers.

New laws will be introduced over the coming month that require around 900 listed companies to annually publish and justify the pay ratio between CEOs and their average UK worker; and all companies of significant size to publicly explain how their directors take employees' and shareholders' interests into account.

The reforms come after last year's proposals by the Prime Minister to improve transparency and accountability, giving employees a voice in boardroom.

The PLSA said it would have liked to have seen the government go even further in its efforts towards transparency.

Hildyard said: "We would like to have seen stronger requirements place on companies with regards to their CEO pay policies - requiring a supermajority (75%) rather than a simple majority (50%) means that it would be harder for companies to force through pay proposals despite serious reservations from their most engaged shareholders."

"Workplace pension schemes represent the interests of almost 20 million active members across the UK and invest trillions of pounds into the economy – they are some of the most long-term and engaged shareholders that companies have.

"It is clear that they are extremely uncomfortable with the executive pay culture that has taken hold across corporate Britain with the majority voicing concerns over the pay gap and executive pay in listed companies."

First published 31.08.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Developing the digital journey

The arrival of Pension Dashboards in 2019 will have many effects on the pensions industry. If it's successful, and we all hope it is, then member engagement should increase, financial advice costs should fall and outcomes should be improved by members being driven to make more active decisions about their pension.

For administrators, this points to one very predictable outcome – increases in member activity levels, resulting in larger workloads.

As members and advisors engage more with their pensions, then levels of enquiries, illustrations and information gathering will increase, along with actual transactional events such as transfers, fund switches and the exercising decumulation options.

The lesson we have learned from the introduction of pensions freedoms is that we shouldn't think this is going to be a spike or peak of activity that will tail off - hopefully, Pensions Dashboards will lead to a long-term sustained increase in member activity.

It probably seems counterintuitive for a pensions administrator to be welcoming an increase in workloads. But I firmly believe that administration is and should be about protecting and promoting the interests of members, which are best protected when they act to protect and plan for their future. It's the action part that now needs the attention and creativity of the administration market.

A pervasive belief that Dashboards will fill a digital engagement hole for pension schemes is emerging. Comments like "we should wait for the Dashboards to be launched" and "the Dashboards will make member websites obsolete" suggest that trustees and sponsors are misunderstanding the capability and effect this new development will have on members.

Trustees need to understand that the Pension Dashboards will not deliver, replace or negate the need for a broader digital engagement strategy.

In fact, it will do quite the opposite. Pension Dashboards will drive up demand for more digital solutions from scheme members for two reasons:

1. The success of Dashboards should be measured by member action. Viewing pension savings is simply not enough, nor should it be the end of the process. It is the first step in what should be a resulting string of follow-up actions. Action is what we need but the Dashboards don't deliver action, they publish information.

It is direct interaction with providers and schemes where the action takes place. Once a member has viewed their pension savings they will need to contact schemes to take follow-up actions, gather more information or ask further questions. This action is going to drive up activity and the only way to handle that, in a cost-efficient way, is to also start delivering those action stages online.

2. The arrival of pension Dashboards will quite rightly start the member engagement journey online. But where do members go after they have viewed their pension on a website? With many schemes still not providing any type of online engagement, they are going to turn to a manual paper driven system of information exchange.

Slow, expensive and outdated, we run the risk of losing member interest once they've engaged online if we must turn back to manual paper driven processes to get more information directly from their providers. Let's start how we mean to go on and use the arrival of Dashboards to continue to member journey online.

The most referenced reasons for schemes not doing more for their members online is that "it's too expensive and we can't justify it". Online engagement platforms should not be expensive to implement.

Good administrators should be supplying them at little or no cost. If implemented well, they will reduce workloads and operational overheads so why should you be paying your administrator extra to supply them? Do not accept unreasonable costs from your administrator for supplying something that should save them work and improve member outcomes. A good digital offering should be a fundamental part of any administrator's arsenal.

Excuses such as "our members won't use it" are often based on anecdotal evidence or, even worse, based on solutions that are poor, make the registration process too difficult or don't give reason to return to the website. Almost everyone is online, so if pension scheme members are not engaging more with schemes or benefits in this way, then perhaps that's because the available solutions have simply not been good enough.

The advent of Dashboards presents both opportunity and risk for administrators and trustees. The risk is thinking that they're going replace or remove the need for schemes to do more online.

