Ethos also found that not all of the amended articles of association were being approved by shareholders, which it described as an attempt to circumvent the “spirit” of the Minder-Initiative.It said only 88% of amendments had been approved, as some firms were attempting to seek approval for upper payment limits ahead of a financial year, rather than after the financial results were released.The foundation said it had only voted in favour of one-third of the new articles of association, which it blamed on 67% of firms putting the changes to only a single vote, rather than allowing a vote on individual amendments.The survey also found that only 23% of companies saw their changes approved by 95% of shareholders, and two firms saw the changes rejected.Almost half of affected companies, in an effort to circumvent the ban on severance payments, have also said they are going to amend future executive contracts to include a “remunerated non-compete” clause – essentially allowing firms to place employees on a paid leave of absence after termination.,WebsitesWe are not responsible for the content of external sitesReport on implementation of Minder-Initiative (German) Swiss companies have become more transparent in the wake of the Minder-Initiative, but they are still seeking to violate the spirit of the law on executive remuneration.According to the Ethos Foundation, the implementation of the law on excessive pay (VegüV) – enacted in January following a March 2013 nationwide vote on the Minder-Initiative and requiring pension funds to exercise their vote – was a challenge, it said, due to company attempts to circumvent the law.Of the 136 companies subject to the law, 70% have voted on amendments to articles of association to pave the way for votes on pay, it said.The survey found that only 29% of companies, or one-fifth of those affected, had put remuneration to a binding AGM vote in 2014, one year ahead of the deadline.
AEIP director Francesco Briganti sets out his views on the rules for first and second-pillar pension systemsIn the article entitled ‘AEIP: Dutch pension funds could ask Brussels for first-pillar status’, published on IPE on 14 November, there was some confusion over the rules applicable to pension institutions, in particular Dutch pension funds.The article, based on a response given during my intervention at the World Pensions Summit held in The Hague, might give the impression that first-pillar pension rules are preferable to those of the second pillar. This is not the case, and it is worth clarifying further.First-pillar pension rules in the EU, grounded in the Regulation 883/04 on the coordination of social security systems, aim to guarantee the mobility of workers across the EU, requiring member states to coordinate their social security systems. In brief, this means different member states recognise the contributory period spent in other member states when an EU citizen retires in their territory. This regulation does not involve or even touch upon the way a pension system is designed, whether it should be PAYG, funded or mixed, and it does not provide for a specific level of safety – i.e. solvency rules. Member states are free to design their own rules.Second-pillar pensions rules for the EU fall under the so-called ‘internal market’ competence of the European Union. This means second-pillar pension institutions are regulated by EU legislation – i.e. the IORP Directive or Solvency II, the Directive on the acquisition and preservation of supplementary pension rights, etc. The objective, rationale and design of such legislation have a different purpose than the one designed for the first pillar. The original IORP Directive, for instance, aimed to introduce the prudent principle for IORPs across the EU. It introduced the possibility for IORPs to establish cross-border activities, etc.In brief, the pros and cons of rules applicable to privately managed funded pension schemes are to be either subject to rules coming from Brussels or to rules and interference of a government, depending on whether such schemes are considered first or second pillar.Member states are free to design their own pension systems. They are, indeed, free to establish whether a certain type of pension institution should be considered as part of its first pillar – i.e. social security system – or not.The Dutch government could ask the EU for such for an inclusion, which could be normally accepted considering some features of Dutch schemes, particularly their mandatory participation deriving from a government act. It was my personal legal assessment of the topic, and AEIP has never taken any positions on whether it is advisable to be included in one or the other pillar, considering the respective pros and cons, of which AEIP is fully aware. Indeed, the Association has both members falling under the scope of the first and second pillars.Francesco Briganti is director at the AEIP
