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first_imgIn January, the PVK lowered the discount rate, or technischer Zins, applied to active members’ assets from 4% to 3.75% as an “urgently necessary measure to synchronise the parameters for calculating future pension payouts with the actual return expectations”, according to its 2012 annual report.As per January 2014, the fund wants to cut the technischer Zins by another 100 basis points to 2.75%.“This” it said, “would increase the underfunding to CHF341m and bring down the funding level to 84.5%.”City authorities explained that this step was necessary due to the “difficult situation on the capital markets”.After that, the fund will aim for 100% funding within the next “20 to 40 years”, with the cost being “fairly split” between employees and the public authorities, which are members of the fund.The measures to come into effect from 2015 are to include higher contributions as well as cuts in benefits.Fund members now have until 13 November to comment on the proposals.For more on public pension funds in Switzerland, see the December issue of IPE magazine. The PVK, the pension fund for the Swiss capital of Berne, has conceded that its new proposed recovery plan would set it back by another CHF240m (€195m).As per year-end 2012, the CHF1.8bn public pension fund had a 94.4% funding level.As part of the structural reform of the second-pillar pension system in Switzerland, which has been implemented over the last few years, public authorities have until the end of this year to decide whether to fund their pension funds fully within the next 10 years or leave them partially capitalised for several decades.The city of Berne has now decided to go with a part capitalisation and even increase the funding gap over the short term to further adapt its technical parameters.last_img read more


first_imgNorwegian municipalities Kristiansund and Eide have announced they are moving their pension schemes to Kommunal Landspensjonskasse (KLP), the country’s largest life insurance company.In two separate voluntary ex-ante transparency notices on the EU’s official tenders site TED, the local authorities – which both fall within Møre og Romsdal county in the northernmost part of Western Norway – said their new contracts with KLP would begin on 24 October.Up to now, both Kristiansund and Eide have used pensions providers DNB Liv or Storebrand for their staff pension schemes, but the two life insurers are now withdrawing from the public service pensions market in Norway.The municipalities announced the contract awards on the TED site, despite the fact there had been no competitive process. Kristiansund explained the lack of competition in its official notice: “Based on DNB and Storeband’s decision to withdraw from the market, and that per 1.10.2014 there are no new concession applications to be dealt with by the Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway, no service providers in Norway or the EEA area will be able to achieve a concession in sufficient time to be included in the competition in 2014.”Because of this, there is currently only one service provider available, and this is KLP.The Kristiansund pension scheme has a total value of NOK110m (€13m), and the Eide pension has assets of NOK18m.A spokesman for KLP said the company was taking on 58 local municipalities as pension clients this year, and that Kristiansund and Eide were two of them.KLP is now the only provider of insured local authority pension schemes, since the DNB Liv and Storebrand exits, he confirmed.Former public sector clients of DNB Liv and Storebrand do have the option, however, of setting up their own pension fund rather than passing the job to KLP, he said.More than 20 Norwegian municipalities, including the larger cities of Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, have their own schemes.Northern Norwegian local authority Tromsø recently announced it was establishing an independent pension fund.The KLP spokesman said there were around eight municipalities forced to leave DNB Liv and Storebrand that had yet to decide whether to join KLP or set up their own pension schemes.last_img read more


first_imgDespite the fact DA began with Webb’s Liberal Democrat team, he said the now entirely Conservative-led Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) could still move the policy forward.“It may not be the first priority – there are more pressing ones,” he said. “But departments can do things in parallel.”Webb said the CDC and DA policies were not academic exercises, and that, even with weaker trade unions than in the Netherlands – where the system was originally developed – there was still vital support for the system.“It was always for the long term, and that work will continue,” Webb told IPE.“The detailed work on producing regulations and consulting on them was always going to take a couple of years.”Support from the main trade unions was very helpful in pushing the policy forward, Webb said, as were industry participants “motivated to making it happen”.“It was not just an academic exercise or government putting out rules and regulations and then no one doing anything with it,” he said. “There are professional people in the industry, trade unions and others, who want to see something less volatile than individual DC, particularly in sectors DB-dominated.”In March, the DWP Select Committee, a group of MPs charged with scrutinising pensions policy, called for a halt on the diversion of government resources to the introduction of CDC.The committee said the government department should focus on completing the implementation of auto-enrolment and wait until the current DC market was operating effectively, before considering CDC.Webb, who also worked alongside the Conservative-run Treasury to implement the at-retirement freedoms in the individual DC market, said the government should keep a close eye on value for money and the practicalities of new products entering the market.He previously dismissed ideas on creating an at-retirement default withdrawal system, but conceded this may be necessary at a later retirement point.“It is good to give people financial flexibility in their early 60s, but the question is whether we want people to have to make active financial decisions throughout what could be a 30-year retirement,” he said. After the Conservative majority took office, Ros Altmann was named the new pensions minister after being given a peerage and a seat in the UK’s upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords. Former pensions minister Steve Webb has said his ambition to introduce collective defined contribution (CDC) schemes in the UK remains viable despite the Liberal Democrat MP no longer being in government.Webb was pensions minister in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition for five years before losing his parliamentary seat as the UK returned a Conservative majority government last month.Speaking on his ‘defined ambition’ (DA) project that saw legislation for the introduction of CDC schemes pass two months before his exit, Webb said it was a “slow burner” and that work could continue in his absence.Defined ambition originally included ideas to weaken the defined benefit (DB) regime or create DC schemes with guarantees before eventually settling on a new CDC system.last_img read more