The opportunity is that they will set the tone and channel for how members engage with their pension, which we can capitalise on to reduce the operational burden of a more engaged population.

Trustees and administrators need to start thinking about what members will do after Dashboards go live. As Dashboards help members start planning for a better future, administrators and trustees should be doing the same, by starting to plan for more efficient and productive digital future for their members.

Daniel Taylor,Client Director, Trafalgar House.

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Retiree pension income has halved since financial crash, says Fidelity

The figures reflect the fall in wages, lower market returns, and reduced returns on annuities that pay retirement income, over the last decade.

Fidelity compared figures of two situations - someone retiring today who in 2007 still had 10 years of work and saving ahead of them; and the outcome achieved if that same person had experienced the conditions from the preceding 10-year period, 1997-2007.

The research showed that, on average, people retiring in 2007 earned wages that maintained their buying power, tracking 0.9 percentage points above Consumer Price Inflation (CPI).

Those in 2017 experienced the opposite; with wage growth running at 1.7% against CPI of 2.7% - a full percentage point under inflation, effectively making them poorer.

Consequently, lower earnings mean lower pension contributions with those retiring in 2017 paying in £5,179 less over ten years, Fidelity said.

Ed Monk, associate director at personal investing for Fidelity International said the results made for "grim reading" for the 2017 cohort of retirees – but emphasised that people should remain positive.

"In the period since the crisis the pension freedoms reforms have freed many more people to access their pension pot using drawdown instead of an annuity," he said.

"This comes with greater risk, but at least provides an alternative to being locked into low paying annuities and gives you greater flexibility over how you manage your income.

"For those still with some years to go before they retire, there's a chance to make more of the time available left to save."

"Maximising contributions to take advantage of any employer contributions on offer, as well as the help available from tax relief, makes sense, as does ensuring your pension money is invested to take a level of risk that you're comfortable with, but that will give you a chance of decent growth."

First published 25.08.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

New hires at Hymans Robertson and Trafalgar House

Dunster will head the firm's equity research, as senior investment research consultant.

Prior to his appointment, Dunster was head of fund research at C. Hoare & Co, where he worked for six years.

He was included in 2016's PAM Top 40 under 40 and has also held previous roles at Principal Investment Management (now Sanlam Private Wealth) and HSBC Asset Management.

"I'm thrilled to join the expert team at Hymans Robertson especially as we approach such a pivotal time for investment consultancy," he said, "I am looking forward to the challenge of finding the right equity solutions to meet clients' requirements as both the industry and the market backdrop evolve."

Andy Green, chief investment officer at Hymans Robertson, said the organisation was pleased to have someone with Dunster's level of experience on board.

"Tom's expertise in global equity markets will add further breadth to the existing strengths of our practice and help us to continue to build upon the high-quality, independent consulting our clients choose us for," he said.

Meanwhile, pensions administration specialist, Trafalgar House, has also announced further expansion of its team, with the appointment of Peter Laurence as senior pensions associate.

Peter joins Trafalgar House from Willis Towers Watson where he had been Pensions Co-ordinator since 2013.

He brings almost 15 years' experience in pensions administration, having held roles at Capita Employee Benefits, Aspen Actuaries & Pension Consultants and Paymaster. Peter holds the PMI Diploma in Pension Calculations.

Daniel Taylor, client director at Trafalgar House said: "Peter's extensive experience in administration and obvious drive for doing what's right by scheme members make him the perfect fit for Trafalgar House.

"He will add valuable resource to the team, meaning clients can continue to expect a first-class service as the business develops."

First published 24.08.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Government announces new measures to stop pension scammers

The measures will also include a tightening of HMRC rules to stop scammers opening fraudulent pension schemes, and tougher actions to help prevent the transfer of money from occupational pension schemes into fraudulent ones.

Scammers will also be tackled by ensuring that only active companies that produce regular, up-to-date accounts, can register pension schemes.

Limiting transfers of pension pots from one occupational scheme to another will mean trustees must check their receiving scheme is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, or has an active employment link with the individual, or is an authorised master trust.

The announcement comes as new figures show almost £5 million was obtained by pension scammers in the first five months of 2017.

It is estimated that £43 million has also been unlawfully obtained by scammers since April 2014, with those targeted having lost an average of nearly £15,000, as scammers try to encourage savers to part with their money with false promises of low-risk, high-return investment opportunities.

Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, Guy Opperman, said the figures highlight the extent to which savings are being targeted.

He said: "People's savings are being targeted and stolen through elaborate hoaxes – leaving them with little opportunity to build up their savings again, which is why we are introducing tough new measures for those who scam."

"If people have saved for a private pension, we want to protect them - this is the biggest lifesaving that individuals normally make over many years of hard work so by tackling scammers, people should know that cold calling, apart from exceptional circumstances, is banned."

The cold calling ban will be enforced by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

James Walsh, policy lead: engagement, EU and regulation, at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) said while the measures are a "step in the right direction", the government needs to do even more and to do it quickly.

He said: "People are at risk of losing their pension savings to scammers and we need a clear timetable from government on when it will implement key elements of its proposals - we need more urgency."

The PLSA said it is concerned the measures will need careful implementation to ensure scammers do not abuse them.

First published 24.08.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Thirty years in the making

To read this article please click here

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

The evolution of opportunity

To read this article please click here

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Seeing the right people

Every salesperson worth their salt will be able to tell you in confident and charming terms that their product is ideal for you. Visit a range of car dealerships with nothing more than a basic idea of what you want and you will inevitably come away at the end of the day thinking "they can't all be perfect for me can they?"

Every estate agent gives you the best chance of selling your house, every TV package perfectly suits your viewing habits and every bank gives you the best way of managing your money.

This phenomenon is based on the modern trend of blindly trusting in graphs, tables and sales patter – that these people are the real experts, so they must know what is best for you.

No one provider is the same in terms of expertise, style, contacts, resources etc. – so deciding on the person to go with, based on the best brochures or the best carefully-selected headline figures, is a risky move when you then try and make it work against your initial needs.

More often than not the long-term result is a product that doesn't suit you, not quite achieving the result you had hoped for and starting the search again.

A similar situation seems to be creeping into the pensions industry, specifically in scheme tenders for fiduciary management advice. There are many different types of approach for fiduciary management in the UK and a variety of providers specialising in their own style and focus.

It is therefore difficult to approach the appointment of a fiduciary manager without first undertaking the necessary strategic work to find out what kind of approach the scheme is after to match their risk appetite, funding level, sponsor strength, liability movements, ESG values and many other factors.

The key of course is to spend some time considering what you need before you actually hit the high street. Take a look at your specific requirements, quirks, budget, risks, style and the ultimate desired result and then speak only to those who can provide a solution for these highly-personalised criteria.

Most fiduciary managers, in their efforts to win new business, will be able to provide a compelling argument as to why they should be chosen for any scenario.

The danger for schemes is bypassing the initial strategy stage and selecting the provider who has the best pitch and record on paper, only to then sit down with them after appointment and say "Ok, so how do we do this?" and find that they can't create a strategy that suits the nuances of the scheme.

Trustees aren't expected to be experts and know the ins and outs of every type of risk management strategy in advance. But they should always be able to identify the needs of the scheme and the attitude towards different types of investment, risk and ESG/SRI, as well as the strength of the funding position.

This may take a little time, but it will ultimately save a great deal more time and cost in interviewing inappropriate managers or making a misguided selection and trying to make something work that doesn't fit.

Schemes need to remember that they have the power and they need to be prepared to make demands of potential advisors, as well as questioning the underlying reasoning for their advice.

If the advisor can't agree to follow the exact path laid out and instead try to show you their 'better way' then they perhaps aren't the one for you, no matter how good their graphs look.

Lucas Vermeulen, UK Managing Director, Ortec Finance.

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

Tata Steel UK reaches agreement on £15bn pension scheme

The company signed the documentation for a Regulated Apportionment Arrangement (RAA) with the Trustee of the British Steel Pension Scheme on 11 August.

Tata said the agreement offers more "sustainable outcomes for pensioners, employers, and the business."

When the RAA takes effect, the British Steel Pension Scheme will be separated from Tata Steel UK and several affiliated companies.

From the day the document was signed, there is a 28-day period for any affected parties to refer the decision to tribunal - the Pension Protection Fund has already issued confirmation of non-objection to the RAA.

In the absence of any referrals by the end of that period, it is expected that The Pensions Regulator (TPR) will confirm its approval of the RAA, which would take effect after Tata Steel UK makes a payment of £550 million to the British Steel Pension Scheme.

Tata Steel UK has also reached an agreement for the sponsorship of a proposed new pension scheme, which is conditional on certain qualifying conditions being met.

