It's not just banking regulation that needs tightening
It’s not just banking regulation that needs tightening but private pension schemes are badly in need of better governance and stronger oversight.
The OECD is calling for both in new guidance issued today, rolling out a blueprint with recommendations on governance, funding, investment and the rights of pension plan members.
Musical chairs: Survey shows plans to both fire and hire asset managers
One way or another asset managers are in for a bumpy ride this year as many are likely to be replaced.
At least that’s the scenario according to Mellon Transition Management, part of BNY Mellon Asset Management, which says a record number of global pension funds and endowments are planning to change asset managers as they try to reduce risk.
Blue-sky thinking needed
The designers of the UK’s new personal accounts, the national pension scheme to be rolled out from 2012, have a great opportunity to shape the way pensions are delivered in future. They could challenge the pensions industry to come up with new ideas and indulge in blue sky thinking.
Or they could stick with standard industry products and hope they work. That seems to be the preferred approach of the respondents to the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority’s consultation on how to provide retirement income.
Investment consultants continue to urge savers to take the risk of stock market investment when investing for their retirement.
Mick Calvert of Watson Wyatt is quoted in an interactive graphic on FT.com dealing with the pension crisis as saying:
“Strategically and looking long term, now would seem to be the time to be putting more rather than less into equity markets if its’ affordable.”
A more considered view comes from Ros Altmann, an independent pensions expert. She says: “There is no financial or economic rule that says just because you invest in the stock market you personally are going to do better than risk-free assets.”
People who want security and cannot afford to take risks would be driven to index linked gilts, or some sort of protected equity investment, she says.
Relying on the equity bet has let down many people close to retirement. Prices are lower now, but there is no expectation market volatility is a thing of the past. So what makes it safe to go back to relying on equities, and how long is the long term?
UK employers want to play a game of heads I win, tails you lose, with the members of their pension schemes. They are keen, too, to draw a veil over how much they owe the schemes: perhaps they think it is not good for their share prices to be open and transparent about this.
The FT reports today on a plan put forward by the CBI, the UK employers’ body, for sweeping changes to pensions regulations. Among other things, it wants longer to make good a deficit than the 10 years currently allowed, and to move away from marking liabilities to market, which the CBI says can misrepresent a scheme’s position.
It’s time the asset management industry held boards to account for not listening to what fund managers are saying over corporate governance issues.
The M&G bond team are still positive about corporate paper, although they are cautious about taking some of the extraordinarily high yields at face value.
Pimco continues its ongoing series of thoughtful articles about defined contribution retirement savings plans with a conversation with Barbara Kontje, director of the retirement plan investments at American Express Company.
Investec Asset Management’s strategist Max King has joined the swelling tide of voices declaring the beginning of a new bull market.
White knuckle ride ahead
Asset managers should grit their teeth for a painful year ahead. Banks and hedge funds may have been taken to the extremes of their pain thresholds already but it’s yet to happen to active managers.
The UK goes head to head with high earners on tax relief
Messing with tax relief on pensions for high earners has not gone down well with some of the UK’s big savings organisations.
The FT today reports that the bosses at Legal & General and Friends Provident both claim that cutting tax relief might discourage saving. Alistair Darling announced in last month’s Budget that people earning more than £150,000 a year will be restricted to basic rate tax relief on contributions.
Are guaranteed products gaining IFAs' seal of approval?
Although research for the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions says guaranteed products cost too much to be a rational investment for pension savers, independent financial advisers seem to have a different take on things.
More than 90 per cent of IFAs recommend structured products to their clients, according to a survey conducted by Structured Products magazine. Even allowing for the likely bias as IFAs try to be polite to the questioner, that’s a swingeing majority in favour of a product with a distinctly opaque cost structure.
A large part of the cost to investors of guaranteed equity products (the main form mentioned in the survey) is dividends, which the product provider gets to hold onto. The DWP’s research estimates this cost amounts to between 15 and 20 per cent of the amount invested – are IFAs telling their customers that, or are they even aware of it?