first_imgHe said the market had tumbled, particularly at the end of the year, and that this had had an impact on the annual return.“In general, there were big swings throughout 2015,” Bache Vognbjerg said.Last December, the pension fund decided to outsource all of its asset management to US manager BlackRock, saying the deal would help it meet increased regulatory reporting demands, as well as generate returns and keep costs down.In other news, the Danish pension fund for lawyers and economists, JØP, said it produced a return of 3.9% in 2015 in a difficult market.In 2014, the pension fund made an 8% return. “The year’s result came particularly from a good return on Danish shares of 35%,” it said.Apart from this, European and Japanese equities contributed with a 10% return, and the pension fund’s investments in alternatives – property, infrastructure, private equity and alternative credit – drove the overall return up by almost DKK1bn.Government and corporate bonds produced a low return, on the other hand, as a result of historically low yields, as well as falling oil prices.Lastly, DIP, the pension fund for Danish engineers, reported it made a 5% return last year.DIP and JØP share a joint investment department, having announced plans to merge these operations three years ago.Last March, they announced they were also pooling their administration activities.Commenting on 2015 investment returns, in the same vein as JØP, DIP said Danish, European and Japanese shares, as well as alternatives, had done particularly well. The Danish Pension Fund for Pharmaconomists (Pensionskassen for Farmakonomer) has said it made a “modest” return of 2.4% in 2015, after markets tumbled at the end of the year.However, the DKK10bn (€1.3bn) scheme said members’ pension savings would be credited with a 4.5% return for the year, including the investment return and part of the equity capital belonging to members in the mutual scheme.The 2.4% investment return compares with the 9.7% generated in 2014.Peter Bache Vognbjerg, director of the scheme, said: “Low oil prices and political turmoil elsewhere in the world helped determine the return.”last_img read more


first_imgGerman industries should be free to introduce auto-enrolment into any industry-wide pension agreement, according to Peter Hanau, professor at the University of Cologne, and Marco Arteaga, a lawyer at DLA Piper.They should also be allowed to use existing vehicles for arrangements set down in collective bargaining agreements, foregoing the obligation to set up industry-wide schemes.These are two of the main findings of a study authored by Hanau and Arteaga and published recently by BMAS, Germany’s labour ministry.BMAS commissioned the study in December last year to look into the ministry’s proposal on the possible introduction of industry-wide pension plans – dubbed §17b-plans, relating to the legal paragraph that would have to be created to define them.  In their 90-page study, the experts agree with the ministry that industry-wide pension arrangements could help increase the number of participants in pension plans – especially if the auto-enrolment option is introduced.In contrast to the ministry’s proposal, however, the academics see little need for the creation of industry-wide pension vehicles.They said existing solutions including Pensionskassen, Pensionsfonds and insurance-linked Direktversicherungen could continue to serve as pension plans for companies that are part of an industry-wide pension arrangement.All pension plans made under this new regime should be based on a defined ambition model, with a guaranteed base pension and possible top-ups.These pension promises should be covered against employer insolvency in a separate fund within the current PSV lifeboat scheme for those companies that still lack insolvency protection.Germany’s pensions industry is still poring over the full proposal, but the retirement provision association aba has already published a first reaction, welcoming “the general direction” of the study and the 200-page study on tax incentives in the second pillar. (summary in German) Heribert Karch, chairman at the aba, said it was good the studies called for “an increase in institutionalisation instead of individualisation”.He also welcomed the proposal for auto-enrolment to be included in industry-wide pension arrangements because “industries could choose to include whole groups of people without the need for any state control.” “It is impossible,” he added, “to increase participation of industries or companies if the framework remains too complex for medium-sized enterprises, or if employees are facing the threat of only getting out what they paid in.”According to Karch, the study on tax incentives, commissioned by the finance ministry at the beginning last year to help increase SME participation in the second pillar, is “a first step” in the direction of simplification.  The authors – academics from the University of Würzburg, including professor Dirk Kiesewetter – say companies with fewer than 20 employees should be given a discount on costs for occupational pensions.Further, employers should be obliged to top-up employees’ deferred contribution plans, or Entgeltumwandlung.They also strongly recommended the government launch information campaigns on supplementary pensions to raise awareness among the public and companies.last_img read more


