A European institutional investor is looking to appoint an asset manager to a $500m (€362m) senior infrastructure debt mandate, using IPE-Quest.The investor behind search QN1405 said that it would consider infrastructure debt investments up to $100m as part of the mandate, with total investible assets of at least, but not limited to, $500m.It will consider exposure to infrastructure debt in all OECD member states, excluding Latin American and far east Asian natons. However, debt investments in the Australian market are possible, but no more than a quarter of the total mandate should be deployed within the country. All investments should have a duration of at least seven years, with a maximum 25% exposure to any greenfield developments.Interested managers have until 30 April to submit proposals through IPE-Quest.The IPE.com news team is unable to answer any further questions about IPE-Quest tender notices to protect the interests of clients conducting the search. To obtain information directly from IPE-Quest, please contact Jayna Vishram on +44 (0) 20 3465 9330 or email [email protected]
The resolution was driven by the £170bn (€139.8bn) “Aiming for A” investor coalition, led by charity fund manager CCLA, and including the LAPFF and church investment bodies such as the Church of England Pension Board.“Aiming for A” was launched in 2012 as a new investor initiative to engage on climate and carbon risk with the ten largest extractives and utilities companies in the FTSE 100. Its name is taken from the highest rating (A) of CDP – formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project – an NGO that rates the performance of global companies on climate and environmental matters. In the run-up to BP’s AGM, more pension funds and managers declared their support, including APG, the UK’s Universities Superannuation Scheme, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), Schroders, AXA Investment Managers and, in its first public declaration of voting intentions, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global.Edward Mason, head of responsible investment at the Church Commissioners, said: “The ‘Aiming for A’ coalition’s engagement with BP has prompted an unprecedented response by an oil and gas major and its institutional investors.“BP’s commitment to increased disclosure on its climate change strategy will set a new standard and is a significant development in the relationship between institutional shareholders and the oil and gas industry on sustainability.” Paul Dickinson, chairman, CDP argued that ensuring management took account of climate issues was part of “sound financial management”.“For institutional investors this was not just a vote about climate, but about transparency, accountability and financial logic.”He added: “Today was a landmark day. Investors and companies around the world were watching. And the hard work continues.”Earlier this week the UK’s Wellcome Trust, the country’s largest charitable trust, had also pledged its support for the resolution, with director Jeremy Farrar arguing that wholesale divestment of fossil fuel companies was not necessarily the best way to help reduce carbon emissions.In a blog on the Trust’s website, Farrar argued that the institutional community’s influence was most powerful when boards heard similar messages from numerous shareholders.“Divestment would remove a strong voice that takes climate seriously from these coalitions of persuasion, with no likelihood that those to whom we sell our shares would engage the same way.”The “Aiming for A” coalition said it will continue to attend AGMs this year to ask questions of the other UK-listed companies with whom it is engaging.The board of Royal Dutch Shell has recommended that investors back a similar resolution at the company’s AGM on 19 May. BP’s shareholders have voted overwhelmingly for a resolution at its AGM calling for increased disclosure on the company’s climate change strategy.At least 98% of shareholdings were approved the resolution ‘Strategic resilience for 2035 and beyond’, which BP’s board endorsed earlier this year after it was filed by a coalition of institutions that included several of Sweden’s AP funds and the UK’s Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF).As a result, the company’s annual reporting will now be significantly expanded, with additional transparency around operational emissions management; asset portfolio resilience against 2035 scenarios; low carbon energy R&D and investment; executive incentivisation during the low carbon transition; and public policy activity relating to climate change.Over 50 institutions worth €209bn co-filed the shareholder resolution, including eight pension funds with assets of over $15bn (€12.3bn) such as Ilmarinen, the UK local authority schemes for Greater Manchester, West Midlands, West Yorkshire and three AP funds.
