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January 10, 2020


APP Pros And Cons Need To Be Weighed

In weighing the pros and cons of a separate Alberta Pension Plan (APP), Albertans need to look beyond the short-term financial ‘windfall’ of a lower base contribution rate than the Canada Pension Plan’s (CPP) current 9.9 per cent of pay. They should also consider the material risks and costs of creating and managing a separate APP, as well as the very real longer-term underwriting and investment policy risks they would be subjecting young and future Albertans to, says Keith Ambachtsheer, president on KPA Advisory. In a discussion paper on the proposed APP, he says calculations by the Fraser Institute and the CD Howe Institute show that a separate APP could provide the same base benefits as those of the CPP at a contribution rate materially lower than the current CPP contribution rate. On top of that, a proportion of the $400 billion CPP reserve fund would be shifted to the APP to partially cover the accrued payment obligations the APP would be taking over from the CPP. On the face of it, to quote Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, this indeed sounds like an idea worth serious consideration, he says. A base APP could operate with a sustainable contribution rate below the CPP’s 9.9 per cent because the three million Alberta members of the CPP are materially younger than the other 17 million members. That means relatively more CPP contributors and relatively fewer retirees drawing CPP pensions in Alberta. A base APP could be sustainable with a contribution rate in the six to eight per cent range. However, this kind of static gap analysis cannot tell the whole story, says Ambachtsheer, as it does not address an important question about the future. Net migration of younger workers into Alberta’s oil and gas industry over the course of the last 25 years was an important contributor to Alberta’s demographic make-up today, and hence (combined with higher wages) to its current net CPP contributor status. Recent events (climate change-related policies in Canada and around the world, weakening oil and gas demand and prices, oil and gas transportation constraints, Alberta budget cuts) have conspired to reverse that worker inflow into an outflow and increase Alberta’s unemployment rate at the same time. He asked what the implications would be on the sustainability of an APP if these recent reversals became a multi-decade trend. As well, the country-wide CPP contributor base offers important diversification benefits to Alberta CPP participants. The history of the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) is a case in point. While at its 1966 inception the QPP had a younger membership than the CPP, this is no longer the case. As a result, while both plans started out with a 3.6 per cent contribution rate, the base QPP contribution rate today is 10.8 per cent of pay versus the CPP 9.9 per cent. Migration sensitivity analysis suggests an APP could eventually find itself in the same situation as the QPP and dropping the APP’s starting contribution rate below the base CPP’s 9.9 per cent rate would expose APP members to underwriting risk in the form of potential benefit reductions, higher contribution rates, or some combination of the two sometime in the decades ahead.

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Experience As Consumers Comes To Work

Plan members are bringing their experiences as consumers to work and expecting their employers to respond with faster, friendlier, and simpler processes and tools, says a ‘Telus Health Benefits Hub.’ This ‘consumerization of everything’ is one of the key trends that will continue and accelerate. For example, employee self-service (ESS) will need to catch up with the likes of Amazon in terms of speed and ease of use, which could be a bit bumpy since research shows that 43 per cent of U.S. organizations that offer ESS, still use paper for their benefits enrolment and onboarding. Automating these steps, though, will be table stakes in 2020 as employees look to an intuitive and holistic experience across the board, including how they access claims history, reimbursement status, and coverage information. More apps will be doing more stuff as almost one in four Canadian smartphone users have at least one health app installed. Of these, 64 per cent track their physical activity and 41 per cent keep tabs on what they’re eating. Increasingly, there will be more proprietary mobile apps that form part of the HBM ecosystem to enable efficient submission, processing, and claims adjudication. And while privacy will continue to be a key concern, AI will be put to work in synthesizing large amounts of health, behaviour, and workforce data into actionable insights for benefits providers and advisors. For example, data may indicate the need for program changes to reduce absenteeism or drug costs. Automation will also be the focus of ongoing cost efficiency efforts in the industry. Certainly it will continue to improve the speed and quality of claims processing and machine learning will be used more extensively to reduce administration costs.