first_imgThe Dutch pensions sector is resisting proposals to publish details about individual organisations unearthed during supervisory surveys.Responding to a consultation on legal proposals aimed at increasing transparency in financial markets, the Dutch Pensions Federation, asset managers and insurers argued the move could be counterproductive.The proposed legislation would allow De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) and AFM to mention the names of individual organisations when publishing results of surveys comparing performance.Those surveyed would be notified of the release of such information at least five days in advance, allowing the affected organisation to lodge an appeal. DNB regularly conducts surveys, for example examining IT, outsourcing of asset management and board quality, whereas AFM has looked into investment costs and the accuracy of the uniform pensions statement (UPO).The regulators have also jointly surveyed pension funds’ communication policy.The proposed legislation would also allow the regulators to publicly respond to comments about supervision.Currently, they can only confirm or deny, but are barred from publishing other confidential information.The proposed transparency is also meant to encourage financial organisations to improve their performance and to help consumers reach decisions.In a statement for IPE’s sister publication Pensioen Pro, a spokesman for the Pensions Federation said that the legislation could make pension funds reluctant in sharing information.“The proposals only seem to focus on transparency, but lack the arguments why they would improve supervision,” he said.In its response, the industry organisation noted that the consultation largely seemed to target commercial players, and that it lacked concrete text proposals for pension funds.The Dutch Fund and Asset Management Association (Dufas) said it expected the legislation to result in a “fear culture”.“Naming an individual company should, because of its large impact, be a measure of last resort ” it argued.The Association of Insurers (VvV) emphasised that theme surveys are meant to provide insight for the supervisor and that they should not be used for the purpose of enforcement.Eumedion, the Dutch corporate governance and sustainability forum for institutional investors, suggested that the watchdogs publish examples of best practice rather than exposing companies for unfavourable practices.By contrast, the securities owners association (VEB) said it welcomed the proposals, arguing that transparency would have a preventative effect and would also force financial companies to quickly take measures for improvement.It added that reports of company-specific surveys contain “very relevant” information for investors and other financial consumers.last_img read more


first_imgA spokesperson for Tata Steel said the company “continues to be in active dialogue and engagement with all relevant stakeholders to develop options to support a sustainable future for the business and find a solution to address the costs, risks and volatilities of the British Steel Pension Scheme and the risks this brings to the future of the Tata Steel UK business”.The spokesperson added: “These discussions are currently ongoing with stakeholders, as it is important to continue to explore viable alternatives for the scheme.”The Trustee of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) said it “is aware that Tata Steel UK intends to consult with its employees on proposals for future pension provision”. “Timing of the consultation is a matter for TSUK and its trade unions,” it said. “Under the terms of the current recovery plan, the next payment of £60 million is due on or by 31 March 2017. This payment is not affected by the company’s consultation and would remain due. The same applies to the final recovery plan payment of £65m due on or by 31 March 2018.”  It noted that the current recovery plan was agreed as part of the actuarial valuation as at 31 March 2014 and that the next actuarial valuation of the scheme is as at 31 March 2017.Alex Flynn, head of media at Unite, the UK’s biggest workers union, urged Tata Steel not to be hasty with a decision on the pension’s future.“What we’ve said to the company consistently is we cannot make an informed decision – and they should not make a formal decision – until the fund’s valuation next year so we can assess what that deficit is,” he said.“The company needs to be very clear with the unions, the workforce and pensioners, as we will be seeking detail on this.“Tata should stand by its promises and shouldn’t pull the rug from under the people who have paid into their pensions every year.”Referring to reports that Tata is looking to close the scheme before making the £60m payment, Labour MP Stephen Kinnock said it would be “an absolute disgrace” if it were to do so.Closing the scheme would help to limit future increases in liabilities.In its 2016 annual report and accounts, the British Steel fund said it was “likely that it will not be possible to find a new employer wishing to take on the scheme in its current form, and that the scheme would be required to go into the PPF”.However, until a bankruptcy event occurs, the fund cannot enter the lifeboat fund’s assessment period. The £14.9bn (€17.3bn) British Steel Pension Fund could close to future accruals as its sponsor seeks an exit from the UK market, according to media reports.The Financial Times has cited sources claiming Tata Steel wants to shut the fund fully, with a formal consultation said to be pencilled in for the end of this month.A Reuters report cites a union source as saying Tata is looking to close the defined benefit scheme to future accruals and move members to a defined contribution scheme.The British Steel fund had an estimated funding shortfall of £1.5bn, according to a government consultation launched in May. However, IPE understands this has been almost completely eroded by investment gains over the summer to just £50m on a technical provisions basis as of mid-October.last_img read more


