The Professional Pensions Guide to Scheme Investment takes a look at how to find investment solutions for the pensions crisis
Recent years have proved testing for the trustees of defined benefit schemes as they struggle to deal with volatility and burgeoning pension liabilities. This situation has been compounded by the financial crisis leaving trustees scratching their heads as they look for ways to diversify their portfolios and boost returns.
This supplement takes a look at some of the options available to pension schemes - some tried and trusted while others are more innovative. Cardano's Phil Page (pages 12-13) discusses the role of fiduciary management in helping schemes to achieve and maintain adequate funding levels. This approach may still be in its infancy in the UK but it has a strong track record in Europe, particularly the Netherlands. It can prove to be a powerful solution in the right circumstances for the right schemes.
Diversified growth funds are also an option that has grown rapidly in popularity with scheme trustees in recent years. Approaches such as this have done much to shift scheme managers' allegiance away from equities towards investment approaches that hopefully offer similar returns with much less volatility. On the face of it such an approach may well sound like the panacea to all scheme manager ills but it is important to note that one diversified growth fund is very different to another and so scheme managers and trustees will need to ensure they understand what they need from their investment strategy so they can make sure they choose the one best suited to their needs (pages 16 and 17).
Another high profile approach covered in this supplement are exchange traded funds (ETFs) (pages 22-23). This approach has certainly gained ground in the UK and Europe but their popularity has not come unchallenged with several in the industry questioning the cost of these funds. Vanguard's Nick Blake talks through the pros and cons of using ETFs. While ETFs can prove beneficial in terms of the trading flexibility Blake does point out the importance of trustees and their advisers understanding how the structure of their ETF works to make sure they get the most from it.
Managing volatility is high on the list of trustee priorities yet they need to balance this with the need to provide decent returns for their schemes. Lazard's Susanne Willumsen (pages 24-25) provides us with an in-depth look at low volatility equities and discusses how they can help trustees walk the tricky tight rope between volatility and return.
Property, currency and foreign exchange also form important parts of a scheme's investment strategy and all three asset classes are explored within this supplement.
M&G's Bernard Abrahamsen takes a look at a slightly different area of investment - that of direct lending. According to Abrahamsen the difficulties faced by banks in providing lending facilities can be met by institutional investors. While Abrahamsen admits such a concept may seem alien right now he argues that such an approach will be taken up by institutional investors over the coming years. Read his how to guide on pages 6 and 7.
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The local government pension pools for the South West and Midlands are actively hiring senior managers to lead and develop the innovative structures.
There is no reason to be pessimistic about the pensions challenge confronting the nation says former Bank of England governor, Lord Mervyn King.
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