At the end of May I acted as master of ceremonies for Candriam’s investment seminar in Madrid. What a career highlight! I love every minute of a day packed with fascinating speakers and great audience questions. Back in London, I moderated a panel session for SG Enterprises in early June where we discussed how the last two tumultuous years have changed pension scheme allocations. This month also saw the publication of an article asking whether the LGPS pools should embrace in-house asset management. In a similar vein, my latest feature for IPE asked how consolidation might affect the LGPS. A piece for Professional Pensions examined the changing attitudes to pension surpluses. And another article for MandateWire looked at how easy it would be for the UK government to persuade those insurers benefitting from the buyout bonanza to invest in the domestic economy.

Master of ceremonies for Candriam’s investment seminar

What a day! I loved every minute of being master of ceremonies for Candriam’s investment seminar. I introduced and questioned the six superb speakers who provided insights and context into how investors can focus on progress in such challenging times. I also fielded questions from the floor and there was great audience participation.

Asset allocation trends across UK pensions

How have the last two tumultuous years changed how pension schemes allocate their assets? That was the question posed to my panel at SG Pensions Enterprise’s Pension Asset Allocation Summit. Both the panellists and audience shared great insights on fixed income becoming investable again, sustainability now business as usual and alternatives still having an appeal.

Should LGPS pools embrace in-house asset management?

In my latest article for MandateWire I discuss how an incoming Labour government would “evaluate different models for pooling, including increasing in-house fund management capacity at the pool level, to deliver better returns for savers and increase investment in productive assets.” The article discusses how a pool with sufficient size and expertise can be more cost-effective than an external manager. But this is not the best approach for every asset class or every pool. A blend of internal and external managers is often better for larger pools.

How might consolidation affect the UK’s local government pension scheme?

My latest piece for IPE looks at whether there is a case to consolidate the existing LGPS pools further and asks for a better examination of what has and has not worked. The discussion has become even more relevant now the election is happening on 4th July. I also ask whether there should be greater in-house asset management and cautions there might not significant further cost savings.

How scheme approaches to surpluses are evolving

If I had told you in 2019 UK’s defined pension schemes would be in surplus in five years time, would you have believed me? The unthinkable has come to pass and my latest feature for Professional Pensions discusses how another unthinkable concept is being discussed – maybe we should allow schemes to run on? With the government coming round to the idea – and that appetite unlikely to change under a Labour administration – run-on is gaining traction. Persuading battle-scarred finance directors who have had to pump cash into a scheme to maintain its funding levels may be tricky. That’s why a PPF levy might provide some comfort and allow schemes to think about returning surpluses to corporates, members or improving DC pots.

UK solvency overhaul unlikely to significantly expand insurer’s investment universe

With the buyout bonanza seeing around £50bn being transferred to insurance companies, how easy will it be for the UK government to persuade these organisations to invest in domestic patient capital? I examine this issue in my latest piece for MandateWire. It’s not going to be easy − despite reforms to Solvency II. The issue is the Prudential Regulatory Authority does not want to relax the rules as far as The Treasury. Regulations means insurers favour fixed income assets with tightly defined cash flows. And for the annuity part of the business, they also require matching adjustment compatibility. In other words, it’s highly unlikely private debt or equity investments are likely to appeal to insurers managing DB assets anytime soon.

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