first_imgLast December, 195 states signed the Paris Agreement, which set out that the global rise in temperature should be kept well below 2°C, and that countries should try to limit the increase to 1.5°C. AP2 said this pact had bolstered its view that society was now at the beginning of a transition to a low-carbon economy – and that this made it more and more important that climate factors were embedded into risk assessments, as well as investment decisions.Eva Halvarsson, chief executive at AP2, said: “To be able to assess our portfolio, we need to have an idea of what the target looks like, as well as metrics that can be used for assessment.”She said this was exactly why the fund was constantly working on these matters, and that the publication was meant to give insight into AP2’s work in this area.The latest 10 stocks to be divested are in the power utility sector, and the decision to sell them off was made as a result of a follow-up analysis of financial climate risks in this industry.The original work was conducted in 2015 and pinpointed 28 firms for divestment that derived a significant portion of profits mainly from coal-fired electricity generation.The Swedish pension fund said climate issues – and climate change in particular – presented huge risks, as well as big opportunities, for a long-term investor such as AP2. Sweden’s second national pensions buffer fund, AP2, has divested 10 more of the stocks it holds on the grounds of financial climate risk, bringing the total number of holdings sold off for this reason to 76, it said, on releasing a publication outlining its approach to the transition towards a low-carbon economy.In the report, the SEK300bn (€30.6bn) fund says a long-term, responsible approach to the environment, ethics and corporate management increases the value of the companies and that pushing forward with sustainability issues will have a positive impact on its returns.AP2 said it aimed to develop its portfolio in line with the 2°C target of the Paris Agreement because climate change was likely to have a big effect on long-term returns.It said it would achieve this by integrating climate analysis into its investment process.last_img read more


