ING’s €27bn pension fund in the Netherlands has won Best Dutch Pension Fund in this year’s Pensioen Pro Awards in Amsterdam. Pensioen Pro, IPE’s sister publication, granted the award to ING following a vote by a 1,300-strong popular jury, which selected the scheme from a shortlist of three.The jury praised ING’s ability to reduce the chances of rights cuts to nearly zero while still offering a good chance of indexation.Last year, the pension fund saw its funding ratio increase to 133.2%, enabling it to grant full inflation compensation. At the same time, it registered a high level of satisfaction among its participants.The €42bn metal scheme PME took home two prizes, winning the Silver Award for Best Large Pension Fund and the Themed Award for Best Investment Policy.Notarieel Pensioenfonds, the €1.5bn occupational pension fund for notaries, won the Silver Award for Best Medium-sized Scheme and the Bronze Award for Best Investor in Bonds. The €70m Calpam Pensioenfonds, which won the top award last year, landed the Silver Award for Best Small Scheme.The large civil service scheme ABP was given the sustainability prize for its new investment policy, while healthcare pension fund PFZW won the Bronze Award for Best Equity Investor, for its active engagement with pharmaceutical companies. Landbouw, the €13bn pension fund for the agricultural sector, won the Best Real Estate Investor Award, with the jury citing its sustainable property policy.The Algemeen Pensioenfonds KLM, the airline’s €7.5bn pension fund for ground staff, received the award for Most Client-friendly Scheme, citing its efforts to engage with younger participants.The innovation prize went to PensioenPod, an initiative aimed at simplifying the mapping of income and expenses after retirement.Mark de Wijs, director at SPO, the institute for pensions education, was recognised for his contribution to the pensions industry over the past 16 years.
The rush for low volatility assets is one of the most worrying areas of investment markets, according to panellists at IPE’s 360 conference.Speaking this morning in London, Bob Swarup, principal at Camdor Global Advisors, said investor appetite for low volatility strategies “worries me more than most things”.“Volatility consists of competing pools of emotions,” he said. “When volatility is extremely low, it means people are all facing the same way – it’s a huge herd mentality. That kind of structure is very hard to negotiate from a risk management point of view.”He added there was a danger of investors focusing too much on value-at-risk measurements at the expense of “cash flow at risk”. Ian McKnight, CIO of the UK’s Royal Mail Pension Plan, described low volatility equity strategies as a “pending disaster”.He said: “You see a lot of crowded trades in so-called low volatility. If everybody buys something because it’s low volatility, and it steadily goes up and stays low volatility, what happens next? Is it overpriced? Then when it sells off it becomes not low volatility any more.”Olivier Rousseau, executive director at French reserve fund FRR, highlighted Nordic equity markets as an example of an overbought low volatility area.He said: “Nordic markets are quality markets where political risk has been seen as very low, and rightly so, but these are low volatility markets full of low volatility stocks, and investors have loved them. Now, they are a dangerous asset class in my opinion.”However, the panellists agreed there were very few other asset classes offering real value. McKnight said Royal Mail had been selling down overvalued equities, but struggling to find opportunities in areas such as credit or high yield.“You’ve got to look around for idiosyncratic opportunities depending on how illiquid you want to be,” the CIO said.Rousseau said assets were in general very expensive, but euro-zone equities provided one window of opportunity.“Some of the risks seen on the political side are clearly receding,” Rousseau said. “The reasonable gamble we make on euro-zone equities is simply that growth has been disappointing, and euro-zone companies have substantial operational gearing. If growth comes back to normal levels, it would have a very significant impact on company profitability. I don’t want to say it’s the buy of the century, but it seems quite reasonable to us.”
