OCIO Driven By Perfect Storm
Consolidation is not unique to pension plans, says Robert Leblanc, Canadian sales leader at Aon Hewitt Investment Management, it’s happening everywhere. Speaking at the ACPM Ontario Regional Council’s ‘360° Review: Plan Consolidation,’ he said the perfect storm facing pension plans is prompting them to consider OCIO solutions. The low interest rate environment, increased market volatility, dampened return expectations, and increasingly complex investments are prompting them to want to get out of the pension business. However, OCIO is a bit of a misnomer, he said, as everything but the chief investment officer function is outsourced. Eric Menzer, global head of pension and fiduciary solution, asset allocation team, at Manulife Asset Management, said double-digit growth is forecast for the OCIO sector and it will grow to over $2.7 trillion by 2022. And even though funding levels at Canadian defined benefit pensions are around 100 per cent, plan sponsors are still concerned about growing liabilities and market volatility. He said moving to an OCIO solution is not for the faint of heart as it can take extended period of time to put in place. However, Rachel Arbour, assistant vice-president, plan services, HOOPP, said its experience is that it can take longer because it is still a relatively new solution. HOOPP is taking advantage of legislation which allows single employer pension plans (SEPPs) to merge with jointly sponsored plans (JSPPs). And while many plans are pursuing adding SEPPs to increase their size and become more sustainable, HOOPP’s goal is to become the pension plan for the healthcare industry in Ontario.
Alberta Pays More Into CPP
Alberta workers paid $27.9 billion into the Canada Pension Plan over and above what retirees in the province received in CPP payments over the past 10-year period, says a Fraser Institute study. In fact, ‘Albertans Make Disproportionate Contributions to National Programs: The Canada Pension Plan as a Case Study’ says the province’s disproportionate net contribution to the CPP kept the payroll tax rate for all workers (prior to the expansion) at 9.9 per cent instead of 10.6 per cent ‒ the amount required to maintain the same level of pension benefits without Alberta workers contributing. “The Canada Pension Plan is just one example to show clearly that when Alberta is prosperous, the whole country benefits,” says Jason Clemens, executive vice-president of the Fraser Institute and co-author of the study. In 2017, Alberta workers made 16.5 per cent of all contributions to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), but retirees in Alberta received just 10.8 per cent of CPP payments. In fact, the net contribution of Alberta workers to the CPP over and above what Alberta retirees were paid in CPP payments was $2.9 billion that year. From 2008 to 2017, the total net contribution from Alberta workers to the CPP was $27.9 billion. Crucially, Alberta’s net contribution was nearly four times that of Ontario, the next highest contributing province, with a net contribution of $7.4 billion over the same 10-year period. “Canadians in other parts of the country clearly benefit from Alberta’s outsized financial contribution to the country, so Canadians and governments across the country should be more accommodating to help Alberta prosper,” Clemens says.
Canada Life Brings Brands Together
Three iconic Canadian brands are coming together under one brand – Canada Life – to better serve their more than 13 million customer relationships across Canada and to position the companies for even stronger growth. Effective immediately, the Great-West Life Assurance Company, London Life Insurance Company, and the Canada Life Assurance Company will begin the move to one brand in the Canadian market. This newly-developed Canada Life brand builds on the three companies’ histories which began over 170 years ago. In addition to the move to a new brand, Great-West Life, London Life, Canada Life, and their holding companies, Canada Life Financial Corporation and London Insurance Group Inc., have also begun the process to formally amalgamate as one company – the Canada Life Assurance Company. This initiative is separate from, but aligned with, the move to one brand and will further simplify the business. Quadrus Investment Services Ltd., Freedom 55 Financial, GWL Realty Advisors, and GLC Asset Management Group Ltd. will all retain their current branding. Great-West Lifeco’s businesses in the U.S. and in Europe are not affected by this change.
