Sally Bridgeland talks to Mallowstreet about how to keep working in this environment, why advisers' response to this crisis matters for trustees, and the value of walking the floors of a prospective asset manager. Watch the video here. (Available to Mallowstreet users only.)
Bart Heenk talks about taking cues on disaster planning from the army in this Mallowstreet article (accessible by Mallowstreet users only).
Herausforderung Digitalisierung - Vorstellung des neuen aba-Fachausschusses Digitalisierung und seiner
28 January 2020 - Sally Bridgeland was a guest panel speaker at the NEDonBoard Panel: Corporate Governance Code.
13 November 2019 – Bart Heenk spoke at this year's annual CIPFA Pensions Conference on the topic of “Growing your business starts with good governance”. To see his presentation please click here.
Patrick Woods joining Avida International was given attention in a press release:
And was covered in:
Dorothee Franzen wrote Chapter 17 of this publication, on Pension Investment Governance, with John Ashcroft of JA Pension Consulting.
Dorothee Franzen writes in IPE Quest on successful provider searches.
20-21 June 2019 – Sally Bridgeland was a co-speaker at this event, on the topic of “Is more governance good governance?”
11-12 June 2019 – Sally Bridgeland was one of the speakers in Plenary 5 on 12 June – “Larry Fink, CEO, Blackrock, said: “We are going to see evidence over the long term that sustainable investing is going to be at least equivalent to core investments. I believe personally it will be higher.” So, is responsible investment now core to running pensions and institutional capital? If so, how? And why aren’t more pension funds and investment managers doing it?”
7 June 2019 – Dorothee Franzen attended this event by the Eberbacher Kreis, in Berlin.
7-8 May 2019 – Dorothee Franzen attended the annual meeting of the German pension fund association aba Jahrestagung in Bonn.
Professor Christian Schmitt joining Avida International as Senior Adviser was given attention in a press release:
This was covered in:
26 March 2019 – Everyone understands the importance of good risk management, including the regulator. Developing risk assessments, having a solid risk policy and a governance framework around risk management are crucial for good member outcomes. But how does a pension fund attract top risk managers? Avida has frequently been asked these questions by our pension fund clients. Until now we never had an adequate answer. We now think that pooling risk management resources with other pension funds may be the way forward for those funds not able to employ a full-time chief risk officer. At this breakfast roundtable our specialists explored the pros and cons of sharing risk management resources with fellow pension funds and led a roundtable discussion. If you are a senior pension fund representative interested in attending our roundtables in future please contact email@example.com.
On 18-19 March 2019, Bart Heenk attended this event on ‘Catalysing collaboration to solve complex problems in private markets’.
Karin Roeloffs chaired this Financial Investigator roundtable on fiduciary business models.
7 March 2019 – Dorothee Franzen attended this invitation-only event in Berlin-Mitte organised by the Eberbacher-Kreis.
6-8 March 2019 – Sarah Smart participated in the DC stream on ‘Passive v active investing for DC investors’ on 7 March.
Beatrice N. Herrmann joining Avida International as Senior Consultant was given attention in a press release:
This was covered in:
Sally Bridgeland comments on transparency in this I&PE article.
In this article, published in Financial Investigator No. 1 2019, Paul Boerboom and Tim Juling look back on the development of fiduciary management.
30 January 2019 – Bart Heenk attended this event hosted by the Alternative Investments Institute.
In this article, published in Financial Investigator No. 7 2018, Paul Boerboom looks at ESG and impact investing via a real life case study from Uganda.
27 November 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended this event.
21 November 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended this dinner.
9 November 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended this roundtable.
8 November 2018 – Sally Bridgeland was a panellist in the ‘Practical thoughts on driving an ESG agenda’ session at this SPS conference.
Karin Roeloffs joining Avida International as an Associate Partner was given attention in a press release:
1 November 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended this seminar in London.
31 October 2018 – Bart Heenk and Simone Lavelle attended this reception in London.
This blog, by Bart Heenk, was first published on Mallowstreet.
If there is one thing pension funds can learn from the military it is that it is not the plan that matters and planning is everything. The army spends 80% of its time training and 20% in operations. This allows them to prevent crises before they become reality. Military planning is used to build agility in dealing with risks and war gaming is essential to build intellectual ‘memory muscle’. Pension funds can learn from this.
