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April 3, 2020


Screening Helps Associates Feel Safe

To reassure Bimbo Canada employees as they work to produce bread for Canadians, it recently introduced a screening protocol, says Joanna D. Gomes, its manager, health and wellness programs. She told the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ ‘Benefits Together: Perspectives on Pandemic Response’ session that each of its locations across the country creates a QR code and when associates show up to work they use it to get a series of questions about their health. Their answers are assessed by a screener who determines whether they can actually enter the building. This screening process is part of its current focus on managing fear on a daily basis. This actually came from the associates who expressed a desire to feel safe and who were concerned that they were working with sick people. If an associates fails the screening process, there is a handout ready if they are sent home so they can understand the next step and what to expect for income replacement as well as when they can return, she said. Another practice that has been very well-received since it has been introduced is an appreciation premium for every person who comes into its plants or distribution centres to work during the pandemic. Every single associate has somebody telling them they should say home, she said. This helps them feel confident that they are doing the right thing in helping to keep the food supply going.

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Mental Health Declining

A statistically significant decrease in mental health, when compared to pre-COVID-19 benchmarks, has occurred, says Morneau Shepell’s ‘Mental Health Index,’ a measure of how the pandemic is impacting Canadian workers’ mental health. The index score of 63 ‒ compared to the benchmark of 75 ‒ is unprecedented in the three-year period when the benchmark data was being collected. The overall score of 63 is typically only seen in the subset of employees who have experienced a major life disruption or are a mental health risk. The largest negative change was seen in the measure of anxiety, followed by helplessness, optimism, and isolation. A majority of respondents (81 per cent) reported that the COVID-19 pandemic is negatively impacting their mental health, ranging from some concern but an ability to cope (49 per cent) to feeling the crisis has a negative, very negative, or significantly negative impact on their mental health (32 per cent).

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Median Solvency Hits Seven-Year Low

The ‘Mercer Pension Health Index’ has decreased from 112 per cent at the end of 2019 and 103 per cent at the end of February to 93 per cent at the end of March. The median solvency ratio of defined benefit pension plans was at 84 per cent on March 31, down from 98 per cent on December 31 and 93 per cent on February 29. Funded statuses hit their lowest point since 2013, but have since had a small bounce back with increases in long-term bond yields just prior to quarter end. “There is no doubt that funded positions are down and almost every defined benefit plan will feel this economic and public health crisis, but we’re optimistic that plan sponsors can avoid a pension crisis with smart and strategic decision-making,” says Andrew Whale, principal in Mercer Canada’s financial strategy group.

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Digital Program Provides Day-To-Day Guidance

MindBeacon, a provider of the digital mental and behavioural health therapy service ‘BEACON,’ has launched ‘Stronger Minds.’ Created to support all Canadians through heightened stresses related to COVID-19, the digital program provides participants with day-to-day guidance from a team of clinical psychologists. Participants will access guidance in the form of short Q&A videos, quick reads, and resilience-building activities – all focused on protecting emotional well-being as the COVID-19 crisis progresses. The free program will be available for all Canadians and will be offered indefinitely as this crisis has an uncertain timeline. It is being made possible through support from Manulife and Green Shield Canada (GSC) as part of their commitment to communities through the pandemic crisis.

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Personal Pension Plan Smart Move

Given the personal angst felt by Canadians in these trying times, INTEGRIS Pension Management says setting up a personal pension plan is a smart move in these very turbulent times for the legal and economic reasons. Thanks to ‘special payments,’ companies can take pre-tax dollars and use them to go ‘bargain hunting’ for stocks whose value has been severely eroded by market panic. Individuals who have maxed out their RRSP contribution limits are not allowed to do this. If clients are wary of investing in stock at all, and decide to use ‘safer’ asset classes, these are well-suited to a pension plan because they will likely never earn the prescribed 7.5 per cent rate of return, thus creating the opportunity for additional tax deductible contributions in the future. In addition, pension plans benefit from full creditor protection.