Trustees at Welsh funds are set to approve plans this week to allow the procurement exercise to begin after guidance from the SWT, according to agenda documents for the £1.4bn (€1.9bn) Swansea Pension Scheme.After approval, the eight pension funds, with more than £10bn in assets, hope to have a new manager in place by April 2016, with procurement starting by the end of November.A briefing from the SWT said the eight schemes had £3bn in passive equity and bond holdings, run across three managers and 18 mandates – with a disparity of fees.The schemes will appoint a third party to run the procurement exercise and split the cost of doing so accordingly.Any provider would be appointed to accommodate geographical investment requirements of pension schemes – while each would retain autonomy and ownership of assets.In May, the SWT received a report from Mercer on how the eight Welsh schemes could increase efficiency and cut investment management costs by collaborating.The consultancy suggested joint procurements for passive investments and custody arrangements as an “easy win”.It also recommended the creation of a regulated structure to allow the schemes to invest together in more complex asset classes.The LGPS has come under increasing pressure from the central government over a fragmented system, where the 89 schemes, with more than £193bn in assets, use a variety of mandates and managers to invest in similar classes.Others also have in-house capability.However, in the summer, the government said LGPS funds need to collaborate or face stricter guidelines imposed by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).The DCLG has since told the LGA all the £193bn would be pooled, with no funds being offered exemptions, regardless of in-house capability.Further details are to be released in the autumn. The eight local government pension schemes (LGPS) in Wales are to procure a joint passive equity manager as collaboration among the public schemes takes hold.The procurement, being organised by the Society of Welsh Treasurers (SWT) Pensions Sub Group, comes after discussion among the Welsh funds came to a halt with trepidation over central government policy.Last week, the umbrella organisation for devolved government bodies, the Local Government Association, was told by the central government the 89 LGPS in England and Wales would have to pool assets to create efficiencies.The move follows a string of collaborative efforts by LGPS in the Midlands to combine passive equity mandates, as well as efforts in London to create a collective investment vehicle (CIV).
UK pension funds should look towards the cost-reporting framework established in the Netherlands, with an industry kite-mark proposed.In a report by the Financial Services Consumer Panel (FSCP), a statutory body advising the Financial Conduct Authority, Christopher Sier of Stonefish Consulting weighed up options for improving cost transparency – including regulatory standards, or a voluntary code developed by the industry.He singled out the voluntary code as allowing for a swift introduction, and one that could be boosted by selling disclosure to asset managers as a competitive advantage during tender processes.Sier also suggested compliance with the code could be written into future asset management contracts and eventually developed into a kite-mark to allow trustees to assess costs easily. The report further suggested the ongoing reforms of the local government pension schemes (LGPS), currently being mandated by the government to pool assets, could be used as an impetus to develop a kite-mark.He repeatedly held up advances in cost disclosure in the Netherlands as a model for the UK industry to emulate.Stewart Bevan, product specialist for cost benchmarking at the UK subsidiary of Dutch custodian bank KAS Bank, said the UK could benefit from emulating the “tried and tested” Dutch model, developed in an industry-led initiative and soon to be enshrined in law as a mandatory disclosure framework.“Rather than hesitate,” Bevan said, “this is the time to begin to implement a solution to address the problem of undisclosed pension fund costs.“As the paper says, it is about the art-of-the-possible rather than the art-of-the-desirable.”Bevan also said Sier’s idea to develop an independent organisation in charge of monitoring the new reporting framework, rather than relying on regulatory enforcement, required further consideration.Guy Sears, interim chief executive of the UK’s Investment Association, previously welcomed the FSCP report, arguing that alignment between the interests of consumers and the investment industry had “never been higher”.The comments come months after Daniel Godfrey was forced out as head of the industry body over his championing of a code of conduct for asset managers, which included an emphasis on fee transparency.The association is currently designing a new cost transparency framework, updating work first undertaken when the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive first came into force in 2007 to comply with its successor directive.