The €114m Dutch pension scheme for household cleaning products manufacturer SC Johnson is to liquidate.The pension fund closed at the start of this year. Since then, new pensions accrual for its 280 workers has been through the low-cost defined contribution vehicle (PPI) of Zwitserleven.SC Johnson outsourced its defined contribution (DC) plan to Zwitserleven in 2006. Zwitserleven guaranteed an annual return of 3%. The pension fund’s existing DC assets will also be placed with Zwitserleven against the guaranteed return.Participants have been offered the option of also transferring their existing pension rights to the PPI, if they expect that the vehicle’s lifecycle investments will generate better returns than 3%. SC Johnson has also renewed an insurance contract with Aegon, which covers the guaranteed pensions of a number of pensioners and deferred members.A new pensions committee – with representatives of the employer, its works council, deferred members, and pensioners – is to monitor the new pension arrangements as well as the existing pension rights at Zwitserleven and Aegon.Dentist fund switches to PFZWTandtechniek, the €762m pension fund for dental technicians, confirmed that it would place its existing pension rights and future pensions accrual with the €187bn healthcare scheme PFZW as of 1 January.It said that, because of the difference in funding between both schemes, rights cuts would be likely. At May-end, PFZW’s coverage ratio was 93.4%, whereas the funding of Tandtechniek stood at 86.9%.However, Tandtechniek also said contributions would fall from 30% to 24% under the new arrangement. In 2015, it had to increase premiums by 5.5 percentage points to 32.5%.Tandtechniek has already had to apply rights cuts of 9% in total in the past few years.Its board said that, before it took the decision to join PFZW, it had had discussions with other pension funds about co-operation. It had also looked into the option of joining a new general pension fund (APF) in an individual compartment.SNS Reaal gains from interest rate hedgeThe €3.3bn company scheme for SNS Reaal posted a result of 12.5% for 2016. In its annual report, the scheme attributed almost half of its profit to the effect of declining interest rates on its 77% interest hedge. It subsequently reduced this hedge to 71% at the start of 2017.The Dutch bank’s pension fund said that it had incurred 0.35% of combined costs for asset management and transactions, citing its large fixed income portfolio and its passive equity investments with Actiam.It further explained that it shunned expensive asset classes, such as commodities, hedge funds, and private equity.According to the Pensioenfonds SNS Reaal, employers and unions were negotiating a new pensions contract. The employers already indicated a desire to continue the current collective DC plan.The pension fund also implements pension arrangements for insurer Vivat and Volksbank in a contract that is to expire at the end of the year.Last May, the scheme’s funding stood at 114.1%.
A growing number of asset owners are bringing factor-based investment strategies in-house, according to a survey by Invesco.The asset manager quizzed 108 investors and intermediaries with more than $7trn (€6trn) in assets under management, and found nearly a quarter (23%) already managed some factor assets in-house. A further 31% stated an intention to develop internal factor capabilities.More than half of respondents were planning some degree of internal management, Invesco’s Global Factor Investing study reported.“[This] decision to build internal factor capability is based on a desire to achieve similar risk-return outcomes to those offered by external managers, at a lower cost. Also at work is a desire to exert greater control over the factor investing proposition,” Invesco said. The survey also reported that demand for factor allocations was expected to rise significantly over the next five years, as institutional investors sought out a viable “third pillar” to equity and fixed income investments amid volatile financial markets.European institutional investors increased their factor allocations to 19% in 2017 from 17% in the previous year, Invesco said, and were expected to continue increasing allocations to factor products over the coming years.Factor allocations were the largest among European insurers and sovereign wealth funds, driven primarily by blended risk management and return generation opportunities over cost. The survey found that concerns around increasing volatility of equities and fixed income were pushing investors to look beyond geographic and sector diversification to factors as a means of diversifying and managing macro or cyclical risks.Georg Elsaesser, senior portfolio manager for quantitative strategies at Invesco, said: “The growth in factor investing over the past 12 months demonstrates the value it can play in an investor’s portfolio. It is still relatively early in the adoption process for many, but our respondents make it clear that it will become more prominent over time.”European factor investors were increasing allocations to both smart beta and active quantitative strategies, reweighting from fundamental and passive equity strategies, and fixed income allocations, Invesco found.The study said that as the global adoption of factor investing increased, investors were also expanding into fixed income and multi-asset strategies.However, the majority of investors (68%) were not able to invest in their preferred types of strategy, the report found, meaning there was a growing demand for new factor products. Elsaesser said that, with central bank policies having driven interest rates down to near record-low levels, investors were increasingly aware that the quality of diversification in their portfolios was now much weaker than it used to be, driving demand for fixed-income factor strategies to reduce risk and improve diversification and performance.He added: “With only a third of investors able to allocate to their preferred factor strategies, we see these products as the next evolution post-equities, providing investors with more choice and resulting in the further strengthening of factor investing as a third pillar alongside fundamental active and passive strategies.”