first_imgEight Italian pension funds have formed a partnership to target investments in illiquid asset classes, IPE has learned.Assofondipensione, the Italian association of industry-wide pension funds, known as ‘fondi negoziali’, is spearheading the initiative, which will be the first of its kind in the country.The funds formally met in Rome earlier this month to seal the partnership, and will meet again this week to iron out the first technical details, according to Giovanni Maggi, president of Assofondipensione. They will discuss the timing and process for selecting an adviser to aid the funds through the fund selection process.The initiative, launched by three relatively small funds – Arco, Prevedi and Concreto, which have around €1.5bn of assets between them – was later enlarged to include other larger funds, which have yet to be named. The details of the asset classes and fund types that the partners will seek out have yet to be decided. However, they are understood to be targeting investments in private debt, private equity, infrastructure and real estate.“We want to send a signal that funds can work together and play to their strengths in a complicated phase for financial markets”Giovanni Maggi, AssofondipensioneMaggi told IPE: “The association has been working on a system-wide initiative for nearly two years. Following from the input of Arco, Prevedi and Concreto, we have involved all its members in a transparent and direct discussion.“We have found eight investors that are willing to move forward with a partnership. The project has now gone live. The partnership is open and more investors are welcome to join.“The objective is pooling assets, in order to present a stronger business case to asset managers and enhance the governance of investments. We also want to send a signal that funds can work together and play to their strengths in a complicated phase for financial markets.”Calls for collaboration between fondi negoziali had been made repeatedly in Italy in recent years by authoritative voices in the industry, including pension fund regulator Covip. So far, funds had been reluctant to act, but this initiative signalled a possible step change. “This is the first initiative of its kind and could constitute a model for future partnerships where funds can work together to create strong synergies,” Maggi said.Investment rules clarifiedThe establishment of the partnership follows a ruling earlier this year from Covip that paved the way for investment in closed-end funds by industry-wide pension schemes. While investment in closed-end funds was never formally prohibited by the regulatory framework, Covip clarified certain aspects of the framework, thus making investment in closed-end funds significantly easier.Covip asked pension funds to adapt their investment policy documents to reflect the updated rules on investment in closed-end funds. Investment policies are reviewed every three years and most pension funds will be updating them throughout the course of next year.  Assofondipensioni member institutions, while not the fastest-growing type of pension funds in the country, represent the bedrock of Italy’s second-pillar pension system. They are the only category of not-for-profit, second-pillar funds not linked to individual sponsors.There are 31 fondi negoziali, all of which are defined contribution-based. At Covip’s last count, the funds had just shy of €50bn of assets under management and 2.8m members. Both assets and members grew nearly 8% between 2017 and 2016.More than two-thirds of their assets are invested in government bonds and liquid corporate bonds, while around 20% is invested in equities, according to Covip. A minor amount is currently invested in illiquid asset classes.last_img read more


first_imgThe UK’s asset management trade body has thrown its weight behind a national effort to improve diversity and inclusion in workplaces.In a report published today – ‘Black Voices: Building black representation in investment management’ – the Investment Association (IA) said fewer than 1% of asset managers in the UK identified as black, African or Caribbean.The report set out 10 steps companies could take to improve opportunities for black employees, including “modernising” recruitment policies to ensure people from a range of backgrounds were considered.Chris Cummings, chief executive of the IA, said: “Diversity makes us all stronger. Different voices, opinions and experiences help investment performance, widening horizons and discouraging group think. And we need to be connected with all our clients. Just as our customers come from all ethnic backgrounds, so should our people. “Building a diverse and inclusive industry requires self-reflection and honesty. This report seeks to do that by giving a voice to black people who have not previously always been heard.“Our industry now has an opportunity to lead from the front in being a catalyst for social change, not just in our own investment houses but well beyond too. We must seize it.” “It has long been taboo to discuss ethnicity, yet change can only come about once we have these conversations”Justin Onuekwusi, LGIMThe IA’s report also recommended that companies adopt mentoring or talent development programmes to “give younger staff the confidence and support needed to excel and feel less isolated”. Firms could also support “black networks” to help people discover new opportunities and connect with role models within organisations.It also advocated “unconscious bias training” for managers and recruitment staff, but added that “a deeper, more integrated approach to inclusion is a useful next step”.The report was produced in collaboration with the Diversity Project and #talkaboutblack, a nationwide initiative designed to encourage discussions about issues affecting ethnic minorities.Justin Onuekwusi, head of retail multi-asset funds at Legal & General Investment Management, said: “While ethnic minorities are generally under-represented across the asset management industry, the issue becomes all the more pressing when we consider how few employees, especially those in senior leadership, are black.“It has long been taboo to discuss ethnicity, yet change can only come about once we have these conversations. We created #talkaboutblack as a platform to not only discuss the challenges faced by our black colleagues, but to also come up with solutions.“This is leading to tangible action and gives us a real opportunity to make the lasting change that we hope can inspire the next generation of aspiring black asset and investment management professionals.”The report comes a year after the Investment Association launched a video designed to counter young people’s often-negative sterotypes of the sector.The IA’s Black Voices report is available here.The IA’s report in numbers23.1% Black workers with degrees earned 23.1% less on average than white workers with similar qualifications.5.7% of African, Caribbean or black people surveyed were working as managers, directors or senior officials – compared to 10.7% of white people.43% of 1,000 people from ethnic minorities living in the UK said they had been overlooked for a job or promotion unfairly in the past five years. This is twice the figure for white workers.12% of the same 1,000 people said they had suffered racist language directed at them in the past month alone.2% of 3,755 investment staff surveyed by the Diversity Project were from African or Caribbean backgrounds.<1% of 650 investment managers featured in the Diversity Project’s research identified as black, African, Caribbean, or Black British.last_img read more