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Two Move Plans To CAAT

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto and FP Canadian Newspapers LP have joined the $10.8 billion Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Pension Plan (CAAT). With the move, the two companies, which combined have 785 employees and pension plan participants, have merged their defined benefit plan liabilities and assets into CAAT plan pending approval from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario. FP Canadian Newspapers’ has $55 million in defined benefit plan assets and Catholic Charities has $35 million in DB plan assets. CAAT can accept new members from public, private, and not-for-profit sectors in Canada under Ontario regulations that allow single-employer pension funds of all kinds to be merged with a multi-employer plan such as CAAT. Participants pay into its DBplus plan at fixed contribution rates, with their respective employers matching dollar for dollar.

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Joint Venture Strengthens Benefits Business

SC Insurance and RRJ Benefits Inc. have come together to form a new venture to strengthen and grow the benefits and life business between the two companies. Clients will have access to the SC Hub, a digital administration tool to manage their benefit plans on a paperless platform, as well as AI driven solutions to simplify the life insurance application and underwriting process. SC Insurance was originally founded in 1979 as Steven Cohen Insurance Agency Inc. RRJ has been providing property and casualty insurance solutions to clients across Ontario for over 110 years. In 2012, RRJ Benefits was introduced, providing life insurance and group benefits solutions.

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Hedge Fund Returns To Drop

Top hedge fund trends this year will include higher assets and a reduction in returns, says Agecroft Partners. It says an improvement in sentiment towards the industry means hedge fund industry assets could reach new all-time high in 2020. As net redemptions from hedge funds decline, it forecasts industry assets to grow by three per cent over the next 12 months stemming primarily from hedge fund performance. However, declining fees will cause overall revenue to decline. As well, as the new year begins with historically low interest rates and equity markets near peak levels, investors anticipate beta and carried interest to contribute less to fund performance over the next few years thereby reducing the overall expected returns from hedge funds. It also says most public pension funds have an actuarial rate of return assumption around 7.5 per cent, so with interest rates and credit spreads near historic lows, they will look to hedge funds to enhance returns by, for example, allocating part of their fixed income allocation to hedge fund strategies like distressed debit, specialty financing, structured credit, and relative value fixed income. With the yield on the aggregate bond index in the mid-two per cent range, the bar is low for hedge funds to add value on a risk-adjusted return basis.

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Ontario Teachers’ Sells Minority Interest

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (Ontario Teachers’) has sold a minority interest of its indirect stake in Brussels Airport to TCorp and GPIF through a StepStone managed vehicle. Ontario Teachers’ remains the largest individual shareholder in the airport. Ontario Teachers’ has holdings in five European freehold airports: Copenhagen Airport, Brussels Airport, Bristol Airport, Birmingham Airport, and London City Airport. It has been an investor in Brussels Airport since 2011.

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Poirier Leads Global Wellbeing

Wendy Poirier is global wellbeing leader at Willis Towers Watson. Most recently, she was its innovation leader, health and benefits, Canada. She joined the firm in 1995.

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Workshops Focus On ESG

CFA Society Toronto’s ‘Sustainable Investing Symposium’ features a collection of workshops that focus on a different topics within the realm of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing. It takes place January 31 in Toronto, ON. For information, visit Sustainable Investing

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January 9, 2020


Fiscal Policy Offers Solutions

Growth will remained subdued in 2020, says Darren Williams, senior vice-president and director of economic research at AB. Providing an ‘Global Macro Outlook: Tailwinds Turn To Headwinds Economic Outlook’ at its ‘Economic Outlook,’ he said risks are still skewed to the downside making a global recession more likely than a synchronized upswing. However, given the limits on monetary policy to respond to this, governments are moving to fiscal policy for solutions. And while things are moving in this direction, it is not yet a game-changer. In fact, a recession may be the trigger point to move from monetary to fiscal. The ability of central banks to respond to a financial downturn is heavily restrained in large parts of the world, although central banks in Canada and the U.S. do have some room. One indication of this is the number of “zombie firms” ‒ companies that are only being kept alive by low interest rates ‒ is on the rise. This makes fiscal policy the “de facto” policy of choice. Central banks have provided the architecture for large scale fiscal stimulus and there is a lot of fiscal space available, but no-one is really ready to use it. There are encouraging signs in the UK and Germany that they will start to use it to support demand growth, but they are only at the beginning of the journey.