Drug Cost Forecast To Grow At 4.66 Per Cent CAGR
The total private drug plan (PDP) drug cost is expected to grow at a compound annual rate (CAGR) of 4.66 per cent from 2017 to 2019, the forecast impacted by utilization (3.8 per cent), recent new drug entries (2.02 per cent), and specialty drugs (2.14 per cent), says Brad Millson, senior principal, health access and outcomes, IQVIA. Speaking at Canadian Group Insurance Brokers’ ‘Private Plan Drug Cost Drivers & Forecasting’ event, a joint venture with the Benefits Breakfast Club, he said the new pCPA generic pricing implemented in April will also likely reduce costs in private plans by 3.5 per cent in the first 12 months. This forecast follows IQVIA’s 2016 to 2018 forecast which projected CAGR of drug costs at 4.7 per cent. Millson says 65 per cent of PDP drug costs were for drugs for chronic diseases during that time, while patients in the 45- to 64-year-old demographic contributed the most to growth (at 3.5 per cent). Non-specialty drugs less than $10,000 were 72 per cent of the PDP in 2018 and claimant growth was the main driver of specialty drug growth. IQVIA’s ‘Private Market Forecast 2017-2019’ will be released four to six weeks.
Group Offers Expertise
A group of Canadian special interest groups and individuals in the pension area are offering their expertise and knowledge to the federal government’s Budget 2019 proposal to enhance the efficiency of retirement income options for older Canadians. It has introduced advanced life deferred annuities and variable payment life annuities to which would allow retirees to use part of their retirement savings to purchase annuities providing guaranteed income for life, commencing at ages up to 85. The group ‒ the Association of Canadian Pension Management (ACPM); the Pension Investment Association of Canada (PIAC); the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP); the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA); the National Institute on Ageing (NIA); the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA); Alex Mazer, founding partner of the Common Wealth Mission; and Keith Ambachtsheer, director emeritus of the International Centre for Pension Management at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto ‒ says, in particular, they would appreciate the opportunity to discuss options that would provide the same flexibility and efficiency to Canadians saving for retirement outside of pension plans. Research strongly supports the merits of collective longevity risk pooling arrangement as a means of helping Canadians protect against outliving their money in retirement. Relative to simple draw-down strategies where individuals retain investment and longevity risks, these measures offer a safer and more cost-effective way to turn hard-earned retirement savings into more secure, predictable income for life to improve seniors’ financial independence and peace of mind as they age, it says.
Solvency Rebounds With Stock Markets
The solvency positions of Canadian defined benefit pension plans rebounded along with stock markets in the first quarter of 2019, once again nearing 100 per cent, says Aon plc. The late-2018 equity selloff meant pension plans’ financial health capped last year in decline, but the first-quarter equity rally saw the ‘Aon Median Solvency Ratio’ erase those losses. “The first quarter was very good for pension asset returns, particularly coming on the heels of a year that most institutional investors would rather forget,” says Calum Mackenzie, partner and head of investment, Canada, for Aon. “Domestic and global equity markets rallied, while the volatility that marked the fourth quarter of 2018 receded.” However, the question is “what now,” he says. Bond yields are falling and a flattening yield curve is signalling caution for economic and market conditions going forward. That trend might not only raise pension plan liabilities, but also diminish expected risk-asset returns through the year. Market volatility is unlikely to stay missing-in-action for long, given continuing uncertainty over developed market monetary policy, global economic growth, and political risk. While the first quarter in 2019 was positive, many plan sponsors continue to be complacent and play the waiting game, he says. However, given the economic backdrop, it’s prudent for plan sponsors to revisit investment strategies to ensure gains made in recent years are not eroded.
Market Peak Impacts Alternatives
A belief that equity markets are at a peak is impacting institutional investor attitude to their alternative assets portfolios, says Preqin. It says that 61 per cent of institutions think that equity markets are at a peak and this proportion has been rising over the past 18 months. This sentiment has raised concerns that equity markets are due for a correction in the near future. The roles that alternative assets perform for investors are becoming more pivotal in the face of a potential downturn. Increasingly, investors are beginning to act accordingly. A quarter are looking to commit more to private capital as a result of their market outlook, while 40 per cent of hedge fund investors are positioning their portfolios more defensively. It found 26 per cent of private capital investors are putting more capital into the industry, while 10 per cent are drawing back from private capital investments. Similarly, 79 per cent of hedge fund investors plan to maintain or increase their allocations in 2019 – the highest proportion recorded by Preqin since 2014. In the longer term, the net majority of investors across all asset classes intend to increase their allocations to alternative assets.