In addition, it would reduce costs for pension providers, as they would no longer have to administer large numbers of small pensions.Small pension savings are a particular issue for Dutch workers in the cleaning and hospitality industries, as well as the retail and the temporary employment sectors, where many workers have accrued small savings at several employers.As of next year, pension providers have the right to merge gross annual pension rights of up to €474 accrued as of January 2018, and to transfer these rights to a new provider.Members can’t appeal a decision to transfer rights to a new provider, and can’t take the money out.The new legislation also allows pension funds to cancel annual pension rights of less than €2, which would also reduce administration costs.UK minister shelves ‘pot follows member’ rules Guy Opperman, UK minister for pensions and financial inclusionIn the UK, however, pensions minister Guy Opperman has shelved the so-called “pot follows member” concept.Similar to the Netherlands, the UK has been considering changing rules for small pension pots for some time.In response to a written question about the “potential merits of a system of automatic transfers for individuals who have multiple jobs during their working life”, Opperman said it was “not the right time” to bring in such rules.“The government’s priority for private pension savers in 2018 remains the successful roll-out of automatic enrolment,” Opperman said.He added: “These reforms increase the number of people saving into workplace pensions and ensure confidence in the system. Government, providers, employers and members should focus on these changes. It is therefore not the right time to implement automatic transfers.”Opperman pointed out that all members of defined contribution schemes had “a statutory right to transfer to another pension scheme of their choice”.He also highlighted the development of a pensions dashboard, and said the government planned to publish the findings of a feasibility study for the concept “later in spring 2018”. Dutch pension funds and insurers will be able to automatically transfer small pensions to a new provider after a member has changed jobs and moved to a new pension fund, as of 1 July next year.By then, providers and the Netherlands’ national pensions register will have their IT systems ready to exchange details about small pension pots, according to the Pensions Federation and the Association of Insurers (VvV).Participants will be entitled to value transfer as of 1 January 2019, following the introduction of legislation – known as Wet Waardeoverdracht Klein Pensioen – earlier this year.In a joint statement, the federation and the VvV said the new rules would prevent fragmentation of pension rights and would provide participants with a better overview of their benefits.
The PEPP regulation was approved by the European Parliament in April and by EU leaders in June. Stakeholders have emphasised that the design of the technical measures to accompany the PEPP regulation will be key in determining its take-up.“[T]he framework must be structured to ensure its success, including rules around the fee cap and risk mitigation,” said Anna Driggs, director and associate chief counsel for global funds policy at ICI Global, the international arm of US asset management body the Investment Company Institute.“Defining these sensibly will be critical to developing a product that asset managers will offer and, importantly, savers will want to utilise.”‘Extraordinary group’EIOPA said it had appointed to the panel “an extraordinary group of high-level experts with a diverse set of experiences and expertise, from all the different sectors of eligible PEPP providers”.It includes representatives of consumer and industry associations, asset managers, insurers, pension funds, and academia.In alphabetical order, the members of the group and their affiliation are:Jean-Paul Andre-Dumont, director for the Luxembourg business of consultancy ForsidesPaul Le Bihan, Union Mutualist RetraiteEmanuele Maria Carluccio, University of VeronaSebastian Görgl, Union InvestmentEdward Hiller, FidelityOlav Jones, InsuranceEuropeHerman Kappelle, AegonTil Klein, Vantik, a German pensiontech companyAxel Kleinlein, Bund der Versicherten, German consumer protection association for insurance policyholdersChristian Lemaire, AmundiKristine Lomanovska, SEB in LatviaAndrew Marker, VanguardAidan McLoughlin, independent trusteeJasper De Meyer, Bureau Européen des Unions de ConsommateursSimone Miotto, PensionsEuropeCarlo Parodi, Intesa SanpaoloHugo Prenn, Uniqa, an insurance group in Austria and central and eastern EuropeTobias Rieck, AllianzJens Rosendahl Frederiksen, PFA PensionStefan Voicu, Better FinancePiotr Wrzesinski, PIU, the Polish insurance association The EU’s occupational pensions regulator has appointed a 21-strong panel of specialists to help it with its policy work on so-called Level 2 implementing measures for the pan-European personal pension product (PEPP) regulation.According to the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), the group will inform the regulator’s policy work on the measures, test proposals, and “act as a sounding board” to help EIOPA deliver on its mandate. “To deliver on the forthcoming PEPP Regulation’s policy perspective to design a PEPP that exhibits high quality product features around information provision, risk-mitigating techniques and a cost cap for the basic PEPP, the feedback and support from practitioners is important,” said EIOPA in a statement.“With the insights of the expert practitioner panel, EIOPA will develop superior solutions and smart policy advice that incentivises financial innovation for the benefit of the European consumers.”