All members of the British Steel Pension Scheme would be invited to transfer to the new scheme after the completion of the RAA and, if the qualifying conditions are met, members who choose to, will transfer to the new scheme.

Tata said: "The new scheme would have lower future annual increases for pensioners and deferred members than the British Steel Pension Scheme, giving it an improved funding position, which would pose significantly less risk for Tata Steel UK.

"There remains no certainty with regards to the eventual existence, size or form of the new scheme and the funding position and membership of any new scheme is still dependent on the results of the proposed voluntary membership transfer exercise."

Koushik Chatterjee, Tata Steel group executive director, said: "Considering the continued challenges in the global steel industry, as well as the uncertain global politico-economic environment, the RAA presents the best possible structural outcome for the members of the British Steel Pension Scheme and for the Tata Steel UK business."

First published 21.08.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

SSE to deliver landmark £1.2bn longevity risk project

The £1.2bn longevity risk will be through two buy-in transactions and a longevity insurance.

The two buy-ins with Pension Insurance Corporation (PIC) totalled £350m, covering c£250m of pensioner liabilities in the Scottish Hydro-Electric Pension Scheme (SHEPS) and c£100m of pensioner liabilities in the Scotia Gas Networks Pension Scheme (SGNPS).

The longevity insurance covers a further £800m of pensioner longevity risk in the SHEPS and is the first transaction to use Legal & General's efficient "UK-based pass through" structure to transfer longevity risk to the end reinsurer.

Hymans Robertson was the architect of the project and lead advisor on all transactions – the company predicts more organisations will follow suit in the future.

Hymans Robertson said: "The combination of these three transactions led to material improvements in the funding positions of both schemes, allowing them to reduce risk and improve member security."

"SHEPS is the first scheme to have combined a buy-in and a longevity insurance to hedge its longevity risk and we expect others to follow this blueprint which helps to tailor transactions to pension schemes' individual circumstances."

Hymans Robertson said the trustees of the SHEPS and the SGNPS achieved significant cost savings on the buy-in transactions by requesting insurers to provide quotations for both schemes at the same time.

This brought noticeable transactional efficiencies and led to particularly competitive pricing from insurers, it said.

CMS provided legal advice to the Trustees on both transactions, and Club Vita provided longevity analytics throughout the process and Eversheds Sutherland provided legal advice to Legal & General.

Graham Laughland, Chair of trustees for the Scottish Hydro-Electric Pension Scheme, said: "I am delighted to have taken this positive step in reducing risk and improving the security of members' benefits.

Tony Fettiplace, chair of trustees for the Scotia Gas Networks Pension Scheme said: "This deal is great news for the Scheme - reducing risk over time is an absolute priority for us and it is important to do this in the most cost effective way."

First published 21.08.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more

Pension Funds
Insider

IPC Media scheme appoints BlackRock as fiduciary manager

The services provided by BlackRock will include advice, training and support for the Trustees as part of the transition to the new arrangements.

BlackRock will also advise on, and help to design, the scheme's strategic asset allocation, as well as the journey management framework.

Susan Andrews from Ross Trustees, chair of IPC Media Pension Trustee Limited, said appointing a fiduciary manager was a significant decision for the scheme: "It was a big step, but the Trustee and scheme sponsor were convinced that in a changing environment this was the right time and an appropriate way to change how we manage the scheme's investment arrangements."

"BlackRock was appointed after a rigorous selection exercise on the back of its investment capabilities, risk focus and operational robustness."

The mandate will also include open architecture manager search, selection and de-selection and complete implementation services across all asset classes.

At the core of the fiduciary service is BlackRock's holistic investment and risk management platform, which it said provides operational robustness, sophisticated risk management and end to end transparency.

Andy Tunningley, head of UK strategic clients at BlackRock, said: "Fiduciary management services are increasingly sought after by clients in the current environment of low returns, heightened regulatory scrutiny and operational risks."

"We are pleased to have been selected by IPC Media Pension Trustee Limited to provide the full scope of our fiduciary services to help adjust their portfolio in the current market environment."

"IPC Media Pension Trustee considers fiduciary management to be a logical step at this juncture in the best interests of the members and their investment governance and trusts BlackRock to be a robust, reliable partner capable of performing this service."

First published 21.08.2017

Lindsay.sharman@wilmingtonplc.com

Read more