Mario Draghi has defended the European Central Bank’s (ECB) activist monetary policy, insisting it has not damaged pension funds and is, in fact, likely to lead to increased contribution and savings rates.The president of the ECB defended its policy of quantitative easing (QE) but said the institution would be wary of keeping interest rates at their current low level for too long.In a speech in Washington DC at the IMF, Draghi said he accepted that continued low interest rates could have “undesirable consequences” for economies with ageing populations, as it could not only lead to lower consumption over the lifetime of QE but over the saver and pension fund member’s lifetime.“For pensioners, and for those saving ahead of retirement, low interest rates may not be an inducement to bring consumption forward,” he said. “They may on the contrary become an inducement to save more, to compensate for a slower rate of accumulation of pension assets.”His comments contrast with warnings from industry association PensionsEurope, which recently said pension funds risked becoming “collateral damage” as QE progressed.Peter Borgdorff, director of Dutch healthcare scheme PFZW, has said his fund also raised concerns with Klaas Knot, Dutch representative on the ECB governing council, but that the council “did not listen”. Draghi argued that, even where QE was seeing savings eroded, it would not be in the “genuine interest” of savers if the ECB decided to give up on its mandate of a 2% inflation target.“On the contrary, the interest of long-term savers is that output be raised to potential without undue delay,” he said.“This is because their financial assets are always, in the final analysis, a claim on the wealth generated by the productive part of the economy.”He argued that it was in pension funds’ interest to see continued growth, as it increases the likelihood benefits can be paid in full.“At the same time, the more monetary policy is able to encourage investment, the faster interest rates will return into more normal territory,” he said.Draghi argued that a series of unconventional measures – the most recent of which was the launch of QE in March – had been required to stave off a period of low inflation.“Those measures have proven so far to be potent, more so than many observers anticipated,” he said.“But their potency is also because they have interacted with other policies that have put the economy and the financial sector in a better position to respond to our monetary impulses.”Dragi’s insistence that QE has not harmed European pension investors stands in stark contrast to rising liabilities and deficits, with both German airline Lufthansa and Bank of Ireland’s Irish defined benefit funds seeing a significant increase since the beginning of the year. Dutch actuaries have also warned that the low interest rates could see the cost of pensions rise by 10%.
One of the foreign experts in the EU’s twinning project with Azerbaijan to set up funded elements in the pension system has voiced concerns over the sustainability of the exercise.Dace Brencēna, chief executive at SEB’s Latvian pension fund, told IPE the project was “on time and on track”, with a legal framework for the new pension system already being drafted.However, she also voiced concern that the funded elements introduced might “not grow very fast to begin with because they are purely voluntary”.“It will take some time – especially in Azerbaijan, where long-term savings are not that well known, where even life insurance contracts are only tax-incentivised for three years,” she said. In 2013, Azerbaijan and the European Union signed agreements for a twinning project, funded by the EU, to establish a funded non-state second pillar.Azerbaijan aims to develop a funded element within the national pension system and promote a market for private pensions through the creation of a legal framework for non-state pension funds.Latvia and Germany have been twinned with the country to “enhance capacity of the State Social Protection Fund of Azerbaijan (SSPF) to establish the regulatory, legal and administrative framework for the introduction of a funded element in the insurance-pension system and the establishment of non-state pension”, according to a 2014 mission statement.However, Brencēna argued that the Azerbaijan government was “not ready to promise any contribution matching at the moment” but would would use tax incentives to get people to make additional payments to the state pension fund.According to Brencēna, the SSPF will manage the assets in-house, which will make it the second major institutional investor in the country after the €27bn state oil fund.As for the second pillar, providers will be able to set up pension funds as soon as the legal framework is finalised, which might happen by the end of the year.Those funds will then be open to employers and employees – but again without a mandatory element.Brencēna confirmed that all EU directives on pension funds would be included in the new Azerbaijan pension laws to make the system compatible with those in EU countries.To learn more about the pension project in Azerbaijan, click here
The PiS government’s electoral promises included a significant increase in social and other expenditures, including a monthly PLN500 (€115) subsidy for every second and subsequent child designed to boost the country’s current low birthrate.Kwiatkowska regards the government’s assumptions on increased revenues from tax increases as optimistic.“Selling off OFE assets in tranches would enable the government to ‘patch up’ the budget over the next few years,” she explained.Other market analysts have also pointed to the OFE’s vulnerability as a result of the PiS’s spending plans.The brokerage PKO Dom Maklerski, which in its 2016 CEE strategy paper estimates that the budget deficit will rise from a projected 2.9% of GDP in 2016 to 3.2% in 2017, cites an overhaul of the OFE system as a means for the government to avoid breaching the EU’s 3% deficit limit.In addition to budgetary constraints, Kwiatkowska points to the antagonism expressed by PiS politicians towards the current private pension system, which comes up for its statutory three-year review in the second half of 2016.PiS politicians have proposed extending the choice between OFEs and the first-pillar Polish Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) to cover a member’s entire savings, not just annual contributions, as is the case now.Meanwhile, as dictated by the 2014 reforms, Poles have their next opportunity to choose whether to direct their contribution of 2.92% of gross wages to the OFEs or ZUS in April-July 2016.Unlike the previous window in 2014, the OFEs will no longer be banned from advertising over this period as a result of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling in November 2015, but they still face an uphill task given last year’s Polish stock market slump.The reforms’ removal of all sovereign bonds from OFE portfolios essentially converted them into equity funds with highly volatile results and negative 12-month returns in 2015.“The OFEs were created as balanced funds, which, thanks to the relatively high share of bonds in the portfolio, generated a fairly stable rate of return,” Kwiatkowska said.“This change is a kind of breach of contract, and members of the fund were unprepared for such an OFE investment profile. Therefore, we believe many of them will opt for ZUS.”She added that the Tribunal’s judgement ruling that the sovereign bond removal complied with the constitution opens the way for the government to take further steps.PKO Dom Maklerski has a similarly downbeat outlook, noting that there are no optimistic scenarios for the OFEs.For instance, the “slider” under which those with 10 or fewer years left to retirement have their OFE savings transferred to ZUS under the current legislation would see an accelerated asset depletion if the PiS’s proposal to reverse the previous government’s retirement-age increase becomes law.The brokerage also suggests the slider could be lengthened to 15 years before retirement.Its most pessimistic scenarios include ZUS ending up with 75% of OFE assets.In such a case, one risk is that international index compilers may question whether such assets should be treated as being in free float, and lower Poland’s weighting in international indices accordingly. The future for Poland’s voluntary second-pillar funds (OFEs) under the Law and Justice (PiS) party elected in October 2015 looks increasingly grim, with some market players forecasting a rapid demise.The Polish private equity and equity mutual fund company Towarzystwo Funduszy Inwestycyjnych Capital Partners (TFI CP) maintains that the system will be liquidated in the coming two years and is adjusting its portfolios accordingly.Joanna Kwiatkowska, a member of the management board and portfolio manager at TFI CP, said: “We see the final dismantling of the OFEs as a significant risk factor for the Polish equity market that we take into account when constructing our fund portfolios.“We avoid companies in which the OFEs have a significant stake.”
The PLSA is now considering advising its members to take a harder line if the current trend of controversial pay awards continues into the AGM season.“Most pension funds,” Hildyard said, “are very concerned with the levels of CEO pay we are seeing, and there is certainly a chance investors may use the binding votes next year to get their message across.”Common-sense checkThe tough stand taken by investors against some of UK’s largest companies comes after a period of turbulence in the financial markets, hit by falling oil and commodity prices resulting in thousands of jobs being axed in that sector.Nearly 60% of BP shareholders voted against a £13.8m (€18.1m) pay deal for boss Bob Dudley. The advisory vote came as BP shed thousands of jobs across the company. Mining company Anglo American also faced a 41.3% of shareholder dissent over its remuneration report, which included a £3.4m pay for its chief executive.Investors are also up in arms over advertising firm WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell’s expected £70m payout. Advisory firms ShareSoc and PIRC have urged shareholders to vote against Sorrell’s proposed pay at the company’s annual general meeting on 8 June. PIRC said in its research report that Sorrel’s variable pay amounted to 58 times his salary of £1.1m.Deborah Gilshan, head of sustainable ownership at Railpen Investments, said companies needed to apply a “common-sense check” to pay policy.