Fiera Completes Palmer Deal
Fiera Capital Corporation has completed its previously announced acquisition of an 80 per cent interest in Palmer Capital Partners Limited, a UK focused real estate investment manager. The acquisition was made through Fiera Properties Limited, its dedicated real estate investment platform, which provides direct real estate investment opportunities to institutional investors, foundation and endowment clients, and high net worth individuals. Palmer Capital, founded in 1992, has over £800 million in assets under management with an additional £260 million managed through the joint ventures of eight regional property companies in which it is a minority shareholder. It will remain independently managed, but will become the UK arm of Fiera Properties, part of Fiera Capital’s alternative asset offerings.
HR Path Funds Expansion
HR Path, a French technology company covering the field of human resources, has raised C$150 million to fuel its expansion into international markets and strengthen its status as a player in the HR field. It offers a technology system that serves all functions of personnel management including payroll management, time management, talent management, and a decision tool from one single platform. It is currently present in 14 countries on five continents.
Burns Heads Americas
Ryan Burns is head of global fund services Americas at Northern Trust. In this role, he will be responsible for overseeing client service and setting the strategic business direction for investment manager clients in the Americas region. He has more than 20 years of experience in financial services technology and relationship management, including his most recent role as head of global fund services, client service in North America.
Disruption Examined At Conference
FEI Canada’s ‘2019 Annual Conference’ will examine topics such as ‘The Defining Forces Disrupting Business’ and ‘Lifecycle of a Senior Financial Executive.’ It takes place June 4 to 7 in Blue Mountain, ON. For information, visit FEI Conference
Ontario Teachers’ Assets Increase
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (Ontario Teachers’) had net assets of $191.1 billion as of December 31, 2018, a $1.6 billion increase from December 31, 2017. The total fund net return was 2.5 per cent for the year. “In 2018 we were able to generate positive returns even as we navigated some of the most volatile markets in years, thanks to the work we have done to build a diversified investment portfolio that can perform across market scenarios,” says Ron Mock, its president and chief executive officer. As a result, as of January 1, 2019, it was fully funded for a sixth consecutive year, with 100 per cent inflation protection being provided on all pensions. For 2018, the plan had an annualized total fund net return of 9.7 per cent since inception. The five- and 10-year net returns, as at December 31, 2018, were eight per cent and 10.1 per cent, respectively. During the year, the plan’s volatility was subdued compared to what would have been experienced by a more traditional asset allocation. Portfolio diversification – across asset class, geography, and other factors – resulted in the fund outperforming its benchmark by 1.8 per cent or $3.5 billion.
Approach To Rare Diseases Failing
It may be time to stop trying to fit rare diseases into the existing healthcare system, says Larry Lynd, a University of British Columbia professor and director of CORE (collaboration for outcome research and evaluation). This worked when there were only a few orphan drugs for rare diseases. However, with the number of orphan drugs increasing and coming with higher and higher costs, the current model is not sustainable, he said in ‘Orphan drugs for rare diseases: The need to innovate to enable access’ session at the ‘2019 TELUS Health Annual Conference.’ The issue is compounded because these drugs lack data on their effectiveness, there is a lack of validated treatment response, and there is no standard of care. However, drugs for rare diseases are trending upward as measures are being put in place to motivate the industry to develop them through measures such as R&D tax incentives. Part of the problem is there has been a market failure in healthcare. In perfect markets, there is a balance between supply and demand and individuals base their purchase decisions on their preferences. In healthcare, there is a demand for health, but no competition for health services. Given this, perversely inflated prices result. There is also public versus private sector tension which pits profit maximization against finite healthcare budget management. The result could be that more drugs coming down the pipeline won’t be covered as there is a maximum willingness to pay which may have already been passed. One solution is public/private partnerships where everyone has same access, but only those who meet the criteria get the treatment.
