FRANÇAIS
PRINT ENTIRE BOOKLET PRINT CUSTOM BOOKLET
OF SAVED PAGES
DOWNLOAD FULL
BOOKLET AS PDF
back to top

Table of contents

The 2019 Risk Management Conference was held at the JW Marriott: The
Rosseau Resort, Muskoka, Ont., August 1416, 2019.
  • 2
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

The risk-return trade-off in a late-cycle environment

by Yaelle Gang

Pension plans have found themselves in the late stages of the economic cycle, but no one knows when the cycle will turn. As well, with low interest rates, market volatility and geopolitical uncertainty, how can plan sponsors find the right balance between risk and return to provide promised pension benefits to plan members? How can plans strategically position themselves to succeed over the short, medium and long term when the

future is full of unknowns?

At the 2019 Risk Management Conference in August in Muskoka, ONT., guest speakers shared insights on how plans can position themselves for the future.

The conference kicked off with an energizing talk from Harvard lecturer Vikram Mansharamani, who offered the audience insights on navigating uncertainty. Other topics at the conference ranged from multi-asset investing to incorporating

environmental, social and governance factors, to considering new asset classes like structured credit. There were also numerous case studies from plan sponsors on how they’ve approached their investments, governance and risk management.

While no one knows what the future will hold, the robust conversations at the Risk Management Conference offered valuable insights for plans looking to prepare the best they can.

  • 3
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

Keynote speaker

Vikram Mansharamani,

lecturer, Harvard University,
author, Boombustology: Spotting Financial
Bubbles Before They Burst

How institutional investors can see through the noise

In a world with volatility and uncertainty, four key transitions can explain the headlines: China, technology, energy and demographics, said Vikram Mansharamani, who is a lecturer at Harvard University and author of Boombustology: Spotting Financial Bubbles Before They Burst.

China is growing and trying to transition to a consumption-led economy, but the transition isn’t complete and it’s overcapacity in many sectors, so the country is selling its goods at low cost, he noted.

At the same time, technology is accelerating and creating more outputs for given inputs, which is also creating more supply.

As well, the energy economy is transitioning, and the Middle East is becoming a much less important player, as alternative energy supplies are popping up globally and with North America becoming a more prominent energy producer, he added.

And, there’s a demographic transition underway in which the world’s largest

economics are aging rapidly. As people age and move to a fixed income, that’s a demand shock.

“Now when you put those four big tectonic trends together, an aggregate economic analysis, what do you think they [add up to] together? More supply, more supply, more supply, less demand, equals deflationary pressure.”

While there are pockets of mismatch where this trend doesn’t exist it does on the aggregate, and where there’s supply and demand mismatch, countries use their currencies to compete for the limited global demand, Mansharamani said. “Currency wars are a natural outgrowth of this idea that too much supply and not enough demand exists in the world.”

When there is only so much demand, there is also a winner-takes-all outcome, he noted, which contributes to inequality and subsequently nationalism and protectionism.

Despite all the noise, long-term investors

like pension funds shouldn’t be affected by the news and just need to navigate to where the puck is going in the future, Mansharamani said. And this can be done using multiple lenses to look at the world.

And by trying to find patterns, he noted.

“This is a matter of perspective: opportunity or threat. Everything can be characterized as one of those two. And so, it’s your choice how you choose to do it. You can sit there and be threat-oriented and, by the way, given the volatility in markets and economic outlook, nobody would blame you. Be threat-positioned, be defensively postured.

“Alternatively you can try to look through this noise. And I see there’s a pretty interesting world there. Pay attention to the cross currents that come with it. But I think there’s a big opportunity there and I would encourage you to take the opportunity mindset.”

  • 4
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

Ashley Lester,

head of systematic investment

Schroders

Integrating sustainability into a pension portfolio

While integrating sustainability into an investment portfolio is a hot topic right now among pension plan sponsors, how can this actually be operationalized?

Every plan that goes along the sustainability journey should be able to ask two questions, said Ashley Lester, head of systematic investment at Schroders. First, what’s the effect of incorporating sustainability on the other risk and return drivers in a portfolio? And second, how can it be proved that a portfolio incorporates sustainability?