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Asset-Based Finance Needs Bolstering

The federal government should have a large-scale funding program in place to bolster asset-based finance during the current crisis, says a report from the C.D. Howe Institute. ‘Filling the Gap: Emergency Funding Programs and Asset-Based Finance in Times of Economic Crisis, says the 2008-2009 financial crisis pulled most private sector funders away from the asset-based finance (ABF) industry. If the pattern demonstrated by the 2008-2009 experience is repeated, the concern is that the traditional ABF industry funders and the banks will again pull back, creating a significant funding gap and putting an avoidable dent in economic growth. The ABF industry is critical to the functioning of the economy. In 2018, the value of ABF financing was an estimated $416 billion of vehicles and equipment for consumer and business customers in Canada and the industry supports a broad network of dealers, manufacturers, distributors, vendors and brokers, and their customers across Canada.

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Negative Territory Cut Not Expected

The lowering of the Bank of Canada (BoC) target for the overnight rate by 50 basis points to 0.25 per cent in its ongoing response to the COVID-19 outbreak represents the bank’s idea of the “effective lower bound,” says an ‘HSBC Bank Canada Asset Management: Special Canada Outlook.’ This unscheduled rate decision was the third rate cut in March. However, it does not expect the BoC to cut its overnight rate into negative territory. Along with the Department of Finance and OSFI, it maintains a wide assortment of policy tools to combat the headwinds facing the Canadian economy. Therefore, a negative policy rate is one of the last policy tools the bank would use to add stimulus to the Canadian economy as financial institutions deposit their excess cash at central banks for safekeeping, where they earn a small return on those funds. But in a negative rate environment, the banks get charged by the central bank for storing dollars. To support liquidity, it will purchase commercial paper issued by Canadian corporations, municipalities, and provinces. This program is expected to increase liquidity and support the flow of credit to large Canadian firms. It also plans a minimum $5 billion per week in market purchases of government of Canada bonds “to address strains in the government of Canada debt market and to enhance the effectiveness of all other actions taken so far.”

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CPBI Forum Postponed

The CPBI’s ‘FORUM 2020’ is being redesigned into an online event for members this June 15 to 17. The in-person national conference has been postponed to June 14 to 16, 2021, in Montreal, QC. 

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April 2, 2020


Plan Solvency Declines

With global equity markets and bond yields plummeting as the coronavirus spreads throughout the world, the solvency positions of Canadian defined benefit pension plans declined by more than 13 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2019, representing the lowest level of financial health since November 2016, says the first quarter ‘Median Solvency Ratio Survey’ by Aon plc. The ratio declined to 89.1 per cent, down from 102.5 per cent at the end of 2019. Solvency fell by 6.7 percentage points in March alone. Median solvency stood at 95.8 per cent at the end of February. Median asset returns to the end of the quarter were -6.6 per cent, compared with a 1.6 per cent increase in the last quarter of 2019. “March might have been the cruelest month for equities, but we are not confident the volatility has ended,” says Erwan Pirou, Canada chief investment officer at Aon. “In this environment, it makes sense for pension plan sponsors to consider rebalancing their portfolios to move back to their targets, although constrained liquidity conditions mean they should be very cautious in making trades.

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Market May Have Seen Worst

The stock market, after a painful pratfall that plunged it into the bear zone, might just have seen the worst, say strategists at JPMorgan Chase in a research note. Conditions that the bank had set for the market’s stabilizing and renewal included a significant slowdown in COVID infection rates, recession-like pricing across financial markets, a reversal in investor positioning, and extraordinary fiscal stimulus. These have mostly been met, the note says. Most so-called risk assets (typically stocks) have seen their lows and should move higher in the second quarter. There is a significant caveat. Risky markets should remain volatile as long as infection rates create uncertainty about the depth and duration of the COVID recession, but enough has changed fundamentally and technically to justify adding risk selectively. Most risky markets have probably made their lows for this recession, except perhaps oil and some emerging markets currencies beset by debt-sustainability issues.”

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Trend Factors Show Increases

Annual trend factors ranging from 11.2 per cent to 13 per cent have been reported in the Eckler ‘Group News’ trend factors. However, various types of health claims are subject to differing trend assumptions and, as such, the trend factors for these claim types could fall outside of the range cited. For example, vision care coverage is usually limited to a maximum benefit every 12 or 24 months, which is typically lower than the average cost of eyewear. Absent any changes to the maximum by the plan sponsor, vision care claims are typically limited to a utilization trend. Cost savings resulting from the capping of generic drugs relative to their brand-name equivalent are being eroded by the ongoing introduction of specialty drugs (i.e., drugs with annual treatment costs typically pegged at $10,000 or more). The paramedical benefits trend continues to be higher than in prior years, especially given the growth in claims for massage, chiropractor, and physiotherapy services. However, like vision care, these benefits usually have a maximum, either per practitioner or on a combined basis. Insurers expect a 5.5 per cent to 8.2 per cent utilization trend plus a fee guide trend of 1.14 per cent to 4.9 per cent, depending on the province. This is a significant trend, it says, and plan sponsors should keep it in mind when preparing for their next renewal.