Meanwhile, AMF chief executive Johan Sidenmark warned of “dark clouds on the horizon”. The strong return the fund recorded between January and June – 8.1%, compared with 3.5% in the same period last year – was a sign of the turbulent state of financial markets, he said.Sidenmark added: “The stock markets have performed strongly during the spring, and our other assets have also developed relatively positively. This is of course welcome, but it should be borne in mind that the upswing is partly because signs of a weaker global economy lead to expectations of a less tight monetary policy.”AMF also reported a lower solvency ratio of 186%, compared with last year’s 198%. It said this was due to SEK11.2bn being set aside in 2018 to back guarantees.Premium income amounted to SEK15.5bn, compared with SEK14.7bn in the first half of 2018, with premiums for unit-linked insurance totalling SEK1.9bn, down from last year’s SEK2.3bn.Folksam rides out Swedbank scandalFolksam reported a 6.8% return in its life and pensions division in the first six months of this year, according to its interim report.Chief executive Jens Henriksson described the financial results as strong despite the drop in the Swedbank share price in the wake of a money-laundering scandal at the bank.Folksam was the second-largest shareholder in the bank when the scandal broke in March, with a 7% stake. Swedbank shares fell by 25% between 26 March and 29 March, before recovering slightly.The Swedish life and non-life insurance group said its total assets under management increased to SEK441bn, from SEK416bn at the end of June 2018, with group business in the six-month period mainly driven by the pensions side.Continuing its work against money laundering while keeping costs down was one area of focus Folksam highlighted, along with digitisation and compliance.Henriksson said the firm’s total premium volume grew by SEK400m during the reporting period to SEK35bn, while costs were beginning to decrease, he said.Folksam’s group business growth between January and June came primarily from collectively-agreed occupational pensions within KPA Pension and Folksam LO Pension, the company said. Swedish blue-collar pension fund AMF plans to invest at an earlier stage in companies’ development, and stay invested for longer, according to CIO Thomas Flodén.In the SEK649bn (€61.5bn) fund’s interim results statement, Flodén said: “We want to invest to a greater extent early in companies, we want to stay for a long time and are happy to contribute to the transformation of the economy.”As a traditional pension manager, AMF had a long investment horizon and a high degree of freedom to act, which it wanted to make use of, he said.Flodén also highlighted the fund’s recent forestry investments, which included increasing its stake in Swedish firm SCA and becoming the majority shareholder in Bergvik Skog Öst. On sustainability goals, he cited investments in two Swedish firms with sustainable characteristics during the first half of the year: battery manufacturer Northvolt and solar cell developer Exeger.