A practical challenge with incorporating sustainability is that there is no one element that captures it. Rather, it’s a combination of different elements. “It’s carbon dioxide emissions, it’s chemicals poured down rivers, it’s employees who don’t go home because they’ve been killed on the job, it’s the taxes which companies pay, it’s the above living-wage benefits which companies pay,” Lester said. “There

are all sorts of pluses and minuses to corporate activity, but there’s not necessarily a clear conceptual framework for thinking about how we add those together into some overall concept of sustainability.”

This is especially clear when comparing the ratings of companies by providers. “The chance that any two providers will agree on the rating of any given company is not much more than just a dice roll.”

Determining a single sustainability value for companies can be done by adding together the different elements by assigning each element a price and determining the total dollar metric. This can be done using cost benefit analysis to put prices on activities that don’t have an actual dollar value, Lester said.

Once the value of sustainability can be defined, how much does it need to be integrated to be truly integrated?

Using factor investing as an example,

Lester highlighted how factor investors typically will assign a continuous score to each of the good elements that they’re looking for in the portfolio. “They’ll say, ‘How cheap is this stock? How profitable is it? How well governed is it?’ and so on.” Then, they will take a weighted sum of the scores to get an overall score.

The same can be done for integrating sustainability, he said. “You form an overall score for sustainability based on our overall measure of externalities, which works exactly the same way as all the other scores, which we form for all the other factors,” he said. “And so that, to my mind, is a truly integrated process.”

With this level of integration, investors can pack both conventional return drivers and as much sustainability as possible into their portfolios, Lester said.

  • 5
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com
Play video

Rob Almeida,

investment officer
and global investment strategist

MFS Investment Management

Finding winners and losers in a changing economy

In a time when technology is changing the world, investors trying to navigate the investment landscape should focus on what is material particularly on a company’s cash flows to separate winners from losers, said Rob Almeida, investment officer and global investment strategist at MFS Investment Management.

“We believe that there’s a very significant regime shift taking place, from a period of abundant cash flow profit generation to what we think is a regime or a period of below-average cash flow and profit generation,” he said, noting in the past, beta has been the major contributor to a portfolio’s returns, and in the future, this will be alpha.

Over the past 10 years, there has been below-average growth, Almeida said,

because technology has allowed households to dematerialize.

In this period of below-average growth, companies were able to drive margins without revenue growth by cutting expenses and through operating leverage, said Almeida. And, as such, there is a margin bubble because companies have achieved margins in a way that is unsustainable.

“They inflated their [earnings before interest and taxes] measures and working capital. They pulled every balance sheet lever, every income statement lever and every working capital lever they could, hoping, eventually, revenue growth would reaccelerate. So here we are today. Margins are at an all-time high, not just a cycle high all-time high. There’s only one way out of this: companies have to sell more stuff.”

Yet, companies don’t have the ability to

raise prices, which is clear from inflation data, Almeida noted. In fact, companies are cutting prices, and technology is introducing price and product transparency. Having more options creates a price war. “That creates a change in market share, which creates a change in margin structure it forces companies to spend more,” Almeida said.

To be able to navigate and separate the winners from the losers, it’s important to focus on cash flows. “We’ve overprescribed investment solutions. Growth, value, U.S., non-U.S., large cap, small cap . . . call it whatever you want. When I started my career in the ’90s, Cisco was a high-growth stock, then it was a deep-value stock. Now I’m not sure what it is. Call it whatever you want public, private, large or small, growth or value, if it has cash flows, it will be just fine. And your portfolios, if they own it, will do just fine.”

  • 6
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

Mitch Frazer,

partner

Torys LLP

Prudence and process: a primer on pension investment law

Many years ago, there was not much pension investment–related law, but with the rise of Canadian pension funds investing globally, this has changed, said Mitch Frazer, partner at Torys LLP.

“You see pension funds buying assets around the world, and it’s really a very interesting time,” he said.

The law is developing at a rapid rate and there are certain processes and guidelines plan sponsors should be aware of.

A key one is the Canadian Association of Pension Supervisory Authorities’ guideline on pension plan prudent investment practices.

This includes a two-hats principle, where an employer is the plan sponsor and the administrator. “The sponsor has no fiduciary duties,” Frazer said. “The sponsor establishes the plan, could wind up the plan and deals with funding. Everything

else is the administrator. And the administrator under the pension plan will have two duties: they’ll basically [have] statutory duties and they will have common law fiduciary duties.”

The statutory functions are to exercise care, diligence and skill, and to use all relevant and special knowledge the plan sponsor has, he noted. “You’ve got to manage the funds in a prudent way. You’ve got to retain financial consultants for independent advice. You’ve got to delegate investment responsibilities as appropriate. These are all key things that you’ve got to do in order to make the proper investment.”