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Administrators Get Guidance

As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on global markets, the Pension Administration Standards Association (PASA) has published guidance to support administrators during the ongoing crisis. The speed and scale of what has happened has been completely unprecedented and pension administrators will need to transform their way of working to enable their people to deliver effective remote services to clients and members, it says. The guidance states that administrators must concentrate on continuing to pay promised benefits, ensuring there are sufficient funds available ,and keeping accurate records of any work in progress.

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Thomas Leaving People Corporation

Mike Thomas is leaving People Corporation in May. He built his first business, The Investment Guild, in 1981 with a goal to be a small but highly specialized organization to service insurance and financial needs to a select group of people and companies. In 2006, he co-founded GroupWorks Financial and in 2007 made it a public company. In 2011, GroupWorks was rebranded to People Corporation. His final day with People Corporation is May1.

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ACI Transaction Completed

AltaGas Canada Inc. (ACI), the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, and the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund Board have acquired all of the 30 million common shares of ACI by PSPIB Cycle Investments Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of TriSummit Cycle Holding Inc. In connection with the completion of the arrangement, ACI’s name will be changed to TriSummit Utilities Inc.

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Commuted Value Interest Rate Assumptions

The interest assumptions required to calculate commuted values and marriage breakdown values for an event which occurs in any month up to and including April 2020 are now available at www.an-actual-actuary.com. An Excel spreadsheet on the website contains nine worksheets:
• Commuted Values February 2011 CIA
• Marital Breakdown: CSOP 4300 ‒ January 2012
• Ontario (Bill 133) Prior Rates – Rates for Ontario Marital Breakdown with valuation date prior to January 1, 2012
• Annuity Proxy for Solvency Calculations for Non-Indexed per cent Fully-Indexed Pensions
• Minimum Interest on Employee Required Contributions
• HISTORICAL Marital Breakdown: CSOP 4300 ‒ May 2009 (Now Frozen)
• HISTORICAL: Commuted Values ‒ 2009 Basis (Now Frozen)
• HISTORICAL: Commuted Values ‒ 2005 Basis (Now Frozen)
• HISTORICAL: Commuted Values ‒ 1993 Basis (Now Frozen)
You can use this spreadsheet to compare the interest rates which you may have calculated and/or you can download the spreadsheet to your own computer. Another actuary has already provided a peer review of the updated rates in this spreadsheet and determined that he/she agrees with the results.

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April 1, 2020


Ontario Teachers’ Have Record Investment Earnings

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board had a total-fund net return of 10.4 per cent for 2019. Net assets reached $207.4 billion as of December 31, 2019, a $16.3 billion increase from December 31, 2018. It earned $20.2 billion in investment income in 2019, the most in the organization’s history. As of January 1, 2020, the plan was fully funded using prudent assumptions for a seventh consecutive year, with 100 per cent inflation protection being provided on all pensions. As often is the case in years when public equity markets have exceptional returns, its diversified portfolio trailed its benchmark. Strong returns in private assets did not keep up with robust public equity markets, many of which were up more than 20 per cent during the year. In 2019, Ontario Teachers’ underperformed its benchmark by 1.8 per cent or $2.7 billion.

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Employers Eye Cost Containment

As concern over the effect that COVID-19 will have on their businesses escalates, North American employers are eyeing a series of cost-containment strategies that include hiring freezes and, to a lesser extent, wage freezes or delayed raises, says a survey by Willis Towers Watson. Additionally, some employers are paying premiums to mission-critical employees and subsidies to help employees manage costs related to working remotely. It found over four in 10 companies have frozen or reduced hiring. Another 28 per cent will or might do the same. Only seven per cent of companies have laid off employees, typically hourly wage earners; however, 37 per cent will or may do so in the future. Roughly one in 10 employers has reduced or delayed salary increases or frozen salaries (eight per cent) with nearly a quarter (22 per cent) planning or considering either or both initiatives for the future. Relatively few employers have actually cut salaries. Some employers, in their efforts to help ensure they serve customers, are paying premiums to mission-critical workers as well as providing subsidies to manage the cost of working remotely.