The financial crisis of 2008 has shown that all major risks were interrelated and most of us were ill-prepared and some took precisely the wrong decisions by panic selling in the depths of the crisis or halting rebalancing trades. When long-term capital market assumptions are based on long-term mean reversion of markets, one very bad decision in a crisis can have a substantial impact on these assumptions, to the extent of rendering them worthless. So, have we learnt our lessons from the financial crisis and are we better prepared now?
At a recent roundtable jointly organised by Strategia Worldwide1 and Avida International, senior pension fund executives and trustees discussed their biggest risks and how prepared they were for dealing with those risks. Risks mentioned ranged from cyber-crime and the associated reputational damage and inability to pay out pensions, to insufficient liquidity in the fund to simultaneously meet margin calls from derivatives counterparties and transfer requests related to pension freedoms following market turmoil.
Whilst most pension funds around the table admitted that they had done very little planning, some of the participants had run war gaming sessions in order to prepare the organisation for crises. They learnt not to focus on procedures or a manual (a plan) but on process (the planning). This is precisely what the military does. War gaming is essential to build the intellectual memory muscle to be ready in times of crises. One thing is certain: no plan survives first enemy contact. Or, in our pension fund language, a crisis is never exactly how it was anticipated. Consequently the value of war gaming is not in producing a plan but in the planning process itself. When a crisis hits, the organisation will have practiced so much that crucial issues like command structure, team composition and relationships, everyone’s roles and stakeholder communication have become second nature. This allows the organisation to focus on the essentials in a crisis, and act quickly and decisively. War gaming also has preventative benefits and can help identify those risks that can be mitigated already.
Interestingly, whilst this is something that is commonly practiced by corporates in, for example, the airline, petrochemical and extraction industries, their pension funds tend to be much less well prepared for crises. The financial crisis of 2008 was a fantastically valuable learning opportunity but unfortunately many trustee boards have largely forgotten the lessons partly as a result of changes in the composition of the board. Quite a few pension funds will have a crisis plan but if it is not regularly practiced these plans will prove to be of little value when a real crisis happens.
Strategia and Avida want to help pension funds to become better prepared for crises and are thinking of putting together a joint service proposition that entails war gaming sessions once or twice yearly, plus a SWAT team that is on standby for when the pension fund needs extra resources to deal with an eventuality. The idea being that most pension funds are resource constrained and do not have sufficient capacity to deal with an out of the ordinary situation.
This initiative will hopefully help pension funds to learn some very valuable lessons and prepare them better for the next crisis that will undoubtedly hit us one day.
1 Strategia Worldwide helps companies, investors and funds across many sectors protect value by taking a comprehensive approach to risk and then designing integrated strategies to manage them.
11 October 2018 – Bart Heenk and Simone Lavelle attended this forum in London. Simone also attended the International Women’s Forum dinner.
9 October 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended this conference.
Pascal Hogenboom joining Avida International as an Associate Partner was given attention in a press release: Pascal Hogenboom joins Avida International.
25 September 2018 – this roundtable was organised together with Strategia Worldwide. Sir Richard Shirreff introduced the subject and discussed the importance of proper planning for crises. This was followed by a roundtable discussion. If you are a senior pension fund director/trustee interested in attending our roundtables, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this article, published in Pensioen Bestuur & Management in September 2018, Peter Kolthof considers the changing role of fiduciary managers.
10 July 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended this State Street event.
3 July 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended the Rabobank event.
This blog, by Bart Heenk, was first published on Mallowstreet.
Investment decision making is difficult for even the most specialist investment managers. And they have clear and unambiguous benchmarks to measure the success of their decision-making against. They also have frequent, accurate and to the point information on how well they are doing versus their benchmarks.
Investment decision-making for trustee boards is even harder. Often their benchmarks are a combination of various – even conflicting – objectives. Closing the funding gap whilst keeping downside risk limited is one. Maximising sponsor contributions whilst keeping the covenant strong is another.
Don’t rely on reporting
To make matters worse, reporting is often incomplete, inconsistent and sometimes even inaccurate. There are various reasons for this: pension funds often get their reporting from external service suppliers, such as the actuary, custodian, investment adviser or fiduciary manager. These suppliers report on the specific service they provide, leaving the pension fund to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
But the suppliers may use different assumptions, different calculations and different source data. This can make putting the puzzle together an almost impossible task. The result is that pension funds spend more time on reconciling data than on analysing the information.
Some service providers, like fiduciary managers, offer to put the pieces of the puzzle together for the pension fund. This is helpful, but not a solution given the need to have information independently verified, particularly data coming from providers who have a commercial interest in presenting their data positively.
So how is a pension fund board to make investment decisions in these circumstances?
All participants in a recent roundtable organsied by Avida agreed on the need to take reporting back to the pension fund’s objectives. If the pension fund’s board has delegated investment decision-making within certain restrictions (whether risk-related or otherwise) to an investment committee, this means different reports should go to the IC and to the board, because the objectives of the IC and board will differ.
If the pension fund has an internal CIO to whom the IC has delegated some decision-making, it again calls for dedicated reporting for the CIO. Whilst this puts a burden on the infrastructure needed to produce all these reports, it is seen as essential to report back to each governance layer’s objectives.
See the bigger picture
The challenge is to restrict reporting to what is essential for board and committees, and this is where most pension funds have work to do. The more detailed the reporting, the more likely it is that the discussion is going to focus on the detail rather than the big picture. This is not a good use of the board’s time, whose focus should be on the big strategic issues.
Good reporting is also about finding the right balance between backward-looking and forward-looking information.
Backward-looking information is important to learn how previous decisions have impacted the financials; this includes the often overlooked need to assess what the impact of not taking decisions has been. Backward-looking information also helps with assessing how well your assumptions have worked out (eg, ‘Did interest rates rise as much as we expected them to?’).
Humility is healthy
Board members are often successful business people and they can have a tendency to become overconfident about their ability to predict where markets are going. Good reporting includes a comparison of predicted market moves with reality. This can result in healthy humility.
Providing good forward-looking information is another area where most pension funds have work to do. Assessing the impact of forward-looking scenarios is a very helpful method to narrow down the decision-making to which actions are acceptable and which are not. Whilst choosing scenarios will bring its own challenges, it is certainly a lot better to think about what might happen than to just expect that your (or the investment consultants’) assumptions will come true.
If that all sounds like hard work, bear in mind that the sponsor often has their own reporting demands on the pension fund and that regulatory reporting requirements will only increase in coming years. Pension fund investment decision-making truly does require hard work.
Bart Heenk comments in this blog on Mallowstreet by Sandra Wolf. Please note access is restricted to Mallowstreet members only.
Sally Bridgeland was joint winner of the ‘Role Model of the Year’ award at the inaugural Women in Pensions Awards – Professional Pensions.
You can watch a video of Sally talking about the award here.
20 June 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended this annual lunch focused on FTSE 350 research.
19 June 2018 – Peter Kolthof, Partner and Country Head for Avida International in the Netherlands, introduced the subject and discussed his extensive experience of best practice in decision-support reporting. He laid down some challenges about how trustees make use of an executive team and advisers. This was followed by a roundtable discussion and a summary can be found here.
18 June 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended this meeting on Chinese EQ.
14-15 June 2018 – Sally Bridgeland led a discussion on the use of factor investing on the first day of this summit.
Joanna Matthews will succeed Sarah Smart who leaves TPT Retirement Solutions (TPT) trustee board after eight years in the post – Professional Pensions.
Delighted that Sally Bridgeland is a Finalist for ‘Role Model of the Year’ in Professional Pensions Women in Pensions Awards 2018.
Stan Beckers joining Avida’s Advisory Board was given attention in a press release: Stan Beckers joins Avida International’s Advisory Board.
3 – 4 May 2018 – Dorothee Franzen and Tim Juling attended the annual conference of the German pension fund association.
Bart Heenk and Sarah Smart consider the pros and cons of consolidating pension funds in this I&PE article.