“Some of the pay packages we see in the market do worry us,” she said. “Companies need to apply the pay policy investors have voted for, but they also need to apply discretion around the edges to really look at those outcomes.”She added: “There is also the fact these outcomes don’t seem to be aligned with the interest of long-term shareholders and stakeholders like customers and employees.”Railpen Investments is the investment manager for the Railways Pension Scheme, which has around £22bn in assets under management.Another significant investor revolt has been at engineering group Weir, which lost a binding vote on its pay policy, meaning it will now have to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative plan.Pharmaceutical company Shire, too, received a bloody nose with its advisory pay policy just squeezing through, with only 50.5% of shareholder approval.Railpen’s Gilshan said: “What you have seen with some of these votes against is perhaps where shareholder patience has run out and where remuneration committees need to listen a bit more to what they are hearing from investors in private dialogues and to what shareholders are signalling through their votes.”Pension funds are still smarting from criticism, following the financial crisis, that they did not demand more accountability, through their fund managers, from the companies in which they invest. New rules, which gave investors a binding vote on pay, were introduced in 2013 by then business secretary Vince Cable.The current shareholder backlash comes a few years after the so-called Shareholder Spring of 2012, which led to some high-profile resignations.‘Acid test’ for investorsDaniel Summerfield, co-head of responsible investment at USS, the UK’s second-largest pension scheme, said the binding vote that many companies faced next year would be the “acid test” for investors.“The last time we had the Shareholder Spring, we didn’t have the binding vote,” he said. “So this is the acid test where, if shareholders are really concerned about the pay structures and pay proposals, the way the vote will be cast will have more bite than previous initiatives. Shareholders can vote against policies they don’t agree with.”Railpen’s Gilshan said the key was for companies to listen to what shareholders were actually telling them and act accordingly.“Shareholders are stepping up, and boards have to step up, too, and listen and apply some of that feedback they are receiving as they go into 2017’s binding votes,” she added.Summerfield agreed: “If companies take note – which they should – of the increasing expectations of shareholders for pay to be aligned with performance, then our hope is that policies will ensure pay is aligned with the accretion of long-term shareholder value.” UK pension funds are planning to take a tougher line with recalcitrant companies that award excessive salaries to their executives, as a raft of blue-chip firms have come under fire in recent weeks over executive pay.As companies such as BP, Anglo American, WPP, Reckitt Benckiser, Weir, Shire and Standard Chartered face a sharp backlash over their pay awards, pension funds are warning of an even fierier AGM season next year as many companies come up for their triennial binding votes on their remuneration policies.While remuneration packages at most companies were advisory this year, many companies face a binding shareholder vote next year that normally takes place once every three years.Luke Hildyard, policy lead for stewardship and corporate governance at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) said: “There is a worry companies are bit tone-deaf to shareholder concerns and, indeed, wider societal concerns.”
The FSB said its final policy recommendations deviated from its June 2016 proposals in a few ways to reflect responses to its consultation.“Among other things,” it said, “the recommendations on liquidity have been revised to encourage authorities to develop consistent reporting requirements, to better distinguish the information that is useful to authorities and investors, and to emphasise the exploratory nature of system-wide stress testing at this time.“The purposes and uses of leverage measures also have been clarified.”The FSB said it also clarified the circumstances where authorities could consider providing specific guidance to facilitate the use of exceptional liquidity management tools to include, for example, when there is a market dislocation or overall market stress. ‘Bad policy’ warningIn a statement, Paul Schott Stevens, president and chief executive at the Investment Company Institute (ICI), which represents investment funds in the US and around the world, said the FSB had made “some helpful changes”.He also welcomed the FSB charging the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) with evaluating the recommendations and considering next steps.He said the ICI remained troubled, however, that the report continued to “perpetuate the FSB’s flawed assumptions about liquidity risk management by open-ended funds”.Angus Canvin, senior adviser at the Investment Association (IA) in the UK, told IPE the association had “minor quibbles” with some of the recommendations, but that, “in the big scheme of things”, the association was “broadly speaking happy with where the FSB has landed”, as this was a major improvement on where the FSB began its work on asset management two years ago.The “best bit”, he said, was the role assigned to IOSCO, as this is “where the expertise concerning our industry really lies”.However, like the ICI, the IA remains concerned the FSB has said it would resume its work on methodologies that could lead to asset managers being designated G-SIFIs like banks and insurers.The IA believes these methodologies are “fundamentally misconceived”, according to Canvin.“Policy made on that basis will be bad policy we think,” he said. “It’s frustrating to us, and we regret that the FSB has said it will go back to this discredited methodology.”The ICI’s Stevens also lamented the FSB’s plans to continue its work on methodologies to identify non-bank non-insurance G-SIFIs (NBNI G-SIFIs).