These investments would be made via funds rather than directly, he said, and Frjálsi plans to pick the external managers to provide this exposure. The fund envisages achieving an allocation of 3-4% to this asset category in three years’ time, he said, as the category would take some time to build up. Frjálsi has been growing fast due to solid inflow and sound returns in the last few years, and currently has total assets of around ISK285bn (€2bn), he said.Iceland’s economic collapse of 2007/8 put a stop to the process of geographical asset diversification that the country’s pension funds had been engaged in, because capital controls were abruptly imposed and restricted foreign investment other than reinvestments.But with the gradual relaxation of these limits in the last few years, the funds are now making up for lost time, working to raise their allocations to foreign assets. However, up to now, including alternatives has been difficult for funds with similar structures to Frjálsi, Waagfjörð explained. In 2009, legal changes opened up the possibility for pension scheme members to get early redemptions to their individual defined contribution pensions (IDC), which in turn meant Frjálsi had to have a high level of liquidity in its investment portfolios. “Also, at that point in time the fund members were understandably quite risk averse, and many moved their IDC from a more risky path, where the nature of assets tend to be less liquid, to a more risk-averse path,” he said. With capital controls now lifted, and the possibility of an early redemption gone, the situation is more stable and the fund has seen it as appropriate to diversify further and build up an exposure to foreign alternatives, he said.Looking ahead, the ratio of fixed income, other than government bonds, will continue to increase within Frjálsi’s portfolios, as has been the trend of recent years. Under current market conditions, the pension fund said treasury bonds would not necessarily yield enough to meet future disbursements of collective defined contribution pensions. “As in previous years, the weight of domestic bonds other than government bonds has, therefore, increased in the fund’s investment policy for 2020,” said Waagfjörð.Meanwhile, Iceland’s Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) reported earlier in December that the country’s pension savings grew to just over ISK5trn (€36bn) at the end of the third quarter.The data on total assets of the country’s pension insurance and private pension savings published by the regulator showed that pension funds’ foreign assets stood at around ISK1.43trn on 30 September, up 4.3% or ISK59bn from the end of the second quarter.These foreign assets accounted for 33% of total assets, the FSA said, stating in its report that this proportion had never been greater. Icelandic pension fund Frjálsi is now increasing its allocation to foreign alternative investments in its investment policy, in the latest phase of its drive to boost its allocation to foreign assets. In the Reykjavik-based fund’s newly-published investment policy for 2020, the fund said it plans to continue the ongoing development of the last few years, and increase the diversification of its foreign portfolio further. “In addition to investments in foreign equities and bonds, alternative foreign investments are now on the list,” Hjörleifur Waagfjörð, head of Arion Bank´s institutional asset management, told IPE. He said that for Frjálsi, alternative asset classes now being considered include real estate, private equity, private credit, infrastructure and commodities, which would together make up a new asset category for the fund.
NEST, the UK’s master trust with assets under management worth £8.3bn (€9.8bn) launched a new procurement last September inviting fund managers to tender for unlisted/direct infrastructure equity funds.The pension scheme “believes private infrastructure equity investments can offer huge opportunities for its 8.5 million members”, it stated then.Bfinance said investors that established first-time private debt allocations for the post-global financial crisis period – primarily targeting corporate debt – are seeking diversification as spreads in direct lending continue to decline.It said: “This maturation has further supported real asset debt demand. Current appetite spans an immensely broad risk/return spectrum. At the lower end, demand for senior infrastructure debt from institutions seeking an alternative to investment grade fixed income is not a new phenomenon but the sector is becoming increasingly commoditised, with an ongoing decline in spreads.”At the riskier end, bfinance is seeing pension funds with real estate and infrastructure equity portfolios shifting towards debt. Real estate debt has been the major beneficiary of this since 2013, its research shows.“Yet we also note the emergence of infrastructure direct lending – increasingly recognised as a space in its own right – including senior secured loans to companies backed by infrastructure assets and infrastructure mezzanine loans.