The prudent person rule focuses on behaviours and processes rather than outcomes, Frazer said, because no one has a crystal ball. “But, in law, the important thing is to know that you’ve done the

process right have you thought about these things? Have you gone through and done your objective analysis?”

This involves using the skill and knowledge a plan sponsor ought to possess so the requirements would be different for a small plan versus a large plan, he noted.

“It’s very different, but there’s still generally the same principles: It’s make sure you understand all your documents, make sure that you’re legally compliant. You want to develop good governance practices.”

And keeping good records is key to demonstrating the process because, at the end of the day, some investments won’t work out as planned, he said.

Finally, it’s important to have well-defined objectives. “If you understand where you’re going to go, you could manage your risk better,” Frazer said.

  • 7
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

llya Figelman,

senior vice-president, director,
multi-asset class strategies

Acadian Asset Management

Diversifying in a tough market environment

The year 2018 was tough for risk assets.

“Not surprisingly, strategies that rely on market betas such as balanced funds, target-date funds and risk parity strategies also had a very tough time last year,” said Ilya Figelman, senior vice-president and director of multi-asset class strategies at Acadian Asset Management. “And what made 2018 especially painful for many investors [was] that many alternative strategies that [were] supposed to hold up during tough markets did not diversify in 2018.”

Short volatility, momentum and value underperformed, which resulted in alternative risk premium strategies that rely on these factors having lower results, he said.

Yet, despite these challenges, Figelman doesn’t think investors should give up on these factors, as most recovered in the first half of 2019 and have performed well over the long term.

Importantly, he noted that in the

absolute-return space, more can be done to enhance implementation by diversifying as much as possible, dynamically adjusting aggregate exposures, properly measuring and managing risk, and constructing portfolios holistically.

“In addition to diversifying across assets and asset classes, we found it to be very beneficial to diversify the factors that are used to forecast the assets,” Figelman said. “I believe that a lot more can be done in quantitative investing than just relying on your standard factors of value, carry, quality and momentum. In fact, we have found expanding the definition of those factors is quite efficacious. More interestingly, we have found that including cross-asset factors through a macro lens can add substantial alpha.”

On the risk management front, investors should measure and constrain the aggregate net equity exposure and equity beta to a portfolio coming from all assets.

When it comes to portfolio construction, it’s key to incorporate cross-asset relationships when constructing multi-asset portfolios, Figelman noted. “And incorporating these relationships for all the assets in the portfolio across all asset classes can materially reduce portfolio tail risk.”

When looking at the Sharpe ratio of a standard absolute-return strategy versus a strategy that incorporates the aforementioned points, the holistic strategy has roughly double the Sharpe ratio of the standard strategy, Figelman said.

“Putting this all together, last year, as we all know, was quite a challenging market and many diversifying assets or strategies did not diversify. A more robust approach can help if an event like last year occurs again, by diversifying as much as possible, dynamically adjusting exposures, measuring and managing risk [appropriately], and constructing portfolios holistically.”

  • 8
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com
Play video

Wylie Tollette,

executive vice-president
and head of client investment solutions

Franklin Templeton Investments

Lean in: a dynamic approach to asset allocation

While plans spend a lot of time picking managers, most return differences stem from a plan’s asset allocation.

And, it’s important to get asset allocation right, said Wylie Tollette, executive vice-president and head of client investment solutions at Franklin Templeton Investments.

Tollette was also previously the chief operating investment officer at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

A tool Tollette has used, both at the CalPERS and Franklin Templeton, to approach asset allocation is a matrix that looks at inflation and growth. “We come up with a seven- to 10-year outlook in our capital market expectations, and a base case and different market probabilities, for where the world will end up and the probability that we’ll end up in one of these various states of inflation versus growth and the asset classes that do okay in those different types of environments,” Tollette said. “And we use this as a bit of a double check to our quantitative mean variance derived strategic asset allocation.”

His firm’s current outlook is that for the next seven to 10 years, there will be

relatively high growth and low inflation. “And, if that continues, equities and corporate debt growth-driven investments will continue to do well.”

There is also a five to 10 per cent probability of a high-growth and high-inflation environment, meaning it probably makes sense to have five to 10 per cent of assets in inflation-sensitive asset classes, he said. “Peter Bernstein famously once said that to be truly diversified you probably need to hold some assets that you’re not completely comfortable with, and we actually believe that as well.”