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Wording Important In Refusal To Work

It is always important to consult the specific wording of occupational health and safety legislation in each province to determine the rules that apply when employees refuse to work for reasons related to the coronavirus, says a Norton Rose Fulbright ‘Legal Update.’ Generally speaking, health and safety legislation across the country allows employees to refuse work in dangerous or unduly hazardous situations, depending on the wording of the governing legislation. Moreover, collective agreements may also have work refusal provisions that apply in specific work environments. Most commonly, work refusals arise when employees refuse to do something they have been asked to do because of unsafe operating equipment or the physical condition of the workplace. To lawfully refuse work, employees must meet a certain threshold, which may vary depending on the jurisdiction. For instance, in some jurisdictions, such as Alberta, work refusals must generally be based on reasonable grounds. In others such as Ontario, the worker must only have a ‘reason’ to stop work initially, which may be a subjective reason, and later the inspector determines if the situation is ‘likely to endanger’ on a reasonableness standard. The ultimate determination of whether or not a work refusal is reasonable in the circumstances is a question of fact, dealt with case by case.

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Sun Life Offers Virtual Care Access

As Canada and its healthcare system continue to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Sun Life is rolling out free access to virtual healthcare services for its group benefits clients with an extended healthcare (EHC) benefit. In partnership with Dialogue, clients will be able to use the virtual clinic to connect directly with a healthcare professional. The service ‒ Lumino Health Virtual Care ‒ is being offered free of charge for an initial period to support clients through the global health crisis. In addition to providing free virtual medical services to its clients, through Lumino Health, all Canadians can access healthcare providers digitally.

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Sticking To Target Date Pays Off

Investors who remain faithful to their target date funds and stick with them exclusively over the long term could reap sharply greater returns than those who don’t, says a paper from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the Vanguard Group Inc. It found that 12 months after the funds first appeared in a plan, target date investors earned annualized returns as much as 2.3 per cent higher than non-target-date investors. The findings covered periods of strong market growth as well as the 2007/08 market downturn. Over 30 years, the improved returns could translate into 50 per cent more retirement wealth for participants who invest solely in target date funds than those who invest in other funds offered in their plans. Even semi-faithful or ‘mixed TDF investors’ investing in both target date and other funds have much to gain, conceivably realizing up to 30 per cent greater returns.

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Current Situation Different

The current market situation is much different than during the 2008 financial crisis because “we couldn’t see the other side of the valley and how we were going to reach it,” says Rob Lovelace, vice-chairman of the Capital Group. Despite the speed and severity of the COVID outbreak and the reaction, “this time is different, and that gives me hope. While the global economy and financial markets are going to be challenged for some time and government leaders will have to make tough decisions, I believe we will make it through this.” Investors need to focus on what’s permanently changed. Pharmaceutical companies are obvious beneficiaries, particularly in the U.S. and a few other companies around the world that are working on promising vaccines. The consumer staples and food industries have been holding up in this environment as are beverage makers. The real estate market should benefit from lower rates, but could see some impact on the commercial side due to a potential hit to small businesses.

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CDPQ Complements COVID Initiatives

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) is creating a $4-billion envelope to support Québec companies temporarily impacted by COVID-19. This support is intended to complement the various initiatives that other financial institutions, Québec institutional investors, and the governments of Québec and Canada have announced. The funds will be used to address the specific liquidity needs of companies, whether or not in CDPQ’s portfolio, that meet certain criteria, including having been profitable before the COVID-19 crisis, having a promising growth outlook in their sector, and seeking financing of over $5 million. Eligible companies will be able to use these investments to weather this turbulent period until the economy recovers and support and advance their recovery plans once the crisis is over. In addition, it has decided to freeze the salaries of all leaders in the organization and its subsidiaries. The payment of variable compensation to CDPQ leaders for 2019, which takes into account the results of the last five years and forms part of their total compensation, as is standard in the financial industry, will be postponed until the third quarter of 2020.