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CPOs Realize They Need New Skills

Most chief people officers (CPOs) realize they need new skills to meet the demand of the 21st century role, but few are prepared, citing a lack of development and investment from the C-suite. A study by HR People + Strategy (SHRM’s Executive Network of business and thought leaders in human resources) and Willis Towers Watson found virtually all respondents (99 per cent) believe CPOs must have the agility and courage to evolve, yet only 35 per cent said today’s CPOs are prepared to respond. More than nine in 10 respondents (94 per cent) say it’s important to explore accelerating the growth and development of future CPOs, but only about a third (35 per cent) agree future CPOs are receiving the development they’ll need to succeed. Only one-third of respondents (36 per cent) are prepared to think about how technology can be used to execute work in the future and only a quarter (26 per cent) say they have the technical acumen to evaluate new technologies. “As the pace of innovation and technological change accelerates in the workplace, CPOs will need to reinvent themselves,” says Suzanne McAndrew, global head of talent, Willis Towers Watson, and a study co-author. “With disruption on the horizon, organizations will require strong, visionary people leaders who can think through the people and talent strategy and work with management on the business strategy. Unfortunately, as our research shows, most CPOs are not prepared.”

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Equitable Reaches Century Mark

Equitable Life of Canada is turning 100 this year and it has kicked off a year of centennial celebrations with its employees, partners, clients, and communities. It began operations November 19, 1920, as the Ontario Equitable Life and Accident Insurance Company in a rented, two-room office on King Street in Waterloo, ON. Founder Sydney Tweed used a rented typewriter and purchased $150 worth of furniture for the space that he shared with a clerk. Over the last 100 years, Equitable Life of Canada has become one of Canada’s largest mutual companies. A 100th anniversary website (www.equitable100.ca) was launched to highlight the company’s historic milestones and share information throughout the year about the anniversary-related activities planned for 2020.

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Liquidations Outpace Launches

Hedge fund liquidations outpaced launches for the fifth consecutive quarter, says data from Hedge Fund Research. It says 141 managers liquidated their funds in the third quarter, compared with 186 in the second quarter and 174 in the third quarter of 2018. Hedge fund launches, meanwhile, totaled 102 in the quarter ended September 30, compared with 153 launches in the previous quarter and 144 in the third quarter of 2018. The 391 hedge fund launches year-to-date through September 30 put the industry on pace to fall below a total of 500 launches for the year, the lowest total since 328 hedge funds launched in 2000. The 540 hedge fund liquidations year-to-date through September 30 was on pace to exceed the 659 liquidations for all of 2018.

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Ontario Teachers’ Leads KRY Funding

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (Ontario Teachers’) ‒ through its Teachers’ Innovation Platform (TIP) ‒ has lead Series C round funding to KRY, a European digital healthcare provider. The funding will help the business accelerate its growth plans in Europe and transform the way millions of patients access health services in a digital age.

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Fiduciary Acquires Athena

Fiduciary Trust Company International, a global wealth manager and wholly-owned subsidiary of Franklin Resources, Inc., will acquire Athena Capital Advisors, LLC, in a merger transaction. Athena Capital, a nationally registered investment advisor (RIA), has approximately $6 billion in assets under management. The acquisition will expand Fiduciary Trust Company International’s offerings, further diversifying its investment solutions for meeting the evolving needs of high-net-worth and ultra- high-net-worth clients.

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Lewis Heads Proteus

Gord Lewis is president of Proteus, succeeding Peter Henry who founded the company 25 years ago. Lewis was most recently the firm’s senior vice-president. Henry will focus on the organization’s internal distribution opportunities and supporting clients that rely on his expertise to guide their retirement programs.