Currently, many institutional investors have hitched their portfolios toward economic growth, Tollette noted, yet this has come along with volatility.

As such, plans should take on additional diversification. And, it’s important to get rebalancing right, he added. This can involve a dynamic approach of leaning in and out of asset classes with a 12- to 18-month view. “Clearly, if you can lean in to an asset class that has underperformed and that has the possibility of outperforming and lean away from asset classes that are about to

underperform, you could add value.”

But this is easier said than done, as there are often personal or other factors that contribute to discussions about rebalancing, which is why it’s key to take a disciplined approach that relies on reasonably accepted metrics, like leading economic indicators.

This can be done by creating a policy portfolio that mimics a plan’s benchmarks, which can take some of the human political elements out of the conversation, he said.

A final important step is doing regular attribution to see if decisions are adding value. “With a 12- to 18-month horizon, you probably need to give it three years, and that’s about how long we gave it at CalPERS to truly try to see if it was adding value. And, in short, it [was].

“Over basically not having a formal rebalancing policy No. 1 or No. 2 balancing back to the strategic weight just mechanically we found that dynamic asset allocation was a positive value-add contributor, and we found that out through the attribution process.”

  • 9
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

David Bridges,

research analyst

Fidelity Investments

Ex-CIA employee talks trade wars and technology wars

Institutional investors with global portfolios have a lot of issues to keep track of.

The trade war with China is here and it’s not going away anytime soon, said David Bridges, research analyst at Fidelity Investments and former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency.

“There’s a very strong national security component to the U.S. approach toward China the more confrontational approach the Trump administration has taken and the facts of that national security rationale are simply not going to go away,” he said. And Trump’s confrontational approach to China is one that has bipartisan support.

This trade war is playing out in a number of ways, including the spat with Huawei, which has impacted Canada as well.

One important issue in all of this relates to the fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless network, Bridges said, noting that there’s a

technology war over who controls the 5G network.

“5G is a revolutionary capability that you need to understand. A 4G network can support about between [4,000] and 5,000 devices in a square kilometre. A 5G network can support a million. The sheer volume, the breadth, the density of information flowing over a 5G network is going to be enormously greater.”

The United States is championing Nordic companies as competition to Huawei, Bridges said. Yet, the British have taken an approach where they will let Huawei in on the edges of the network and limit it from sensitive parts of the network.

But Bridges thinks this approach will not work because, in the event of systems outages down the road, China will have the ability to offer fixes and support on a time-constrained basis, which can impact the system. For this reason, the U.S. is taking a hard line and will continue to look to its

closest allies the Five Eyes partners to support that line, even with a lack of a strong competitor for Huawei, he said.

“Whoever has control over the 5G universe will have enormous control over that hugely we call it densified information flow. The U.S. position on 5G has been, if you let China in, you make yourself forever vulnerable to technical exploitation.”

Overall, the world is moving to a place with compromised outcomes, Bridges said. “The ability to impose a clean solution is vanishing. It’s vanishing in the political realm, it’s vanishing in the economic and commercial realm, and it’s vanishing in the technological realm. We have to accept the proposition that what we’re moving into is a world of compromised operating systems, whether they’re political, economic or technological. There’s no one power in the world today capable of imposing its will.”

  • 10
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com
Play video

Sid Chhabra,

partner and head of structured credit
and collateralized loan obligation management

BlueBay Asset Management
(global credit specialist for
RBC Global Asset Management)

Separating fact from fiction: investing in structured credit

How can investors find enhanced return for less risk while introducing more diversity into their fixed income portfolios?

Structured credit may be worth considering, said Sid Chhabra, partner and head of structured credit and collateralized loan obligation management at BlueBay Asset Management a global credit specialist for RBC Global Asset Management.

Structured credit comes in the form of a fund or vehicle that invests in underlying assets, usually credit or debt obligations. However, it is different from other funds because, within the fund, investors can receive different priority in payments.

“This priority of payments, or waterfall, is what makes structured credit somewhat unique and different,” Chhabra said, noting that this means junior investors suffer first when there is underperformance and benefit first when there is better performance of the underlying asset classes.