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March 31, 2020


Third Party Personally Liable For Pension Contributions

A British Columbia Supreme Court decision highlights the strict obligations on employers in respect of employer and employee contributions to a pension plan, particularly where pension contributions are co-mingled with the employer’s general bank account, says a Morneau Shepell ‘News & Views.’ The case also serves as a reminder that a third party, such as a director or officer of the employer, may be held personally liable for breach of trust in respect of pension contributions. These risks are particularly high in businesses with concentrated ownership and control. The court found that the owner and director of an employer was personally liable for breach of trust for failing to remit contributions to a multi-employer pension plan. The trustees of the IWA – Forestry Industry Pension Plan sued Roger Wade, the sole director, officer, and shareholder of R W Log Transport, a log hauling company. The plaintiffs alleged Wade was personally liable for the company’s breach of trust in failing to remit contributions, failing to protect contributions held in trust, and using those contributions for unauthorized purposes. The court found Log Transport had committed a number of breaches of trust. It held employer and employee contributions in its general operating bank account, rather than a separate trust account. It used these contributions to pay its general operating expenses and failed to make the required contributions to the plan. The court found that these breaches were fraudulent and dishonest. Although the breaches were committed by Log Transport in its capacity as the employer, Wade was found to have knowingly participated in the breaches.

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Virus Hurts Investor Confidence

The coronavirus hit institutional investor confidence in the U.S. and Europe in March, as fear over the virus and its spread shifted from China, says a State Street Corp. investor confidence index. It showed a global reading of 74.5, down from 78.5 in February. The biggest regional drop was Europe, with the index falling by 15 points to 95.6. The North America index fell 2.9 points to 67.8. For the Asia-Pacific region, the confidence reading improved by 8.7 points to 94.5.

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Near Zero Growth Coming

The global economy will have near-zero growth in 2020, says a Barclay’s ‘Global Outlook.’ While this is a guesstimate, partly because the science around COVID-19 is not well understood, it says it is now a given that the world is plunging into a sharp global recession. Economic forecasts have repeatedly been revised downwards given the explosive spread of the contagion and as world governments impose an almost total lockdown on daily activity for several weeks, regardless of the economic cost. Investors have tried to find parallels with other global crises like wars and the 2008 financial crisis, but there are no easy comparison points as there has never before been such a long, co-ordinated period of mandated economic inactivity. Its economic outlook is roughly along the same line as the aftermath of the financial crisis when the global economy shrank year-over-year. The only reason why the forecasts are not worse is the speed with which policymakers have moved in recent weeks. Central bankers look set on preventing a major financial “accident” and have torn up existing rule books. They have expanded balance sheets by trillions of dollars, provided unlimited liquidity to the banking sector, and set up program after program to backstop stressed parts of the financial markets with unheard-of speed. As well, governments are stepping up on the fiscal side. The EU has cast aside Maastricht rules and country after country has announced large amounts of stimulus (including loan guarantees) that could total anywhere from 10 to15 per cent of euro area GDP and the U.S. is moving with unprecedented speed to pass a package of as much as eight to 10 per cent of its GDP, bigger than 2009’s fiscal stimulus. However, markets will need some certainty that large economies finally have the spread of COVID-19 under control before risk assets look past the near-term economic hit and mount a sustained rally, it says.

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Diversified Portfolio Remains Important

As both traditional and alternative asset markets descend into turmoil this month, it’s important to remember the inherent strengths of a diversified portfolio, say Henry K. Elder, director of investment strategies, and Ryan Anderson, an associate, at Wave Financials . A market rout always causes correlation to go to one across virtually all assets as investors flee to the perceived safety of cash. This can give rise to unfounded narratives based on extremely narrow datasets as investors panic and question sound investment principles. The market always comes back. These short-term correlations are not as important to portfolio structure as studying the way an asset reacts across a range of economic environments. Lessons from correlation behaviours in a crisis show the common competition between assets and cash is an undiversifiable risk ‒ “when all hell breaks loose, nothing looks as good as holding your principal steady,” they say. As well, no passive holding would do well, so there isn’t any cleverer allocation a portfolio could hold to protect itself from something like this. Environments like these are the province of active management. They also say the lack of diversification in a crisis doesn’t invalidate the benefits of diversification outside of crises. Crises are still rare and even seemingly dire events in the global economy don’t usually rise to the level of triggering asset-wide selloffs. Instead, normal reactions take place and in these environments, diversification would be precisely the cure to a concentrated portfolio’s ills, they say.