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PPAC Second Module Offered

CPBI Saskatchewan is offering a ‘Pension Plan Administration Certificate (PPAC) 2. This is the second of three modules in the PPAC program offered in partnership with Humber College. It is designed for anyone from pension plan administrators to HR professionals in the industry and pension committee members. It takes place March 23 to 27 in Regina, SK. For information, visit PPAC 2

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January 8, 2020


DC Members Committed To Saving For Retirement

U.S. defined contribution plan participants remained committed to saving for retirement, says an Investment Company Institute report on participant behaviour. Just 1.3 per cent of plan participants stopped making contributions in the first half of 2019, down slightly from 1.4 per cent in the same period the year before. Their withdrawal activity was also virtually unchanged. In the first half of 2019, 2.5 per cent of participants withdrew funds from their retirement accounts, with 1.1 per cent taking hardship withdrawals. That compares with 2.2 per cent who withdrew money and 0.9 per cent who took hardship distributions from their accounts in the first half of 2018. Participants also stayed put with their asset allocations as stock values rose. During the first six months of last year, 6.1 per cent changed the asset allocation of their account balances, while 3.6 per cent changed the asset allocation of their contributions. That compares with 7.1 per cent who changed the allocation of their balances and four per cent who changed the allocation of their contributions in the first half of 2018.

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Centre Of Gravity Moves Toward Technology

The financial world’s centre of gravity continued moving toward technology in 2019 and the acceleration of that shift will be at the centre of global markets in the new year, says a report from Greenwich Associates. ‘Top 10 Trends in Market Structure for 2020’ says three technology-related trends will have the biggest impact in the year ahead. Data scientist are experts in programming, quantitative analysis data, and data. In 2020, these individuals will take up more seats and accumulate more clout on trading desks. ‘RegTech,’ or compliance-related technology tools and platforms, will peak in 2020 as financial institutions turn to automation as a way to meet new regulations without breaking the bank. And while automation and technology have changed the face of wealth management, wealth management will continue to have a face. Investors of all wealth levels trust people more than they trust technology and would rather put the fate of their investment account into the hands of someone they can actually talk to.

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Smart Beta ETFs Gather Inflows

ETFGI, a leading independent research and consultancy firm covering trends in the global ETFs/ETPs ecosystem, says equity-based smart beta ETFs and ETPs listed globally gathered net inflows of US$9.72 billion during November. Year-to-date through to the end of November 2019, smart beta equity ETF/ETP assets have increased by 35.1 per cent from US$618 billion to US$835 billion, with a five-year CAGR of 19.9 per cent.

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Shokeen Has New Role

Priti Shokeen (PhD) is executive director at MSCI Inc. She has been with the firm for close to 10 years, most recently as vice-president. Her background also includes time at the RiskMetrics Group and Innovest.

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Year Of Mind Kicks Off

The Economic Club of Canada will kick off its ‘Year of the Mind’ with a session on ‘Mental Wealth, Our Most Valuable Resource for Change.’ It will provide a 360-degree perspective on how to achieve and maintain good mental health from speakers including Jacques Goulet, president of Sun Life Canada; Bill Howatt, chief of research for workforce productivity for the Conference Board of Canada, former chief research and development officer for workforce productivity at Morneau Shepell; and founder of Howatt HR Consulting; and Nora Spinks, chief executive officer at the Vanier Institute. It takes place April 6 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit Year of Mind

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January 7, 2020


Twin Forces Shape Canada

The next decade in Canada will be shaped increasingly by the twin forces of climate change and demographic disruption from an aging population, says an economic report from RBC says. ‘Navigating the 2020s’ says, ‘By 2030, Canada’s economy could look significantly different. A country whose economic identity has long been bound to natural resource extraction will accelerate its transformation into a services economy.” An older population will present governments with challenges that include rising healthcare costs and elder benefits. It predicts 650,000 people will be living in Canadian seniors’ residences or nursing homes in 2030, up from 450,000 now, and the extra capacity will cost at least $140 billion to build. Meanwhile, the proportion of working-age Canadians is expected to fall to 1.7 for every youth and senior by 2030, down from 2.3 in 2010. Dealing with the growing urgency of climate change could influence Canadian farmers’ crop choices, put strains on ports and coastal roads, determine the location of new residential developments, and drive up insurance costs. “Canada’s investment in pollution abatement and control increased 10-fold in the past decade and will demand even more resources in the 2020s,” it says.