“The geographical distribution of equities and shares thus had an exceptionally large impact on investment returns in the early part of the year.”Property boostBoth Veritas and the €20.7bn Elo saw returns boosted by property holdings, with real estate both investors’ best-performing asset class over the first quarter.Both investors said their property holdings returned 1.6%, while Ilmarinen saw its property assets return 0.7%, its second-best asset class behind a 4.9% return on alternatives.Overall, Veritas and Elo returned -0.4% over the first quarter, with equity losses offset by returns from fixed income of 0.9% and 1.5%, respectively.Satu Huber, chief executive at Elo, said the economic outlook, at least domestically, was set to improve and that the downturn suffered by Finland had “bottomed out”.The returns seen by all three providers are also in line with those seen by Keva and Etera, with the former blaming a “very unsettled” equity market for returns it viewed as meagre. Ilmarinen has blamed “nervous” and volatile markets for first-quarter losses of 1.4%, as it and other Finnish pension investors blamed concern over China for underwhelming returns.The €35.8bn pensions mutual said its equity holdings returned -3.7% over the first three months of the year, achieving a lower return than either rival mutual Elo or provider Veritas, which saw listed holdings lose 3.5% and 2.4%, respectively.All three providers cited China as a source for concern, with Ilmarinen chief executive Timo Ritakallio also noting the decline in commodities prices and the impact of the UK potentially leaving the European Union.“Of the main equity markets,” Ritakallio said, “the US and emerging economies reached positive figures at the end of the quarter, while Europe and Japan remained clearly in negative territory.
Investment management costs of local authority pensions in the UK are likely to be over £1bn for 2017, following the introduction of a new transparency code.The £217bn Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) paid out £805m to investment managers last year, according to LGPS annual reports.Jeff Houston, head of pensions at the LGPS Board, said the likely rise was not an increase in manager fees but greater disclosure of total costs under the board’s transparency code and accounting guidance from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA).The LGPS Board unveiled the code last month at a conference hosted by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association. It is a variant on a disclosure template from the Netherlands, adapted the scheme board, aided by Chris Sier of Newcastle University’s Business School and in negotiation with the UK’s asset management trade body, the Investment Association. The code’s introduction coincided with an investigation by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into the asset management industry. It reports its final findings tomorrow, covering how to improve transparency, competition, and value for clients. It issued a critical interim report on the industry last November.The upwards trend for LGPS investment costs is already established – reported costs have almost doubled since 2013 – but Houston said he expected another leap this year.The FCA is rumoured to want to make the transparency code universal, but implemented by a new standards-setting body rather than the FCA itself.Although the LGPS Transparency Code is voluntary, it has momentum. So far six firms have signed up, including Baillie Gifford, Capital International, Legal & General Investment Management, and Montanaro. Other big houses such as BlackRock are expected to follow.Signatories have to report transaction costs, broker commission, exit and entry charges, and all other fees paid to third-party funds on top of investment management. Previously, they simply reported their management fee.The mandate for a third-party firm to ensure compliance with the code is due to be issued by the LGPS Scheme Board shortly. Signatories have a year’s grace to report using best estimates, but from 2018 their data will be scrutinised by the successful bidder for the compliance mandate.Houston said the purpose of the transparency code was to enable local government to measure costs, not simply to beat down manager fees. “You can’t measure costs if you don’t know what they are,” he said.He also noted that the LGPS code was constructed in conjunction with the industry, not imposed on it. The code currently applies to listed securities management only. Discussions with private equity managers are still in progress.Note: This article was updated to clarify how the LGPS transparency code was developed.