DB Solvency Position Rebounds
The solvency position of Canadian defined benefit pension plans climbed quickly in the first quarter of 2019, reversing most of the damage incurred in December 2018, says the ‘Mercer Pension Health Index.’ The solvency ratio of its hypothetical plan stood at 106 per cent on March 31 up from 102 per cent at the beginning of the year. Almost one out of every two Canadian pension plans is fully funded and less than five per cent are below 80 per cent funded on a solvency basis. Double-digit equity market returns across the globe revived the funded position of pension plans in the first quarter. However, a 30-basis point drop in long-term interest rates, which increased liabilities, partially offset the asset gains. “Canadian pension plans entered 2019 with trepidation, but quickly breathed a sigh of relief by the end of the first quarter,” says Andrew Whale, principal in Mercer Canada’s financial strategy group. Many plan sponsors put a halt on risk management activity in the midst of December 2018’s market turmoil as funded positions plummeted and the cost to reduce risk increased. However, some have since opportunistically taken advantage of the quick recovery to lock in a stronger position. Sustained high activity in the Canadian annuity market has led to an estimated $1 billion of liabilities transferred to insurance companies in 2019 so far, matching the first quarter record set last year.
Health Economics Improves Formulary Decisions
Health economics can result in better formulary decisions, says Daria O’Reilly, lead health economist, pharmacy consulting, at Telus Health. In the ‘Evidence-informed drug reimbursement: The role of heath economic evaluation’ session at the ‘2019 TELUS Health Annual Conference,’ she said with more expensive drugs coming to market, plan sponsors need to better manage how they are going to manage their limited resources. Complicating this is many of these drug therapies are in pill form which means they do not need to be administered in a hospital which shifts the cost to employer plans. Managing formularies by using health economics helps sponsors avoid paying for medications that are not as effective as less expensive drugs already covered. Budget impact analysis is carried out to determine the cost of a medication over a short term period based on the eligible population, the drug cost, and the duration of therapy. This is combined with measurements of cost effectiveness to determine the incremental effectiveness of new drugs against existing drugs. These effects can include the extension of life and the quality of life.
Growth Noticeable In Global Sustainable Investment
Global sustainable investment assets reached $30.7 trillion at the start of 2018, with noticeable growth in Canada, the U.S., and Japan, says the ‘Global Sustainable Investment Review 2018’ from the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance. The biennial report found overall global growth of 34 per cent from January 2016 to January 2018. Europe still accounts for the largest share of global sustainable investment assets at $14.1 trillion, but the amount under professional management declined to 49 per cent from 53 per cent. The second largest region by assets remains the U.S., where U.S.-domiciled assets under management using sustainable strategies grew 38 per cent to $12 trillion as of January 2018, from $8.7 trillion two years earlier. Japan saw the largest growth spurt in sustainable investing assets, reaching 18 per cent in 2018 up from three per cent two years earlier. That makes Japan the third-largest centre for sustainable investing, with $2.2 trillion. Canadian sustainable investing assets grew by 42 per cent over the two-year period to $1.7 trillion, and now account for more than 50 per cent of professionally managed assets there. For sustainable investment strategies worldwide, the largest one is negative or exclusionary screening, at $19.8 trillion of the $30.7 trillion, followed by ESG integration at $17.5 trillion, and corporate engagement or shareholder action at $9.8 trillion. The report also found that strategies vary by country with negative screening the largest strategy in Europe and ESG integration dominating in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
OHIP+ Skews Drug Costs
While drug costs dropped 6.2 per cent in Ontario in 2018, this was skewed by the OHIP+ program which was revised this week. Shawn O’Brien, a principal at Telus Health, speaking on ‘Data Trends and National Benchmarks’ at the ‘2019 TELUS Health Annual Conference,’ said providing drugs to all residents of Ontario under the age of 25 reduced plan sponsor costs by 54.4 per cent. The program was revised as of April 1 to require employer benefit plans to resume covering the costs of under 25s. Only without a private drug plan continue to be covered by OHIP+. The trend towards generics also continued reaching almost 60 per cent of drugs prescribed. And these drugs account for less than a quarter of the drug spend for employers. He said 86 per cent of plans have some form of generic substitution, mandatory or where a physician has the option to prescribe brand or generic drugs. However, less than half of plans (48 per cent) have mandatory substitution. This shows that a lot of large plans have yet to adopt mandatory generic substitution, likely because it needs to be negotiated with unions. Co-insurance is another area sponsors are using to control costs. While the majority of plans still have 100 per cent reimbursement, this is followed by 80 per cent which seems to be the sweet spot as employers slowing move from 100 per cent to 80. Co-insurance is an important tool as it reminds members of the value of their program if they are paying a share, said O’Brien.