7 March 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended this event.
Sarah Smart joining Avida was given attention in a press release: Sarah Smart joins Avida International
This was covered in:
27 February 2018 – Avida International organised a breakfast roundtable on running DB pensions from a CFO’s perspective. Annemarie Straathof talked about the governance changes she, as CFO Europe for Rabobank, helped effect during the last couple of years at their UK pension fund. This was followed by a roundtable discussion and a summary can be found here.
Sally Bridgeland is interviewed on ‘Timing is everything: when to transition to an outsourced investment partner’ in this report from Clear Path Analysis.
21-22 February 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended this event.
Dorothee Franzen considers the difficulty of obtaining figures on funded pensions in Germany in I&PE’s Asset Management Guide 2018.
20 February 2018 – Bart Heenk attended this Summit.
24 January 2018 – Simone Lavelle attended “Finding Opportunities in a Volatile World” in London.
28-29 November 2017 – Paul Boerboom and Bart Heenk attended this event in Prague.
21 November 2017 – Simone Lavelle attended this conference in London.
3 November 2017 – Bart Heenk attended this event in New York
Dorothee Franzen comments on governance under the new social partner model in I&PE.
12 October 2017 – Dorothee Franzen spoke on Governance in the ‘Delivering Optimum Retirement Outcomes’ stream at this conference focused on ‘Saving the Next Billion from Old Age Poverty: Global Lessons for Local Action’
14 September 2017 – Dorothee Franzen attended the 11. Villa Mumm Konferenz: Investmentperspektiven und aktuelle Trends in der betrieblichen Zukunftsvorsorge
Bart Heenk comments on the potential regulation of investment advice in I&PE.
11-12 September 2017 – Dorothee Franzen and Paul Boerboom both attended the AllianzGI Oxford 2017 conferenceon coping with disruptive change.
Bart Heenk explains why consultants should embrace scheme consolidation and how they can prepare for change in Pensions Expert.
30 June 2017 – Sally Bridgeland participated in a Panel on Culture at this conference.
26-28 June 2017 – Simone Lavelle attended this event at Castle Coombe.
Pension funds are consolidating. Bart Heenk considers the consequences for investment managers in I&PE.
8 June 2017 – On some occasions the trustee board of a pension fund is bigger than the executive team, leading to more ‘managers’ than ‘doers’. At our most recent breakfast roundtable we considered what the right mix might be and how the governance model should work.
If you are a senior pension fund director/trustee interested in attending our roundtables in future please contact email@example.com.
23-24 May 2017 – Dorothee Franzen chaired the Financial Literacy session at this conference in Paris.
Dorothee Franzen, Paul Boerboom and Peter Kolthof discuss the state of play of fiduciary management in I&PE.
10-11 May 2017 – Dorothee Franzen participated in this annual conference in Berlin.
15 March 2017 – Sally Bridgeland spoke at The Summit for Asset Management.
Peter Kolthof chaired two Financial Investigator roundtables – one for providers and one for pension fund clients.
During the roundtables, the importance of soft factors (match in culture) next to hard results was stressed, as well as the continuous and independent evaluation of a fiduciary manager.
3 March 2017 – Sally Bridgeland spoke as part of a plenary on ”What a pool will actually look like in the next 3/4 years according to experts outside the LGPS’.
1-3 February 2017 – Sally Bridgeland was a panellist at the Institutional Investor European Pensions Symposium focused on ‘Meeting long-term liabilities in an age of unpredictability‘.
Bart Heenk talks about need for pension funds to be able to ask the right questions and arm themselves with sufficient expertise in relation to the asset management and investment consultant industry.
Read the full article on I&PE.
Avida International’s opening of a representative office in Germany, led by Dorothee Franzen, was given attention in a press-release.
Regulating investment consultants will not solve the problem of ensuring pension investors are not losing out as a result of “murkiness and complexity” in the asset management and investment consultant industry, according to Bart Heenk.
Read the full article on I&PE.
13-15 November 2016 – Dorothee Franzen was a panellist on the ‘Collaboration in theory and practice session’ at the OpTrust Global Pension Leadership Summit.