Ireland plans to introduce an auto-enrolment system to boost pension saving as part of a major set of reforms laid out by the government this week.Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, head of the Irish government, announced on Wednesday a five-year “roadmap for pensions reform” encompassing the state pension as well as both private sector and public sector provision.Varadkar said the government wanted to “create a fairer and simpler contributory pension system where a person’s pension outcome reflects their social insurance contributions, and in parallel, create a new and necessary culture of personal retirement saving in Ireland”.The announcement follows months of often-heated debate about various aspects of pension policy. Lawmakers have lobbied for scrapping the mandatory retirement age and measures to stop employers abandoning underfunded defined benefit (DB) schemes. Regina DohertyRegina Doherty, minister for employment affairs and social protection, said auto-enrolment and the state pension changes were “the two most fundamental reform measures” in Wednesday’s announcement.The changes to the state pension will be effective from 2020. Individuals will be automatically enrolled into workplace pension funds from 2022, Doherty said. The government will consult on both elements in the second quarter of this year.Scheme governance and regulationFollowing several high-profile problems with underfunded DB schemes, the government has been under pressure to improve protections for members.More than a quarter (26%) of Irish DB schemes did not meet the required funding standard, the government’s report said.“The government will strive to ensure that the DB regulatory regime appropriately balances fairness between all generations of scheme members with the need to help sponsoring employers, employees and scheme trustees maintain the sustainability of their pension schemes,” the report said.“The objective of any measures must be to support the sustainability of existing DB schemes and, where possible, limit DB scheme closures and safeguard the delivery of the benefits promised to all members.”The government said it planned to push ahead with a Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration bill introduced to parliament last year. The bill includes stronger rules about reporting scheme funding levels and agreeing funding proposals.The bill has been on hold since October but the government now plans to advance it from next month.Other measures would also be considered, the government said, including more powers for the sector regulator, the Pensions Authority, and more reporting requirements for employers.Consultations are planned for Q4 2018.Public sector workers will be asked to contribute an extra €550m a year – an 80% increase in contributions when implemented in full from 2020.The mandatory retirement age for the public sector is to increase from 65 to 70 for those hired before 1 April 2004, bringing these people into line with more recent recruits.Industry reactionJerry Moriarty, chief executive of the Irish Association of Pension Funds, said the sector had been “crying out” for simplification.“There are currently too many rules which confuse and frustrate those attempting to save for retirement,” he said. “We are hopeful that these reforms will deal with much of this unnecessary complexity.”Roma Burke, partner at consultancy LCP, said the roadmap was “a significant and wide-ranging communication on all aspects of the retirement system” affecting trustees, scheme members and those not yet saving for retirement.“There are numerous consultations to be held and the timelines are very ambitious,” she added. “It remains to be seen whether these timelines will be met and/or whether the ambitions will be curtailed.”The government’s ‘Roadmap to Pensions Reform 2018-23’ is available here. The six “strands” of the reforms cover:a “total contributions approach” to the state pension, including maintaining its value at 34-35% of average earnings;automatic enrolment to address Ireland’s “significant” pension savings gap;improvements to the sustainability of DB schemes and protections for members;changes to public sector pension rules;the implementation of the IORP II directive; andnew flexibilities to allow people to work past their default retirement age. Leo VaradkarVaradkar – who was minister for social protection before becoming prime minister – said Ireland was “facing a number of challenges” from changing demographics and the knock-on effects on government finances and retirement security.In the next 40 years the ratio of working age people to pensioners was expected to fall from 4.5 to one to 2.3 to one, he said.State pension and auto-enrolment
“Trustees should negotiate robustly with the sponsoring employer to secure a fair deal for the pension scheme, while employers should balance the interests of pension savers with returns to shareholders and investors.”TPR’s data showed the aggregate deficit of the schemes in its sample had improved “slightly” in the three years to the end of March 2018. According to an estimate published today from JLT Employee Benefits, the aggregate funding position of UK private sector DB schemes improved to 97% at the end of May. DB schemes attached to FTSE 350 companies were in aggregate 99% funded, JLT said.Scheme funding proposals are at the heart of a government-sponsored inquiry into the the future of the DB system. Among the plans put forward was the possibility of allowing the Pensions Regulator to set “clearer” funding requirements.Industry and government experts are currently at loggerheads over a solution, with pension funds, unions and consultants rejecting calls from the regulator and MPs for a more prescriptive approach.Nathan Long, senior pensions analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the most pressing funding issue for many schemes was the fact that while liabilities have increased, gilt yields have fallen.“It’s a delicate balance,” he said. “On the one side, you’ve got the fact that you’re a business and you have to pay the salaries and also the pensions of the current employees.“But on the other, you have this pressure coupled with the fact that you still have promises to keep to people who have worked for the company in the past.”Despite increases in mainstream asset classes over the past three years, yields on UK gilts have fallen as interest rates have remained stubbornly low, according to market data from FT.com.“The main thing [for trustees] is to take a long-term view on this,” Long added.Estimated funding position of UK DB schemes, January 2015 to April 2018#*#*Show Fullscreen*#*# Source: Mercer, JLT Employee Benefits, Pension Protection FundUK scheme funding estimates, as of 30 April 2018 Deficits at UK pension schemes have not improved as much as expected by the regulator, according to a new assessment.The Pensions Regulator (TPR) this week published a review of defined benefit (DB) schemes conducting triennial reviews in 2018, and reported that “the deficits have not improved to the extent that would have been expected” between valuations taken at March 2015 and March 2018.The supervisor used the report to reiterate that scheme sponsors should prioritise deficit contributions over short-term dividend payouts to shareholders.“Recent corporate failures have shown the risks of long recovery plans while payments to shareholders are excessive, relative to deficit-repair contributions,” said Anthony Raymond, interim executive director of regulatory policy at TPR.