After the financial crisis, instruments like asset-backed securities, residential mortgage–backed securities and collateralized debt obligations got a bad reputation, but the reality is different, he said. “Subprime mortgages was a component of the broader structured credit market, but the rest of the asset class so mortgages linked to European assets, mortgages linked to U.K. assets, credit cards, auto loans, leveraged loans all of these assets that were sitting inside structured credit vehicles performed exceedingly well. And so, the perception of structured credit as somewhat more risky or as a contributor to high-risk allocations is actually not true.”

A mistake that was made during the financial crisis was that rating agencies didn’t get the modelling assumptions right for the performance of American housing and the performance of American consumers, Chhabra said.

“What they have done since then is actually change the rating methodology and, in fact, made structures a lot more stable.”

The market for structured credit is also a large and relatively liquid market at close to $4 trillion yet investors tend to have a low allocation to this asset class, he said.

And, structured credit can be a diversifier because it provides exposure to assets that would otherwise be difficult to access directly. “How do you take exposure to credit cards? How do you take exposure to auto loans? How do you take exposure to mortgages? It’s very hard for investors to take direct exposure to these assets,” Chhabra noted.

“It’s worth considering the risk and return for structured credit assets versus normal credit assets, versus normal corporate security assets, versus normal private credit assets,” Chhabra said.

  • 11
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

John Hull,

professor of finance
and Maple Financial Chair in derivatives
and risk management

University of Toronto’s
Rotman School of Management

Machine learning is the new world of statistics

Traditionally, all finance students had to learn statistics, and, in the future, this will likely shift into finance students requiring machine learning, said John Hull, professor of finance and Maple Financial Group Chair in derivatives and risk management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

“It’s not that our students are actually going to become data scientists they’re not some of them might, but most of them won’t. But they’ve actually got to know how to talk to data scientists, how to make sure the data scientists are doing things which are useful to their organizations,” he noted.

Machine learning is one area of artificial intelligence, which is about learning from data. “We give a computer program . . . access to volumes of data and it learns about relationships between variables and makes predictions.”

It is a natural development from statistics, as it involves huge data sets. Yet, the language in statistics and machine learning is totally different, Hull noted. “In fact, I haven’t found a single word in machine learning that has the

same meaning in traditional statistics.”

Interestingly, machine learning isn’t new and it actually dates back to the 1950s. Yet, the reason there’s so much hype now is because there is a huge amount of data available and computing is cheaper than it once was.

When applying machine learning, investors need to be cautious of overfitting or underfitting data, Hull said.

So how does portfolio management fit into the discussion about machine learning? This can either be done through supervised learning or reinforcement learning, he said.

Supervised learning is making a single decision. In application, this would be looking at different features and deciding to increase exposure in a certain area, for example, Hull said.

And reinforcement learning is about making sequential decisions and interacting with the environment. “Reinforcement learning is a lot trickier. You need a lot more data for reinforcement learning and you can very quickly run into problems in terms of the number of features and that sort of thing.”

Some machine learning best practices include dividing data into training, validation and test sets, developing different models using the training set, and comparing them using the validation set and choosing the most accurate one, Hull noted.

According to Hull, some key questions investors should ask when shown the results of machine learning include: What was used as the training data set? How many different models were tried? What were the results? What was used as the validation data set? How well did the results for different models work for the validation set? What was used as the test data set, and what results did it give? And, is the model chosen stationary, or does it evolve with the market?

Despite the growing prevalence of machine learning, managers need not fret. “This isn’t going to replace you as managers, let me say this. But it may lead to tools which become increasingly useful to you as portfolio managers,” Hull said.

  • 12
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

Lynn Healey,

chief investment officer

Teachers’ Pension Plan Corp.
(Newfoundland and Labrador)

Governance was key to turnaround at Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Pension Plan

Like many plans, the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Pension Plan came out of 2008 in rough shape.

So, the government started to discuss what should be done to deal with the plan’s unfunded liability.

In 2015, the agreement was made to turn the plan into a jointly sponsored pension plan, and the Teachers’ Pension Plan Corp. was established as the plan’s administrator and trustee.

In just a few short years, the plan saw a complete turnaround, with a fundamentally less-risky asset allocation and a funded status of 102 per cent as of year-end 2018.

A key part of how the rapid transition was possible can be tied to governance, said Lynn Healey, the fund’s chief investment officer.

To run the new plan, the sponsors wanted an expert board of directors, Healey noted. “And an expert board that was not jockeying in terms of ‘okay, this is the perspective from government’ versus ‘this is the perspective from teachers.’ It was very much ‘the board members have come together and [looked] at it in terms of what’s [in] the best interest of the membership and the plan.’ And that

has been critical.”