“If the FSB engages in an evidence-based analysis, we believe the FSB will conclude – at a minimum – that there is no basis for considering regulated funds and their managers for possible G-SIFI designation,” he said. The Financial Stability Board (FSB) has set out its final policy recommendations for tackling structural weak spots in asset management activities, making some welcome changes but also frustrating some in the industry by deciding to pursue work that could lead to asset managers being deemed “systemically important”.The Basel-based FSB has been examining the asset management sector since 2015 due to concerns its growth, alongside trends such as increased investment in illiquid assets, could pose a danger to financial stability.It made policy recommendations to tackle “structural vulnerabilities” of asset management activities in June last year, covering risks such as liquidity mismatches in open-ended funds and leverage within investment funds.The FSB, with other international bodies, has been considering designating asset managers as globally systemically financial institutions (G-SIFIs) alongside banks and insurers but delayed a decision on this until after its work on the structural vulnerabilities of asset managers was completed.
*The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), and European Banking Authority (EBA) “This approach does not entail a general forbearance,” they said.To meet the new rules pension funds and other institutions have to update legal documentation such as credit support annexes (CSAs), contracts covering derivatives arrangements between counterparties. There are thousands of such documents in existence covering derivatives trades in funds and liability-driven investment strategies.PensionsEurope welcomed the announcement by the ESAs, saying that getting the documentation in place by the March deadline was “a significant challenge” and that pension funds and their service providers in many countries were struggling to do so.Úrsula Bordas, policy advisor at the trade association, said: “A strict interpretation of the compliance rule would mean that many pension funds would have a limited access to liquidity as they would have a limited number of banks with whom to trade and this could significantly impact their ability to hedge risks.”PensionsEurope “hopes national authorities will further explain their approach to compliance for the next months to pension funds and their service providers”, she added.A head of clearing at a European bank told IPE that, if a pension fund or any other financial institution was not able to get new CSAs in place in time, “it looks as though [it] will be left up to individual counterparties to decide if they want to cease trading, and how forgiving their supervisor will be if they don’t”.The picture was mixed as to how supervisors would proceed, and some sort of materiality would be considered, the banker added.The ESAs said national regulators should “take into account the size of the exposure to the counterparty plus its default risk” when making enforcement decisions. The UK regulator set out its approach to enforcement, or “supervision of firms’ progress”, in a statement yesterday.The banker cited an expectation that, at best, 50% of agreements will be re-negotiated and in place by the March deadline, leaving “a significant gap still to be re-negotiated”.The ESAs did not hide their displeasure at having to make yesterday’s announcement, noting that “[t]he timeline for implementation has been known in EU since 2015, and it is unfortunate that the financial industry has not managed to prepare for the implementation”.“Furthermore, a delay of 9 months was already granted by BSBC-IOSCO in 2015 on the basis of similar arguments from the industry,” they added. “That delay was agreed with the clear expectation that the financial industry would be ready to prepare the implementation within two years.”The ESAs’ announcement comes after the US derivatives regulator earlier this month issued a “no action” letter, providing a grace period on the collateral rule. In their statement, the ESAs noted that they have no mandate to disapply directly applicable EU law.US regulators and IOSCO, the international umbrella organisation for securities regulators, also made announcements yesterday acknowledging that industry may not be able to complete the necessary documentation to be able to fully comply with the variation margin requirements by the scheduled deadline of 1 March. Both agreed that there should be some leeway.Pension funds recently obtained an extension of their exemption from a requirement to centrally clear OTC derivatives, with this now lasting until August 2018. Pension funds and other financial institutions look set for potential reprieve from strict enforcement of new derivatives rules following an announcement by the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) yesterday.The statement concerns a 1 March deadline for rules requiring variation margin to be posted as collateral to cover counterparty risk in non-cleared, over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives.In a joint statement, the ESAs* said they “have been made aware of operational challenges” in meeting the deadline. Although they did not explicitly refer to small pension funds, they noted that smaller counterparties in particular were having difficulties.They effectively granted national regulators discretion not to strictly enforce compliance with the new rules, saying that they can assess “the degree of compliance and progress” on a case-by-case basis.