Norway’s NOK500bn (€51bn) municipal pensions market could be about to re-open to competing providers following seven years of near-monopoly in the sector.Financial groups Storebrand and DNB have both announced their intentions – in principle – to return to the market for provision of local authority pensions, which cover a third of the Nordic country’s working population.The two players managed around a third of municipal pensions in Norway before quitting the market in 2012, leaving giant institution Kommunal Landspensjonskasse (KLP) largely unchallenged in the market, with the exception of a small proportion of councils running their own schemes.Odd Arild Grefstad, chief executive of Storebrand, told IPE: “Storebrand is considering business opportunities related to municipal occupational pensions in Norway. “The final decision will depend on whether we can believe in a more dynamic and better functioning market, with proper competition between KLP and challengers like Storebrand.”Municipal customers wanted to be able to choose between different pension providers, he added.Anders Skjævestad, head of DNB Liv, said his firm believed competition was needed to provide local authority clients with the best pension scheme possible. Anders Skjævestad, CEO, DNB LivSource: Telenor “As such, we are considering making a comeback in occupational pensions when the new occupational pension reform is enforced, assuming that mandatory tendering and competition within the new pensions scheme are in place,” he told IPE.The two companies met Christl Kvam, state secretary in Norway’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, and Paul Chaffey, state secretary at the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, in October last year to present their views on the competitive situation in the public sector pensions market.New arrangements from next yearThe trigger for the firms’ return is a new public sector pension scheme, which was hammered out over several years by the government, unions and employer organisations and is scheduled to open for business in 2020.The new hybrid scheme will run alongside the existing defined benefit (DB) scheme until earlier cohorts retire. “Our job is to provide public pensions to our customers at the lowest possible price, with the highest possible returns and with a first class service no matter who we compete with”Sverre Thornes, CEO, KLPSkjævestad said DNB Liv was “a firm believer that mandatory tendering will create a fair marketplace that does not exist today”.Similarly, Storebrand highlighted that municipal procurement processes in line with EU or EEA regulations would help create a more dynamic market than was the case before.The competition authority has pointed out that, in the past, only a few of Norway’s municipalities opted to use tenders in the pensions area.For its part, KLP said it was well prepared for greater competition.“We have performed well in competition earlier, and we believe that we have improved our services since then,” KLP chief executive Sverre Thornes told IPE.“Our job is to provide public pensions to our customers at the lowest possible price, with the highest possible returns and with a first class service no matter who we compete with.”KLP emphasised that competition was strong the last time other major players were participating, with its competitors having a third of the market.However, Thornes also warned that the imminent changes to public sector occupational pension provision would be demanding, even for KLP.“Many employees will have their pensions calculated according to both old and new rules, and this requires good systems and giving precise counselling,” he said. “We have made large investments into these fields, and we feel well prepared for the changes taking effect from 1 January 2020.”Further readingKLP: Awash with cash, bereft of optionsKommunale Landespensjonskasse, the Norwegian public sector pensions provider, is asset rich with a mandate to invest in more real estate, but where can it find suitable opportunities? Norwegian public sector pensions reform gets thumbs up from unionUnions, employer organisations and the government finally agreed to reform the local authority pension system in the first half of last yearPensions In Nordic Region: Still a competitive marketIn this report from November 2014, Rachel Fixsen explores how KLP responded to the exits of Storebrand and DNB Liv from the local authority market Christl Kvam, Norwegian minister, social affairsSource: EU Council The bill to introduce the new scheme is now being prepared for the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. Kvam said it the text did not deal with who should be able to offer public service pensions, nor how the competition in the market should be regulated.