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Bad Governance Ratings Influence Investors

Investors are more concerned about the implications of bad governance ratings than they are encouraged by evidence of improved governance, says research from Paul Guest, professor of corporate finance, and Marco Nerino, a doctoral student, at King’s Business School in London. In studying the share price performance of 3,616 U.S. firms that had seen a change in their governance ratings issued by Institutional Shareholder Services, the authors found that large governance ratings downgrades are associated with negative returns of 1.14 per cent over the three days after the announcement, but that upgrades did not result in a significant market reaction. The research of ratings issued by other providers also showed a negative return for governance analysts who do not provide a proxy advisory service, which suggests that investors value the substantive information and analysis behind the governance revised rating and are not simply trying to anticipate the share price impact of a negative proxy vote.

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Chinese Capital Markets Transforming Emerging Markets

The ongoing liberalization of the domestic Chinese capital market has the potential to transform the characteristics of the equity segment and its role in global portfolios, says MSCI’s ‘The Future of Emerging Markets’ report. For the past 30 years, emerging markets have provided return enhancement and risk diversification opportunities for global equity investors. Recently, they have experienced volatile performance, driven by changes in monetary policy, increasing political uncertainty, and deteriorating conditions for international trade. The rationale for allocating to emerging markets rests on three pillars. Superior economic growth has resulted in positive market returns historically, low correlation within emerging markets and across asset classes has provided diversification benefits, and relative scarcity of information has created opportunities for active portfolio management. Long-term historical data confirms that emerging markets have provided positive long-term risk-adjusted excess returns and enhanced portfolio diversification. Their diversity has led to high cross-sectional return dispersion, both at the country and at the security level, creating opportunities to add value through active country allocation and stock selection. Omitting this equity segment would have introduced a performance drag on global indexed strategies and reduced the investment opportunity set of active strategies. The opening of the domestic Chinese capital market and its integration into international markets is likely to have a transformative effect on the emerging markets equity segment. The growing size of China within emerging markets raises the prospect for investors of making dedicated allocations to China. Whether investors make separate China allocations or continue to seek opportunities across global emerging markets, the segment likely will remain an essential element of the global equity universe in the future, it says.

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LifeWorks Earn Silver Award

Morneau Shepell has won a Brandon Hall Group silver award for excellence in the ‘Best Advance in Unique HR or Workforce Management Technology’ category. The award was given for the LifeWorks total well-being solution, which helps organizations effectively support the mental, physical, social, and financial well-being of their workforce at every stage of their journey.

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Caisse Funds AlayaCare

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Inovia Capital have provided funding for home care technology provider AlayaCare. This will help the company deliver on its merger and acquisition strategy to accelerate global growth. The round includes participation from Investissement Québec, Innovexport, and Desjardins Innovatech.

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Benefits Certificate Offered

In partnership with the HRPA, the Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute will offer a certificate program in benefits this spring. The ‘HRPA Canadian Benefits Certificate provides a comprehensive understanding of the many components of Canadian group benefits. It takes place March 3 to 5 in Toronto, ON. For information, visit Benefits Certificate

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January 6, 2020


Solvency Increases Sharply

Driven by rising bond yields and a late-year equity rally, the solvency positions of Canadian defined benefit pension plans increased sharply in the fourth quarter of 2019 to approach all-time highs, says Aon’s ‘Median Solvency Ratio’ survey. Through the year, it increased by 7.2 percentage points. “Financial markets began 2019 still recovering from a rocky year and equities climbed a wall of uncertainty throughout much of the year as a global growth slowdown and trade disputes clouded the outlook for investors,” says Erwan Pirou, Canada chief investment officer for Aon. “Yet the sky did not fall and a partial resolution of the U.S.-China trade war, the recent UK election, and more accommodative monetary policy seemed to put global equity valuations on a surer footing, resulting in overall pension asset returns that easily bested last year’s performance.” However, there is less confidence that this sense of renewed optimism will survive 2020. Global growth remains a headwind to stock valuations and the forces driving a reorientation of global trade and other economic relationships are still in play, suggesting more volatility ahead. Given the financial strength of Canadian pension plans, it makes sense for plan sponsors to further consider their risk mitigation strategies for the new year.”