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March 30, 2020


Pension Plans Get Flexibility During Outbreak

Federal financial regulators are taking measures designed to give pension plans more flexibility to deal with the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak. The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) is adjusting a variety of capital, liquidity, and reporting requirements on federally regulated financial institutions in an effort to help reduce operational stress. For private pension plans, OSFI is “temporarily freezing portability transfers and annuity purchases to protect the benefits of plan members and beneficiaries,” while also extending certain filing deadlines. The regulatory changes will ensure that “our capital and liquidity requirements are fit for purpose in today’s extraordinary conditions,” says Jeremy Rudin, superintendent at OSFI. It is also acting to alleviate some of the pressure on federally regulated banks and insurers and private pension plans so that they can focus their efforts on the most critical operational areas during the current disruption.” In the banking sector, OSFI says that loans subject to payment deferrals due to the outbreak will be treated as still-performing loans for regulatory capital purposes. It is also tweaking banks’ capital and liquidity requirements so they’re suited for these “unprecedented circumstances.” These adjustments include raising the balance sheet limit on covered bonds, easing liquidity requirements, and encouraging banks to use their leverage and liquidity buffers to provide flexibility against heightened stress. For insurers, OSFI says that payment deferrals “will not cause insured mortgages to be treated as delinquent or in arrears.” It also suspended the requirement to provide progress reports on the implementation of new accounting standards.

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OECD Wants More Done To Cushion Impact

Efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 are economically damaging, but they’re necessary, says the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as it called on governments to do more to cushion the economic impact. Its updated projections of the economic impacts from the pandemic estimate that every month of containment efforts will shave two percentage points from annual GDP and that many economies will fall into recession. In advanced economies and major emerging markets (EMs), output reductions of 15 per cent or more could result. “This is unavoidable as we need to continue fighting the pandemic,” it says, noting that stricter containment measures are needed to prevent worse damage. “Millions of deaths and collapsed healthcare systems will decimate us financially and as a society, so slowing this epidemic and saving human lives must be governments’ first priority.”

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U.S. Plans Get Relief

Employers pension plans in the U.S. are getting some temporary relief. U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an economic stimulus package aimed at helping companies and workers affected by the coronavirus outbreak. DB plan sponsors are getting a one-year holiday from making 2020 contributions, while defined contribution plan participants will get relief from rules on taking required minimum distributions and limits on hardship loans. However, plan sponsors did not get other measures sought, including delayed reporting or premium payments to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. Also, while DB sponsors got a contribution holiday, a similar holiday for small businesses to skip DC plan contributions did not make it into the legislation.

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Confidence In Japan Evaporates

The budding confidence with which equity fund managers in Japan started 2020 has evaporated in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left the country’s fund industry in uncharted territory, says Cerulli Associates. However, for European retail investors looking to maintain exposure to Japanese equities regardless of the macroeconomic outlook for the country, the best approach may be to stay invested. Flows into Europe-domiciled Japanese equity funds have been negative over the past two years, but their assets under management (AUM) rose year-on-year in 2019. Nevertheless, in the final quarter of last year, economic growth in Japan was hit by both a hike in sales tax ‒ the first increase in the levy in the five years ‒ and the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Hagibis. “Now fears are growing that the coronavirus outbreak could tip the world’s third-largest economy into recession,” says Fabrizio Zumbo, associate director, European asset management research, at Cerulli. “Managers are starting to lower their 2020 GDP estimate for Japan, citing lower than expected external demand and domestic consumption rising from the impact of coronavirus. As such, Japan could enter a recession.” The Bank of Japan has announced a doubling of its purchase of exchange-traded funds to an annual pace of US$109 billion. However, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, asset managers were warning that Japan’s central bank had exhausted its monetary policy options. In light of the high level of volatility in global equity markets since the outbreak of the virus across the world, European investors interested in Japanese equity exposure could take a longer-term view, focusing on long-established large funds that have delivered outperformance for retail investors over several years.

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Morneau Shepell Supplies iCBT

Morneau Shepell has been selected by the government of Manitoba to provide its internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) program to residents of the province aged 16 and over, as part of its investment in mental health to address anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its ‘AbilitiCBT’ program addresses anxiety symptoms related to the uniquely challenging aspects of pandemics: uncertainty, isolation, caring for family and community members, information overload, and stress management. The program is guided by professional therapists who are trained to support and ask precise questions to guide people through the program’s modules in the context of a pandemic. The program will be offered as a complement to the crisis support currently provided by a number of mental health organizations funded by the Manitoba government.

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