13 October 2016 – Avida International celebrated it’s 10th anniversary with a London-based seminar on crisis management for pension funds. The keynote speaker was General Sir Richard Shirreff, Deputy Supreme Commander of NATO Europe 2010-2014 who talked about how the military deal with crisis management. He was joined by Martin Reeves, Senior Partner and Managing Director at the Boston Consulting Group’s New York office, and Director of the BCG Henderson Institute, who looked at adapting strategy to a changing landscape; Paul Boerboom and Sally Bridgeland of Avida International who gave practical examples of risk management and the lessons that can be learnt by the pensions industry; and Bart Heenk also of Avida International who talked about the importance of repeated practice and thorough preparation. The day was chaired by Professor Gordon Clark, Avida International Advisory Board member and Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford.
A brief summary of the day can be found here.
29-30 September 2016 – Paul Boerboom acted as commentator on the ‘New models of pension fund governance’ session at the 2016 Allianz-Oxford Pensions conference.
Pension schemes should ensure they choose an independent adviser to assess their fiduciary manager’s performance, says Paul Boerboom.
Read the full article on I&PE.
Competition in the asset management sector is under scrutiny in the Financial Conduct Authority’s market study, but schemes can act now to get a better deal.
Read the full article on Pensions Expert.
10 June 2016 – Bart Heenk (MD, Avida International) chaired a panel discussion at the IPE 360 Conference at the London Stock Exchange. Joining him on the Panel were David Adkins (Chief Investment Officer at The Pensions Trust) and Anthony Webb (Head of Fiduciary Management Research at KPMG). The topic was:
Making Outsourcing Work: Fiduciary Management and other forms of Investment Strategy Delegation
The audience consisted of the leading pension fund representatives from the UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium and other key European pension markets.
The discussion centred around the importance of being able to judge the value of outsourced activity. Financial data – such as performance, costs and risk – are only one factor in this; softer human factors – such as communication, trust and innovation – are just as important, though not always easy to quantify. Another topic was the importance of pension funds not being talked into a provider’s outsourcing model, but to work out precisely what their own needs are before deciding on who the provider should be. Too often investment consultants are leading the debate and transferring their pension fund clients from an advisory to a delegated model, whereas the best solution for the pension fund might be an altogether different method of outsourced decision-making. It was agreed that a proper and independent analysis has to precede the decision to change the mandate.
Het 10-jarig jubileum van Avida stond in het teken van het seminar ‘vertrouwen in onzekere tijden’ dat op 1 juni plaatsvond in Wassenaar. Hierbij een korte impressie van deze geanimeerde bijeenkomst.
By Susanna Rust on IPE, 10 May 2016
European pension funds need to make a “fundamental” behavioural and cultural shift to close “a yawning gap between the rhetoric of governance improvements of recent years and their reality on the ground”, according to a paper from The 300 Club, a group of investment professionals seeking to challenge mainstream investment practice and thinking.
Read the full article on IPE.
By Helen Morrissey on Professional Pensions, 9 May 2016
An interesting article on Professional Pensions (please note: the article is available after logging in on Professional Pensions).
Sally Bridgeland explains what trustees and pension fund committees need to be mindful of if they decide to move their investments in-house.
Read the full article on Pensions Expert.
By Sophia Grene, Financial Times, October 19, 2015
After a number of false starts, fiduciary management, where the day-to-day management of a pension scheme is outsourced, seems to be taking off in the UK market.
“My best guess is that, in five years, more than half of defined benefit [pension] assets will be run under some form of fiduciary management,” says Chris Ford, global head of investment at Towers Watson, the consultancy.
Fees and costs are controversial issues in the investment industry. Steven Charlton, Aisha Dudhia and Bart Heenk break down the key challenges in the discourse in the Autumn issues of Professional Investor. Bart Heenk: “The average pension fund trustee has limited insight into management fees and no idea of the true costs. This is largely because there is not attempt by the industry to provide clear and complete reporting. In fact most costs are, and remain, hidden unless you specifically ask for them.”
Read the full article here.
1-2 October 2015 – Sally Bridgeland was one of the speakers at the Allianz-Oxford Pensions Conference 2015.
Beyond the mid-life crisis: Challenges for plan sponsors and trustees in the UK as DB pension funds mature.
Bart Heenk spoke about the trend of outsourced models such as investment consulting and fiduciary management at the Sanlam Investment Institutional Insights conference in Sandton, Cape Town.