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Scrutiny Of Pensions In Bankruptcy May Change

The federal enhancements to retirement security in the bankruptcy and insolvency context signal that courts may approach bankruptcies and reorganizations involving pension and benefit plans with increased scrutiny in the future, says a Morneau Shepell ‘News & Views.’ The bankruptcy and insolvency amendments will affect all bankruptcies and insolvencies in Canada and follow a number of high-profile corporate insolvencies that resulted in significant impacts on the pension liabilities of the insolvent companies. The inclusion of the interests of employees, retirees, and pensioners in the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) definition of corporate interests means that directors of federally regulated employers may consider expanding the scope of their considerations in respect of their pension and benefit plans. The changes which were adopted in Bill C-97 on June 21, 2019, and came into force either immediately or on November 1, 2019, include a “duty of good faith” and require any person involved in a proceeding under either legislation to act in good faith with respect to the proceeding. Courts are also given the power to make appropriate orders where an interested person has failed to act in good faith. Directors of a corporation are now liable for termination pay, within one year prior to the date of the bankruptcy. Additional amendments to the CBCA will require prescribed corporations to disclose to shareholders certain information about the well-being of employees, retirees, and pensioners. However, it remains to be seen what information will need to be provided and which corporations will be required to provide it.

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Expectations For Foreign Exchange Vary

The views of small-to-medium businesses (SMB) diverge from those of large financial institutions and other key participants in foreign exchange markets in some significant areas, says a Cambridge Global Payments survey. One of the biggest gaps is in expectations for volatility in foreign exchange. Slightly more than half of the survey respondents anticipate that volatility will increase over the next six months. While the level of volatility anticipated in option markets remains very low, periods of constrained volatility are usually followed by sharp increases, suggesting a significant share of the SMB sector is not adequately prepared for a return to more volatile conditions. Survey respondents also show a surprising degree of optimism regarding the economic outlook. While sentiment surveys have suggested larger businesses have suffered a dip in confidence due to uncertainties about trade policies, this survey found 81 per cent of financial decision-makers at businesses surveyed feel positive about the outlook over the next six months.

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Snowbirds Protest Out-Of-Country Coverage Elimination

The Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA), a non-profit organization which defends the rights and privileges of Canadian travellers, has filed a legal challenge against the Ontario government’s cuts to out-of-country emergency insurance coverage. Earlier this year, Ontario announced its plans to eliminate OHIP’s ‘Out-of-Country (OOC) Travellers Program,’ which provides reimbursement for Ontario residents who face medical emergencies while travelling outside of the country. The program’s termination, which came into effect on January 1, makes Ontario the only jurisdiction in Canada to cut all emergency medical coverage for residents travelling abroad. Karen Huestis, president of the association, says, “These cuts are an egregious violation of the portability requirement of the Canada Health Act (CHA) and must be addressed head-on.” Portability is one of the five pillars set out in the CHA that govern the Canadian healthcare insurance system. Under the CHA, residents who are temporarily absent from their home province or territory or from Canada, must continue to be covered for insured health services during their absence. If insured persons are temporarily absent in another province or territory, the portability criterion requires that insured services be paid at the host province’s rate. If insured persons are temporarily out of the country, insured services are to be paid at the home province’s rate.

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Session Looks At Pension Law

The ‘Osgoode Certificate in Pension Law’ equips participants with what they need to navigate this often complex and liability-laden area effectively. Sessions will be held Toronto, ON, for six days between February 5 and March 11, 2020. For information, visit Pension Law Certificate

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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 January 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 & 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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