The Netherlands’ economic affairs minister Henk Kamp has said he will consult Dutch pension funds about increasing their local investments.Answering questions from Martin van Rooijen, MP for 50Plus, the Dutch political party for the elderly, Kamp suggested that such a change wouldn’t have to come at the expense of returns.According to the minister, pension funds invest just 2% in the Netherlands at the moment, whereas insurers invest 30% locally.He emphasised the importance of a strong economic structure for society, “as pension funds’ participants will also benefit from this”. He added that he wanted to engage with pension funds “without rules, pressure, or threat”.Van Rooijen’s questions were triggered by a recent TV appearance by Kamp, during which the minister talked about pension funds’ position in the Dutch economy.In Kamp’s opinion, pension schemes could play a “stabilising role in the volatile international economy” through investing in Dutch multinational companies.“It would make me feel very comfortable if pension funds would not only focus on returns but at the same time take into account results that would also benefit the Netherlands,” the minister explained.However, Van Rooijen said the comments sounded like an encouragement to pension funds to deviate from their main goal of investing in the interest of their participants and pensioners.The economic affairs minister also made the comparison between pension funds’ and insurers’ domestic allocations when the Dutch Investment Institute (NLII) was established in 2014.At the time, he suggested that pension funds should be able to increase their investments in the Netherlands by “more than one percentage point”.In the past, Dutch investment professionals have not been enthusiastic about increasing local investments.For example, speaking during the Pension Federation’s congress in 2013, Toine van der Stee, chief executive of the €20bn asset manager Blue Sky Group, said that his company would not change its carefully designed investment policy “because politics deem it necessary”.“We are not a philantropic institution. Our task is to offer purchasing power for the participants of our clients,” he said.
He oversaw an overhaul of the scheme’s investment strategy that placed more emphasis on liability-matching assets, shifting away from an allocation of roughly 70% in equities.Rolls-Royce said its scheme ranked in the top 4% of UK pension funds for investment performance over 10, 20 and 30 years to 31 March 2016.“Paul’s leadership was pivotal in overseeing the successful implementation and further development of the new liability-matching strategy which was a bold change in direction, but which has since become the benchmark for effective risk management of pension schemes,” said Joel Griffin, head of pensions at Rolls-Royce. “It was crucial in protecting the funding position of Rolls-Royce’s pensions through the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent period of declining yields which have caused so many pension schemes’ funding positions to suffer.”In addition to the investment changes, Spencer’s trustee board pushed through a restructure of the company’s UK pension arrangements, merging four schemes into one and sealing a £1.1bn buyout deal to transfer the Vickers Pension Scheme to Legal & General a year ago.Griffin said Spencer was leaving the scheme “in an exceptionally strong position”. Paul Spencer, chair of Rolls-Royce’s £13bn (€14.7bn) UK pension scheme, is to retire from the role he has held since 2008.The sponsoring employer announced that Liz Airey was to take over from Spencer as chair of the scheme’s board of trustees at the end of this year.Airey is currently non-executive chair of Jupiter Fund Management and a former chair of the Unilever UK Pension Scheme.When Spencer arrived at Rolls-Royce the scheme had roughly £4.5bn under management and a £500m funding deficit. According to the company’s 2016 annual report, at the end of that year the scheme had £13.4bn of assets and a surplus of more than £1bn. Liz AireyLiz Airey has been non-executive chair of Jupiter’s board since 2014, and chaired Unilever’s UK pension trustee board between 2008 and 2014. She has held non-executive roles at Tate & Lyle, Dunedin Investment Enterprise Trust, JP Morgan European Smaller Companies Trust, Zetex and AMEC.Paul Spencer is also chair of the BT Pension Scheme, and was chair of British Airways’ two main defined benefit schemes until his departure in 2015 amid a disagreement over the investment policy.