“Whether these offer a route to superior risk-adjusted returns or signify an increasingly stretched market remains to be seen.”Alternatives as biggest diversifiersJPMorgan Asset Management has said that investors should increasingly consider alternatives as their biggest portfolio diversifiers for the year ahead, as the current market environment continues to drive investors in search of yield and steady returns.The firm has released its second annual Global Alternatives Outlook, providing a 12-18-month outlook across key alternative asset classes and highlighting the views of its top management and strategists from JPMorgan AM’s 15 distinct alternatives investment engines.Anton Pil, global head of alternatives, said: “In this delicately balanced investment climate, investors should increasingly consider the role alternatives can play as both a diversifier and a potential source of steady income without adding to a portfolio’s equity risk.”He said: “Across the industry, there remains a lack of nuanced alternatives investment guidance that reflects the complexities of the asset class.”The report also provides an alternatives framework for investors to build resilient portfolios, by categorising asset classes according to their role in the portfolio, divided into core foundation, core complements and potential return enhancers.Additionally, it showed that 2020 will be a critical year for hedge fund managers to increase the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria and sustainability across their businesses and investment activities.Based on their investment objectives, Pil said, investors should focus on assets that have the ability to provide clear visibility into long-term yield.Sector rotation key for hedge fund strategies According to investment consultancy bfinance, 2019 was the first ever year in which searches conducted by investors for real asset debt outweighed, in dollar terms, searches for corporate private debt.While overall private debt fundraising in 2019 dropped to $147bn (€133.6bn), down from $166bn in 2018, this decline was primarily attributed to corporate debt, where new fundraising dropped by 17%, the firm disclosed.By comparison, infrastructure debt fundraising rose from $9bn in 2018 to $14bn in 2019 – the second highest figure recorded, exceeded only in 2015. Real estate debt fundraising dipped only slightly – from $29bn to $27bn – following an exceptionally strong fundraising wave in 2013-17, with an average of $35bn per year, bfinance’s latest research showed.“We note new investors entering this sector. These include defined contribution schemes in certain markets who are beginning to tap into illiquid strategies, headlined by UK NEST’s infrastructure debt commitment in 2019, and insurance companies, where regulatory changes have improved treatment for unrated debt in general and infrastructure debt in particular,” the firm stated. Brooks Ritchey, K2 AdvisorsK2 Advisors, a provider of integrated hedge fund and alternative solutions, has said sector rotation appears to be a key factor for hedge fund strategy investing in 2020.“As we look toward what might drive hedge fund returns in 2020, a key consideration for us is staying on top of sector and regional rotations in equity and fixed income markets,” said Brooks Ritchey and Robert Christian, senior managing directors and co-heads of investment research and management at the firm.The duo said there are increasing signs pointing to a shift in financial markets from growth- and defensive-driven sentiment to more focus on cyclical and value factors. This trend could continue to fuel a rotation of investor flows throughout the year.Value-oriented investments have stabilised and shown improvement, while long-favoured growth-oriented peers have found less momentum in late 2019.“As we look toward 2020, a key consideration for us is staying on top of sector and regional rotations,” they said.
18 Glyn St, CoorparooSURROUNDED by established gardens on a 607sq m block, this heritage-style residence has two storeys of indoor and outdoor living complemented by traditional features.Behind an automated security gate at 18 Glyn St, Coorparoo is a wide driveway lined with sensor lights which leads to the residence.To the left of the house, a tiled pathway makes its way to a staircase ascending to an upper-level covered deck with a timber balustrade, ceiling fan and rotunda-style entertaining area with garden views.Beyond a front door framed by leadlight windows, the upstairs level includes high ceilings, decorative cornices and polished hardwood floors, along with double hung windows and downlighting. 18 Glyn St, CoorparooDownstairs features a tiled family room, another bedroom and a laundry. French doors open the family room out to a covered patio, which overlooks gardens featuring a stone pathway, timber decking and a feature pond with water lilies and papyrus.Along with ducted and split-system airconditioning, the residence has additional storage space on its ground floor along with a four-car garage.Agent Damon Warat said the house presented in “as new” condition, offering potential buyers nothing to do but move in. 18 Glyn St, CoorparooTo the front of the floor is a living room with Bose surround-sound speakers, with the space bordering a dining room with a vintage chandelier.More from newsCrowd expected as mega estate goes under the hammer7 Aug 2020Hard work, resourcefulness and $17k bring old Ipswich home back to life20 Apr 2020Adjoining the dining room is a kitchen with spacious benchtops, ample timber cabinetry, a tiled splashback and high-quality Miele and AEG appliances, including a built-in rangehood. Three bedrooms are spread across the upper level, including two with built-in wardrobes that share a modern bathroom with a separate bath.To the front of the house, the main bedroom has a bay window with bench seating, a walk-in wardrobe and an ensuite. 18 Glyn St, Coorparoo“Spread across two levels and offering more than enough room for the growing family this Coorparoo residence has it all,” Mr Warat said.“There’s also huge potential to build in, as you wish.”