“The ministry assumes that the municipalities themselves choose their pension provider according to current regulations,” she told IPE.Storebrand and DNB have the backing of the Norwegian Competition Authority, which in December welcomed their plans.“With the entry of new players in the market for municipal occupational pensions, there is a long-awaited opportunity for Norwegian municipalities to save costs,” wrote Gjermund Nese and Lars Sørgard, directors at the authority, in a self-penned article in business newspaper Dagens Næringsliv.Storebrand emphasised that it was interested in providing both the DB and the new hybrid-based schemes.DNB Liv said pension providers must be able to choose if they want to compete only within the new scheme, as the old scheme would have entry barriers that could be anti-competitive.Procurement processes and mandatory tendering
Source: Mark PrinsWouter Koolmees, Dutch social affairs minister“If our funding doesn’t improve, we will already have to apply a discount next year,” said Peter Borgdorff, director of the healthcare scheme.“It can only be prevented if social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees decides to suspend cuts,” he added.Trade union FNV had already called on the government to delay rights discounts during the implementation of the pensions agreement between the social partners and the cabinet in June.Borgdorff said: “At the conclusion of the accord, the parties said that rights cuts would be avoided. It doesn’t improve the credibility of the pensions system, if discounts have to be applied within a year.”Rights cuts at the four largest pensions funds would affect almost eight million pension entitlements in the Netherlands. However, the current ultimate forward rate of 2.2%, against which the schemes are allowed to discount their liabilities, cushioned the drop in interest rates.Aon estimated that the falling rates had caused the valuation of liabilities to rise more than 4% on balance.It attributed the drop in rates to the escalating trade conflict between the US and China, a worsening economic outlook, and increasing uncertainty around Brexit.The consultancy also cited hints by several central banks that they were considering monetary easing. However, it noted that this had limited losses on equity markets.“If our funding doesn’t improve, we will already have to apply a discount next year.”Peter Borgdorff, director of PFZWSchemes’ so-called policy funding – their average coverage of the past 12 months – is the main criterion for rights cuts and indexation, and this is to fall further in the coming months as a result of the recent funding drop. Mercer said it expected the policy funding to drop to 104% on average at the end of this month.Although the cabinet had temporarily lowered the minimum required coverage ratio from 104.3% to 100%, it has also raised the so-called critical funding level, which is different for different schemes.Pension funds with a coverage short of this critical level must immediately cut pension rights and benefits, as they cannot make a reasonable case for recovery to the required funding of around 125% within 10 years.The cabinet is also to reduce the allowed assumptions for future returns as of 2020, which will limit pension funds’ recovery potential.ABP and PFZW under pressure, tooAlthough the most recent funding figures of the large pension funds date from the end of June, a funding drop of five percentage points since then would mean that the coverage ratios of civil service scheme ABP, healthcare pension fund PFZW, and the metal schemes PMT and PME had dropped to between 90% and 92%.Under the old rules – with a minimum required funding level of 104.3% – PMT and PME were already facing cuts next year.However, given the current situation, even the new threshold of 100% won’t be sufficient to prevent discounts, which could be as high as 8%.ABP and PFZW have a year’s respite on cuts compared with the metal schemes.However, in their new recovery plan next year, in which they must factor in the lower parameters for future returns, their funding must be above the critical level to avoid immediate cuts.The critical funding level for ABP and PFZW will be 95% and 94% as of 2020. If PFZW’s funding would stand at, for example, 91% at the end of this year, it must cut pension rights and benefits by 3% next year. More Dutch pension funds are facing cuts of pension rights and benefits following a dramatic funding drop in the first week of August.As a consequence of a combination of persistently lower interest rates and falling equity markets, their funding decreased by no less than four percentage points, according to Aon Hewitt and Mercer.Funding had already dropped at least one percentage point on average in July.The consultancies said that long-term interest rates had decreased 20 basis points on average, resulting in the 30-year swap rate – the main criterion for discounting pension funds’ liabilities in the Netherlands – falling to around 30bps as at the end of Wednesday.