Last week, we at Redington released an annual publication called Asset Class 2013. It was put together by Redington Head of IC David Bennett and his team of consultants, who deal with over £270 bn of assets and the people who run those assets, on a daily basis, helping them to repair deficits and improve member security through smart investment strategy.
Pensions has always been a tricky business. But perhaps never more so than in 2013. The regulation changes of the early 2000’s rewrote the rulebook for those running pension funds, and a survey of the key challenges of that time would have produced, it seems logical to assume, a set of concerns about changing regulations, accounting issues that accompany them, and governance. Today, the landscape has changed. Pension funds, on the whole, got to grips with those systemic changes in pension infrastructure only to be faced, in 2008 onwards, with the greatest seismic economic shift of our lifetimes. It wasn’t just that markets plummeted and equities didn’t turn out to be the knight in shining armour pension funds had hoped and planned they would be; it was that the very foundations of modern economic markets changed. Everything we thought we knew about risk, return and the relationship between the two, was called into question. Now, in 2013, we are all still acclimatising to our new normal.
Last Tuesday 21st May 2013 was KPI Pitch Fest the last part of the Daniel Priestly Key Person of Influence Course. The judges were led by the iconic Mike Harris, Daniel Priestly, James Paton-Philip from Pinsent Masons, Sally Preston Founder & Managing Director at The Kids Food Company ltd, Jenny Campbell CEO at YourCash and Steve Henry Co-founder at Decoded. Thank you for an incredible opportunity and a great evening. Well done to pitch fest winner – Liz Marsh and fellow runner-ups Hannah Foxley, Karen Bailey and Viv Grant and A Rafael Dos Santos. Below I have shared my pitch from pitch fest.
Since George Osborne’s autumn statement in 2011, pension funds and their advisors have been discussing the idea of investing in infrastructure. And the logic for this investment is sound: pension funds need low risk, long dated inflation-linked cash flows. They always have, they always will. Happily, the UK needs new infrastructure, much of the funding for which is long-dated and inflation-linked. Banks, which previously funded these endeavours, are no longer funding them, and pension funds seem to be the natural rebound relationship that might just turn steady. Why, then, has making this partnership happen been so tough?
On Wednesday 6th March I was at Heathrow boarding a flight as many other pensions people were; but the flight was not to Edinburgh for the annual investment conference. Instead, I flew to Denver, the mile high city and capital of Colorado state.
Current debate over Defined Benefit (DB) pensions has captured the attention of the public and press. People are living longer, investment returns are lower than expected, and economic uncertainty has led to the closure of DB pension funds to future accrual in order to cap the ever rising cost of servicing these liabilities. Following these lethal blows, 2012 saw the introduction of auto-enrolment, and in 2013 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is consulting on the topic of whether the industry should change the discount rate used to value liabilities to a smoothed one, in order to reduce the impact of current low gilt yields.
However, we are still faced with two serious challenges that have yet to be fully faced: