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September 28, 2020


Timely Care Challenge Dismissed

A constitutional challenge of public healthcare rules in British Columbia that claimed the provincial healthcare system denies patients the right to timely care has been dismissed by the BC Supreme Court, says an Eckler ‘GroupNews.’ The challenge by Cambie Surgeries Corporation and four patient plaintiffs claimed that provisions of the British Columbia Medical Protection Act infringed their rights by prohibiting the provision of medically-necessary private healthcare services in the province. Currently, the act prohibits doctors from billing the government for work they do in the public system while also earning money from private clinics as well as billing patients or their insurance companies. The plaintiffs held that the provisions of the act effectively bar physicians in the province who work in the public system from providing services to patients privately. They argued that while the government does not have a constitutional duty to provide timely medical care, it cannot prevent patients from obtaining private medical services without breaching their constitutional rights. The court rejected the arguments that the Charter rights of patients were being infringed upon. It determined that there is a rational connection between the provisions of the act and its objectives of “preserving and ensuring the sustainability of the universal public healthcare system” and ensuring access to necessary medical services is based on need and not the ability to pay. It is possible that public reviews of the public healthcare system will reveal flaws or areas of improvement in relation to timely access to medical services and could result in calls for additional funding to keep pace with the demands of an aging population, says Eckler. In the near term, the decision provides protection to private medical plans that may be pressured to reimburse these services.

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Return Can Influence Beliefs

Millennial investors who would abandon their ideals surrounding sustainable investing would want a return of 21 per cent to “offset any guilt,” says research from Schroders. Its ‘Global Investor Study 2020’ found a quarter of millennial investors surveyed would invest against their personal beliefs if the returns were high enough. Three-quarters would not compromise on beliefs. The older people get, the less likely they are to compromise their beliefs for the sake of higher returns. Some 16 per cent of those aged 71 or over would swap ideals for returns, for example. The figures are 20 per cent for baby boomers and 24 per cent of those classed as Generation X. Geographically, people in China, Italy, and Portugal are the most likely to stay true to their views, with the least probable being those based in the US, Singapore, and Thailand.

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Antidepressants Claims On Rise

Prescription drug claim volumes for antidepressants is set to exceed the 2019 total, says Express Scripts Canada. By the end of August, claims were at 97 per cent of the total for 2019. While drug claim volumes have fluctuated throughout the course of this year due to the transition, self-isolation, and re-opening phases, claims for antidepressant medications from new claimants experienced a 20 per cent increase from 2019. Drug classes most affected by the pandemic include treatments for respiratory ailments, infections, and mental health. And if pandemic control measures prove effective, claims for remainder of 2020 should stabilize. If a second wage emerges, there may be a repeat of the trends associated with preparation and self-isolation.

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Group Annuity Can Strengthen Security

A participant’s benefit security in a DB pension plan is as strong as the plan’s funded status and the plan sponsor’s ability to make up any contribution shortfall, says Morneau Shepell ‘Pension Risk Bulletin.’ On this basis, it says a group annuity contract can strengthen the participants’ benefit security as the insurer’s financial strength and the Assuris coverage provide, among other things, significant protection against market risk and longevity risk. However, the long-term objectives of the plan sponsor and fiduciaries need to be taken into account in structuring a group annuity transaction, as current decisions can limit actions that may be taken in the future. This means it is of paramount importance that de-risking or risk transfer opportunities be studied from different angles and the decisions communicated effectively to all stakeholders to ensure everyone understands the impact, especially with regard to the participants’ benefit security.

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Brundage Joins OMERS

Paul Brundage is deputy chair, investments, for OMERS. He joined OMERS’ real estate business in 1998 before joining Oxford Properties Group following its acquisition by OMERS in 2001.

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September 25, 2020


Contribution Deferment Freezes Bonuses

Ontario employers who elect to defer contributions to their defined benefit plans to help with their businesses’ cash flow during the COVID-19 pandemic face a number of restrictions until all deferred payments are made and interest is paid, says a Blakes Insight.’ Under FSRA’s ‘Pension Sector Emergency Management Response (Guidance),’ they will not be allowed to increase the compensation of any ‘executive’ of the employer. ‘Executive’ is defined in the regulation as an employee or office holder who is a chief executive officer, president, vice-president, chief administrative officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief information officer, chief legal officer, chief human resources officer, chief development officer, or any other executive position regardless of the title of the position or office. They will also be unable to pay a bonus, however described, whether non-discretionary or discretionary, and whether in cash or otherwise, to any ‘executive’ of the employer. The guidance also says they cannot declare or pay any amount, whether as a dividend or a return of capital, on any issued and outstanding share capital of the employer or buy back, purchase, or redeem any issued and outstanding share capital of the employer.

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Gender Diversity Generates Positive Experience

Companies with greater gender diversity in leadership roles and promotions, and with more women in highly compensated and revenue-producing jobs, generate a more positive experience for all employees throughout their organizations, says an analysis by Willis Towers Watson. Additionally, companies with leadership structures that support diversity, such as having a chief diversity officer, are perceived to be more inclusive by employees. Key findings also show companies with more women in executive and management roles deliver more positive employee experiences in terms of overall career growth, pay fairness, skill building, confidence in leaders, and managerial support. Employees in these companies also express higher engagement and greater likelihood to stay. The advantages are especially apparent when at least one-third of women are in management and one-fifth are in executive ranks.

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Canadians Comfortable Disclosing Mental Illness

Canadians overall are increasingly more comfortable with the idea of disclosing a mental illness. A poll by RBC Insurance shows 77 per cent now indicate they would comfortably or reluctantly disclose it, versus 73 per cent last year. However, among the respondents who have experience with taking time off for a disability, 80 per cent would disclose their struggles, compared to 72 per cent who haven’t taken or don’t know someone who has taken time off for a disability. Among those who feel reluctant to admit or would not admit to struggling with a mental illness, the top reasons for not disclosing their struggles are privacy, fear of being treated differently, and stigma. This represents a shift from 2019, when stigma was the biggest barrier to disclosure.

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Managers Turn To Outsourcing

Investment managers of all sizes and strategies have been prompted to undertake a comprehensive review of their operating models as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has accelerated existing trends that are compounding cost pressures. This, says research from Northern Trust, has led increasing numbers of managers to outsource in-house dealing and other functions, such as foreign exchange and transition management, hitherto seen as core. ‘From Niche to Norm’ says while cost savings remain a core driver, and indeed are one outcome of outsourcing, costs are no longer the only focus. Outsourcing is described as part of the target operating model, with the focus expanding to the variety of other potential benefits offered – enhanced capabilities, improved governance, and operational resilience.

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Dividend Payments Suspended

Dividend payments from 31 FTSE 100 companies have been cancelled, 12 have been suspended, and nine cut, says an analysis from GraniteShares, an ETF provider. The current FTSE 100 dividend yield is 3.63 per cent, but there are 18 FTSE 100 companies with yields of zero per cent, and nine with less than one per cent. Will Rhind, founder and CEO at GraniteShares, says: “The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the amount companies pay in dividends. This year alone FTSE 100 companies will pay out around £30 billion or one-third less than was expected at the start of 2020.” The forecast for FTSE 100 dividend payments for 2020 – around £62.3 billion – is around 17 per cent less than 2019 and would be equivalent to levels last seen in 2014. “The outlook for dividends going forward is linked to the economic recovery both here in the UK and, for many FTSE 100 companies, globally. With rising unemployment and the potential risk of a second wave of the pandemic, the economic outlook is as uncertain as ever,” he says.

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Employees Unaware Of HR Activities

Over one-third of working Canadians have no idea what HR does all day long, says a study from ADP Canada and Maru/Blue. Most Canadians believe the primary functions of HR include recruitment and hiring, overseeing payroll and benefits, and planning for long-term staffing. Still, over half of respondents recognize the role of their HR team has become more difficult during the pandemic. The survey, which compared insights from both working Canadians and Canadian HR professionals, also found, not surprisingly, that 61 per cent of HR professionals believe their role has become more difficult during the pandemic. New challenges caused by COVID-19 include protecting the health and wellbeing of employees, ensuring business continuity, and staying on top of rapid policy changes. Over half of HR professionals also cite supporting the transition to remote work and supporting employee mental health as significant challenges. Given these new challenges, 43 per cent of HR professionals feel the role of HR has changed because of COVID-19. To celebrate and recognize HR professionals across the country, ADP Canada is again holdings its HR appreciation contest. To nominate a HR professional as an ‘HR Superstar,’ visit HRAppreciation.com  by November 13 to nominate a member of their HR team. Each ‘HR Superstar’ will receive a small token of gratitude and will be entered in a draw to win a grand prize of a weekend at a local hotel and spa.

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CDPQ Invests In Colisée

CDPQ’s investment alongside EQT Infrastructure V and Colisée’s management team will enable the company it to consider new growth opportunities, including in new markets, while consolidating its care and services offering. Headquartered in Paris, France, Colisée operates more than 270 nursing home facilities as well as home care services agencies, mainly in France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy. In addition to nursing home facilities, it has diversified its offering to provide more services to help the elderly.

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Europe, Asia Heads Appointed

Joanne McNamara and David Matheson will head Oxford Properties Group’s European and Asia Pacific businesses. McNamara joined the organization from Hammerson in 2010. Most recently, she lead its European investment team. Matheson joined the company in 2013 from Goldman Sachs. Since 2018, he has led the company’s push into Asia Pacific.

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September 24, 2020


Pharmacare Commitment Promised

Heart & Stroke welcomes the commitment to a national, universal pharmacare program in the federal government’s Speech from the Throne which also included a rare disease strategy and a national formulary. The government is willing to move forward without delay. Heart & Stroke said prior to COVID-19, 7.5 million people in Canada had no or inadequate prescription drug coverage. Between March and April of this year, three million jobs were lost due to the pandemic and unemployment remains high. This means even fewer Canadians have employment-related health benefits including prescription drug coverage. Also concerning is that pandemic-related unemployment has disproportionately impacted recent immigrants, racialized persons, and women. Women were already often in more precarious work situations including part-time positions that do not offer drug plans. This makes national, universal pharmacare more important than ever to the health of Canadians. Doug Roth, CEO of Heart & Stroke, says, “A national plan will contain costs, reduce the burden on the health system, and provide the access to medically necessary medication that everyone in Canada deserves.”

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Green Economy Covers More Than Climate Change

The green economy covers a lot of different areas, it’s not just about climate change, says Lee Clements, head of sustainable investment solutions at FTSE Russell. “Pollution is a huge issue; water resources is a huge issue. biodiversity and efficient agriculture are huge issues,” he said during the ‘Measuring the Size & Scale of the Green Economy’ session at the London Stock Exchange Group and PRI’s event, ‘The Rise of the Green Economy.’ Since it is really important to the world, businesses, and industry, he said it is also important to investors. In fact, the UN Secretary General last year described the green economy as the future. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on economies, there is a lot of talk about focus on the green economy as economies are being re-built. “And the numbers that we’re talking about are huge as well,” he said. Studies have said $90 trillion in investment is needed in the next 10 to 15 years for the infrastructure around dealing with climate change and other environmental issues. “That’s a level of capital that needs to be mobilized,” he said. There are other reasons for focusing on the green economy at this time. First, it’s very big. Lined up against some of the other global economy sectors, it’s bigger than retail and almost as big as oil and gas. “It’s a significant sector for investors to look at,” said Clements.

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ESG Growing In Importance

Environmental, social, and governance considerations (ESG) have grown in importance among U.S. financial advisors, high net worth individuals, and institutional investors during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the ‘2020 Federated Hermes’ ESG Investing Survey.’ It found that two-thirds of investors are scrutinizing social factors as the pandemic put a spotlight on topics such as public health, pay equity, and working conditions. In addition, 46 per cent of investors believe that good governance is very important, while 88 per cent consider environmental factors in their investment decisions. The survey found that investors are becoming more sophisticated about ESG investing. They are moving away from negative screening strategies that exclude certain investments. Instead, 64 per cent of high net worth investors and 74 per cent of institutions focus on positive screening strategies, which is the inclusion of certain investments based on ESG data. Institutional investors at 64 per cent lead the way in understanding the value of long-term engagement with portfolio investments and 48 per cent of institutional survey respondents said active strategies are their primary way of finding ESG investments.

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Employers Have Options In A COVID-19 World

Canadians employers have a long list of concerns as their employees return to the workplace. Physical distancing in the workplace and the mental health of their employees top the list of these, says Faizal Mitha, chief sales and innovation officer at HUB International in Canada. In ‘What To Consider In A COVID-19 World’ at the Benefits and Pensions Monitor website, he says this makes it a more critical time for employers to seriously consider their options for greater employee support.

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‘Material Difference’ Identified

The Registered Plans Directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has identified what constitutes a “material difference” between an annuity purchased in satisfaction of a pension obligation and the original pension benefit, says a Morneau Shepell ‘News & Views.’ Under section 147.4 of the Income Tax Act, a beneficiary will not be taxed on the acquisition of an annuity that was purchased in satisfaction of a pension obligation, provided the annuity’s terms are “not materially different” from those of the pension plan. The major development in both the draft and final versions is that the CRA has indicated it will generally accept fixed-rate indexation in lieu of a full indexed adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index. It has indicated that the fixed rate could be based upon either the mid-range of the Bank of Canada’s inflation-control range at the date of purchase or the spread between Canada long-term bond yields and real return bonds in the month of purchase or the month preceding. A fixed rate between these two options would also be acceptable. If an annuity contract uses a different substitution method, the CRA will consider the alternative upon written request.

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UTAM Endorses CCGG Stewardship Principles

UTAM has publicly endorsed the stewardship principles of the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG), along with more than 20 other institutional investors. The principles are intended to help institutions investing in Canadian public companies to be active and effective stewards of their investments. They were designed for both asset owners and asset managers. Stewardship principles that institutional investors are encouraged to apply the include developing, implementing, and disclosing their approach to stewardship and how they meet their stewardship responsibilities; monitoring the companies in which they invest; adopting and publicly disclosing their proxy voting guidelines and how they exercise voting rights; and focusing on promoting the creation of long-term sustainable value.

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First State Becomes First Sentier

First State Investments, a global investment manager, now is operating worldwide as First Sentier Investors. The name change follows the acquisition of First State Investments in August 2019 by Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation (MUTB), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (MUFG), from Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA). Headquartered in Sydney, Australia, First Sentier Investors operates as a standalone investment management business and manages more than US$148 billion on behalf of investors across Asia, Australasia, Europe, and North America. It offers a suite of active investment capabilities across global and regional equities, cash and fixed income, infrastructure, and multi-asset solutions and is the home of investment teams Stewart Investors and FSSA Investment Managers. These teams will continue to operate under their current brand names.

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CDPQ Invests In Climate Friendly Food

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and S2G Ventures have created a co-investment partnership where CDPQ will invest up to US$125 million over the next three years in ventures that aim to make the food and agriculture industry more sustainable and climate friendly. The co-investment agreement results from CDPQ’s partnership with CREO Family Office Syndicate (CREO), a not-for-profit organization that aims to galvanize capital into low carbon solutions. S2G was selected by CDPQ after a full market review of potential partners. By providing an opportunity to invest behind entrepreneurs that are developing concrete solutions to climate change, the agreement will further the two organizations’ shared core principles and objectives, including a long-term outlook and a commitment to sustainable investing.

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Three Now Senior Consultants

Teimaz Binesh (CFA), Lewis Powell (CFA, CIPM), and Michael Scott (CFA) are senior consultants with Proteus Consultants. Binesh has been with the firm as a consultant since 2011. As a senior member of the team, he is part of manager research initiatives, performs due-diligence, and creates/amends in-house databases in terms of qualitative and quantitative metrics. Powell also joined the company as a consultant in 2011. He is a published thought leader with articles featured in Benefits and Pensions Monitor and the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Plans and Trust magazine. Scott has been with the organization since 2012. He works closely with a number of institutions including defined benefit plans, defined contribution plans, and other institutional investment structures.

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September 23, 2020


Ontario Permitting DB Contribution Deferment

Ontario is providing employers with the option to defer contributions to certain defined benefit pension plans to help with their businesses’ cash flow during COVID-19, while providing safeguards for funding member benefits, says the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA). Eligible private sector employers will be able to defer up to six months of pension contributions from October 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021. All deferred contributions must be paid with interest and in accordance with a schedule by March 31, 2022. There will be restrictions on employers that choose to defer contributions to help ensure that funds made available from the contribution deferral are used to maintain business operations. The restrictions would no longer apply after all deferred contributions are made. FSRA’s ‘Pension Sector Emergency Management Response Guidance’ sets out the process by which it will administer the temporary contribution deferral framework. Sponsors of DB plans will also have 120 days, instead of 60 days, to make a ‘catch-up’ contribution if a valuation report is filed on or before April 1, 2021.

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Presenteeism Top Employee Issue

Work presenteeism is the number one employee issue, both in terms of its negative impact on the workforce and the extent of improvement after employee assistance program (EAP) counselling, says a report from Morneau Shepell. The ‘2020 Workplace Outcome Suite (WOS) Annual Report’ says this issue also translates into the greatest source of cost savings and ROI (return on investment). Barb Veder, vice president, global clinical services, research lead and chief clinician, at Morneau Shepell, says, the results of the report confirm that short-term counselling offered through EAPs works very well for employees and employers alike. “At a time when employees need convenient and effective support for work and life issues, employers looking for a cost-effective way to both provide this benefit while countering presenteeism and absenteeism should strongly consider an EAP,” she says. The estimated ROI ranged from 3:1 for small size employers, 5:1 for medium size employer, and to 9:1 for large size employers in the United States. The results also found cost savings ranging from about $2,000 to $3,500 per employee from reductions in work presenteeism (87 per cent of total return) and absenteeism (13 per cent). A break-even 1:1 ROI was possible even at a very low utilization level of just one EAP counselling case per every 100 covered employees.

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Mental Health Illness Linked To Disability

Canadians who have had experience with mental health challenges or taking time off for disabilities, are more likely to see mental health illnesses as a disability, says RBC Insurance. It found while 51 per cent of Canadians view issues such as depression or anxiety as a disability, this proportion is significantly higher among those who have familiarity with taking time off work for a disability (59 per cent) compared to those who don’t know anyone or have not taken time off themselves (39 per cent. “Diagnosed depression and anxiety can indeed be debilitating, but the findings show that most of us don’t truly understand the impact of something until we’ve experienced it ourselves,” says Maria Winslow, senior director, life and health, at RBC Insurance. “There is still a large portion of Canadians who do not consider the sometimes ‘invisible’ ailments of depression and anxiety as disabilities, yet, mental illness causes the majority of disability claims at RBC Insurance.” Canadians overall are increasingly more comfortable with the idea of disclosing a mental illness (77 per cent indicated they would comfortably or reluctantly disclose it, versus 73 per cent last year). However, among the respondents who have experience with taking time off for a disability, 80 per cent would disclose their struggles, compared to 72 per cent who haven’t taken or don’t know someone who has taken time off for a disability. Among those who feel reluctant to admit or would not admit to struggling with a mental illness, the top reasons for not disclosing their struggles are privacy, fear of being treated differently, and stigma. This represents a shift from 2019, when stigma was the biggest barrier to disclosure.

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Throne Speech May Put Canada In ‘Spend Model’

As Canada looks to simultaneously recover from the economic impact of COVID-19 while working to prevent a second wave of the virus nationally, Michael White, portfolio manager and head of multi-asset strategy at Picton Mahoney Asset Management, believes today’s Throne Speech from the federal government will provide important insights on its plan to achieve this. He is looking for a general message is that Canada (with the lowest debt/GDP of G7) will finally be going to ‘spend’ model. This was signaled by Chrystia Freeland becoming minister of finance, as she has the reputation for getting the hard things done. “As such, it would not be surprising to see fiscal spend as percentage of GDP reach a new record by Canadian standards,” he says. The general thrust of the expanded fiscal spending seems to be keeping consumers afloat (which indirectly is positive for preventing a housing crash), and there was even talk about making CERB into a permanent fixture in the form of universal basic income, perhaps “sooner than we realize,” he says.

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Childcare Help Efforts Boosted

U.S. employers are boosting efforts to meet the childcare needs of working parents of young and school-age children, says a survey by Willis Towers Watson. It found, however, that while most employers (74 per cent) believe supporting these employees is a top priority today, less than four in 10 (39 per cent) agree that their current programs and policies to support them are effective. Despite this apparent disconnect, more employers are taking steps to help working parents. The survey found that 30 per cent of employers offer access to backup childcare services with another 30 per cent planning or considering doing so; 27 per cent provide discounts or subsidies for childcare centres, tutoring, or other educational resources; 22 per cent offer company-subsidized backup childcare days; and 22 per cent provide concierge services to address broad sets of needs. Nearly all companies (97 per cent) are assisting working parents by providing flexible work hours. Additionally, three in four employers allow employees to work reduced schedules or hours. Among those, a tenth (10 per cent) will maintain pay and benefits, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) will reduce pay and benefits while 43 per cent will reduce pay but maintain benefits.

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Pension Age Discrimination Challenge Rejected

The England and Wales Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal by two women who are challenging an increase in the UK’s state pension age for women to 66 from 60. The challenge is to the changes created by a series of legislation approvals between 1995 and 2014 that equalized the state pension age for women with that of men by increasing the state pension age for women. The women argue that the age change was discriminatory on the basis of both age and gender. The ruling could affect an estimated four million British women who were born in the 1950s. They say although the Pensions Act 1995 was partially intended to end the gender discrimination that had allowed women to claim their pension five years earlier than men, the equalization “has run ahead of actual improvements in the economic position of women in their age group.” They also argue that women born in the 1950s were not treated equally with men during their working lives and, as a result, are in a poorer financial position than men when they turn 60. As a result, the legislation not only doesn’t end gender discrimination but “in fact gives rise to direct age discrimination.” The court, however, said that it is “undoubtedly the case” that many groups have suffered discrimination in the workplace, such as racial minorities, disabled people, single parents, and transgender people. “The eradication of those disparities of opportunity is in large part the purpose of the anti-discrimination law that has been put in place. That does not mean, however, that every measure that has that kind of prejudicial effect on a disadvantaged group in society amounts to unlawful discrimination,” it said.

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AGFWave Created

AGF Management Limited and WaveFront Global Asset Management Corp. have launched AGFWave Asset Management Inc. (AGFWave), a joint venture for providing asset management services and products in China and South Korea. It combines AGF’s investment expertise and global brand strength with WaveFront’s existing distribution capabilities in China and South Korea, including partnerships with industry leaders in both regions. Initially, members of AGF’s quantitative investment team ˗ AGFiQ ˗ will work together with members of WaveFront’s team as AGFWave’s investment committee. In addition to taking over investment management duties for existing market differentiated investment products on behalf of partners and clients, AGFWave will also be responsible for new product development in these markets, working closely with both Chinese and South Korean partners on exploring future opportunities to bring other quantitative and complementary fundamental investment management capabilities to these rapidly growing markets.

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Lanthier Joining Fiera

Anik Lanthier is president, public markets, at Fiera Capital Corporation, effective October 13. She will be responsible for all of its public markets activities globally. Her most recent role was as senior vice-president and global head of capital markets at PSP Investments.

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September 22, 2020


Workforce On Edge Of New World

PwC’s Canadian workforce study says “we’re on the edge of a new world of work and this change will bring opportunities to re-imagine collaboration, innovation, and project delivery. “The ways in which Canadians are working together is becoming more fluid. It’s time for organizations to adapt and maximize the potential of their people as we move towards a new world of work,” says Jean McClellan, national consulting people and organization leader at PwC Canada. As the world adjusts to the new working environment, organizations are trying to develop best practices for remote working as well as how to return to the workplace. Prior to the pandemic, 82 per cent of Canadian employees worked primarily from an office. Today that number is down to 27 per cent. While 78 per cent of employers expect a partial return to the workplace in the next three months, only one in five employees say they want to go back to the office full time. The majority want the flexibility to pick between their home and the office as needed. As a result, the top challenges for nearly half of the employees surveyed was maintaining day-to-day work productivity and finding the right work-life balance, especially for those with children. Additionally, communicating with co-workers in the absence of traditional in-person interaction has been a major adjustment. Employers will need to consider a business strategy that meets the evolving needs of their company, while also considering the changing needs of their people. Not surprisingly, employers who invest in their people have been able to better adjust amid this uncertainty. The survey shows two-thirds of Canadian employees reported being provided with upskilling opportunities. This access to upskilling showed increased confidence in the organization’s leadership as well as increased productivity when compared to those who didn’t receive upskilling opportunities.

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Dramatic Increase In Level Of Crypto-Currency Investment Coming

Institutional investors will ‘dramatically’ increase their level of investment in crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin and crypto-assets over the next five years , says a report from Evertas, a crypto-asset insurance company. It found 26 per cent believe pension funds, insurers, family offices, and sovereign wealth funds will ‘dramatically’ increase their level of investment in these assets with a further 64 per cent anticipating a slight rise. It says institutional investors will increase their exposure to crypto-currencies and crypto-assets because they expect the regulatory infrastructure for the market to improve and because the crypto market will become much bigger, providing greater liquidity. Three in four expect more mainstream fund managers and financial services companies to enter this market and there will be more funds and investment vehicles in this area to choose from. However, the findings reveal that institutional investors still have some substantial concerns about investing in crypto-assets. It shows 56 per cent are ‘very concerned’ about the lack of insurance cover for crypto-assets and 54 per cent are ‘very concerned’ about the working practices and compliance procedures of companies working in the sector who supply services to institutional investors. Other concerns include the quality of custodial services in this market, the availability and quality of trading desks, and reporting facilities.

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COVID-19 Helps High-Tech

The economic dislocation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt across British Columbia’s economy, but a rare exception is the high-tech sector, says Mercer Canada’s ‘2020 HR Tech Group Salary Survey.’ It found that although COVID-19 has caused significant disruption to Canada’s economy, many tech companies are experiencing a boom in demand as much of the economy moves online. This is reflected in salary increase data, as out of all of Canada, tech companies are planning to increase their total salary budgets by the greatest amount. Companies reported their actual 2020 average total salary increase budgets at 3.3 per cent. High tech jobs are being allocated higher proportions of these budgets than other types of jobs. Year over year, the survey shows during 2019 and 2020, the median salary change was 3.5 per cent. At the entry level, which is typically employees with one to two years of experience, the year over year median salary change was highest at five per cent.

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FTSE Russell Providing Corporate Bond Spread

The Canadian arm of FTSE Russell has been selected by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) to represent the Canada provincial and investment-grade corporate bond spread to be used for the CIA’s new enhanced market-based commuted value calculation. The Canadian commuted value actuarial standard of practice is used to determine how much to pay a member of a registered defined benefit pension plan who leaves the plan and elects to receive their pension entitlement as a lump sum payment. This calculation, historically based on the yields of long-term Government of Canada bonds, will now also reflect blended spreads of provincial and investment grade corporate bond yields. These market rates will now be derived by actuaries from yields calculated and published by FTSE Russell for a number of FTSE Canada Fixed Income Indexes. These changes to the commuted value standard will take effect on December 1.

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Private Equity Outperformance Takes !0 Years

CalPERS’ more aggressive return-seeking assets including private equity did not start to provide outperformance until the 10-year period ended June 30, says a report to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s investment committee. For the fiscal year ended June 30, public and private equity asset classes, where the fund typically expects the highest levels of return, made almost no contribution to the overall outcome of the fund. However, the 10-year period results for public and private equities showed stronger returns than more conservative assets. Global fixed income net return was an annualized 5.85 per cent for the 10 years. Global equity net return for the same period was an annualized 9.68 per cent and private equity earned 10.43 per cent.

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Conte, Dickinson Merge

Conte Financial Services Inc. and Dickinson & Associates have merged and will operate as the Prime Benefits Group. The goal of aligning the organizations is to achieve an expanded level of knowledge and resources, an increased focus on innovation, and the ability to provide a more comprehensive set of services to clients and prospects alike. Serving clients nationally for more than three decades, Conte is a member of Benefits Alliance Group Inc., a Canadian alliance of independent employee benefits advisors. Dickinson & Associates was founded in Ottawa in 1998.

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Singzon Joins Lawyers Financial

Catherine Singzon is group benefits advisor at Lawyers Financial. She joins the organization from J&D Benefits Inc. where she was team lead – administration. Her background also includes positions with Apri Insurance Services and Morneau Shepell.

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