The sponsors looked at what competencies they would want in a board and indicated they’d like pension administration experience, institutional investing experience, governance, legislative knowledge, finance and risk management. So, with that in mind, they looked across the country to find the best people to fill those roles reflecting those competencies, Healey said.

“In the early days, they rolled up their sleeves and I’d say, in some respects, perhaps didn’t know what they fully signed on for in August of 2016,” she noted. “They, at some points, were very operational. A couple of our board members, I would say, were almost pseudo-management at points in time.”

As the fund’s management team was built up, this allowed the expert board to step back and play a true governance role. “And that’s sometimes hard to do when you’re so ingrained in the operations. And so it’s a real testament, I think, to how effective that board really operates.”

The way the management of the fund has worked with other external partners has also evolved. Before the management team was

in place, the investment consultant would essentially make recommendations directly to the investment committee, and then the investment committee would make recommendations to the board. Today, the relationship with the investment consultant rests with management.

The investment committee also has two non-board members who are experts in institutional investing, Healey said. “And that has been critical to give us the support to enable us to achieve what we’ve been able to achieve in the three short years.”

In addition to governance changes, there was a lot of focus on risk management throughout the process and keeping the asset-liability match in mind was key, Healey said.

Throughout the journey, the corporation has learned that significant change and transformation is possible even from a small and lean team in the furthest northeast part of the country through a rigorous focus on risk management, monitoring and accountability, Healey said. “With that kind of anchoring, you can achieve quite a bit.”

  • 13
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

Marc Gauthier,

treasurer and investment officer

Concordia University

Moving from a headline-risk mindset to a sustainability mindset at Concordia’s pension plan

In just a few short years, Concordia University’s pension plan has transformed its governance model and investment approach.

Before the financial crisis, the university’s plan, like many plans, had its assets in a 60/40 mix, said Marc Gauthier, Concordia’s treasurer and investment officer. Yet, in the financial crisis, its funding ratio went from 101 per cent to 74 per cent.

Gauthier knew things needed to be turned around, but he was dealing with a board of directors that was not interested in making change.

To start shifting the culture to one focused on sustainability instead of headline risk, education was important, said Gauthier.

He worked for five years on educating the right people to understand the need for change. “I must have invited over 20 specialists to engage in all of this education.”

Gauthier also undertook an enterprise risk management assessment for the pension plan.

This allowed board members to see where the exposure was held and to

identify risks above their tolerance. “Then, as fiduciaries, you have no choice [but] to address it. You cannot simply ignore [it] once you identify risk that is above your tolerance level.”

Coming out of this exercise, the plan developed a funding policy, which then influenced the plan’s investment policy, Gauthier said. “The directive to the investment policy was to limit the drawdown of any overall returns, but still [have] the ability to generate returns that meet our target, which is the discount rate.”

The investment policy was redesigned to be 100 per cent absolute-return driven. “Why? Because our liabilities are absolute driven. In our going-concern context, interest rate volatility is actually irrelevant.”

Instead of dividing the portfolio by asset classes, the portfolio is categorized based on funding objectives. On the defensive side, there is a capital preservation strategy, then there is a growth category that focuses on specialization, concentration and high conviction, and, finally, there is a diversification strategy that is

disconnected from capital markets, he said.

This has benefits because it doesn’t limit a plan to a certain amount of assets per asset class.

A part of this change was also governance budgeting, Gauthier said. Instead of having one committee, it now has a specialized subcommittee dedicated to investments that meets on a monthly basis. The amount of time for the board meetings has also increased.

As well, the plan is very strategic about how it allocates time at each investment committee meeting for education, discussion, reporting and monitoring. And, at the board level, there is time allocated for education, discussion, strategic reporting and administration.

The new strategy has now been in place for five years and, over that time, the plan has been successful in meeting its risk and return targets, Gauthier said.

The committee has also got on board with the changes, he noted. “The culture is outstanding.”

  • 14
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

2019 Risk Management Conference photos

The Risk Management Conference focused on the risk-return trade-off at various stages of the business cycle and how plan sponsors can better prepare for the future.

  • 15
  • 2019 Risk Management Conference www.investmentreview.com

Thank you to our sponsors




  • Academic sponsor



  • Keynote sponsor



  • Golf sponsor

  •  



  • Academic partner

  •