Investors Watching For Green Shoots
After more than a year of ever-weakening global economic data and a particularly difficult stretch over the past five months, investors and analysts alike are on the lookout for green shoots, says Eric Lascelles, chief economist for RBC Global Asset Management. In its weekly economic commentary, he said the theoretical support for the emergence of green shoots comes mostly from financial conditions. Whereas financial conditions had tightened significantly over 2018 and were set to cast a considerable shadow over 2019 growth, they have since eased due to the recent dovish pivot by central banks. The drag isn’t actually gone, but the negative impulse isn’t as bad as forecast at the end of 2018 and the peak drag on growth has arguably already past. “To be clear, growth over the remainder of 2019 will continue to be weighed by financial conditions, but to a gradually diminishing degree (presuming no sudden change in financial conditions from here),” he says. However, the empirical side of looking for green shoots – tracking and interpreting data – is harder than usual right now, complicated by the seasonal distortions of Chinese New Year, a longstanding (but structurally diminishing) first quarter seasonal drag in the U.S., and the temporary damage of the U.S. government shutdown. These make it more difficult than usual to assess whether growth is slowing, stabilizing, or accelerating in the world’s two major markets.
Shareholders Want Cenovus Targets Set
Shareholders of Cenovus Energy Inc. will vote on a proposal requesting that the Canadian oil and gas company sets and publishes targets aligned with the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global average temperature increase to well below 2° Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels. The Fonds de Solidarité FTQ development capital organization worked with the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) to file the proposal, which will be put to a vote at the Cenovus 2019 annual meeting of shareholders on April 24. Cenovus, one of Canada’s largest oil producers with substantial oil sands assets, has not made clear how it plans to reduce its emissions in an increasingly carbon constrained environment. Its disclosure on climate-related targets has been inconsistent. In 2017, the company published a GHG emissions intensity reduction target of 33 per cent by 2026 in its corporate responsibility report. However, this target did not appear in the company’s disclosures in 2018.
Caisse Acquires Vertical Stake
The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) will acquire a 30 per cent stake in the main operating subsidiary of Vertical Bridge Holdings, LLC, an owner and operator of communications infrastructure in the United States. Vertical Bridge will use the investment from CDPQ to continue to expand its portfolio of broadband and broadcast towers, small cells, real estate, and other wireless infrastructure assets ahead of 5G deployment. Since its inception in 2014, it has completed more than 250 acquisitions and grown its portfolio to over 266,000 sites, including more than 16,000 owned and master-leased towers.
Roszak Joins Express Scripts
Michael (Mike) Roszak is chief operating officer at Express Scripts Canada (ESC). He will oversee operations, customer services, marketing, sales, and clinical services. He brings more than a quarter century of industry experience to the role, including his most recent position as vice-president of business development for the public sector at Telus Health.
Allocation Targets Examined
ICRA Québec will hold a session in French on ‘Establishing a portfolio allocation target.’ Johnny Quigley, of Hillsdale Investment Management, will discuss structuring and tracking an equity portfolio while Daniel Primeau, of UBS Gestion d’actifs, will look at integrating alternative investments into a portfolio. Pierre Caron, of Conseil Phialex, will examine establishing target allocations. Robert Laughton, of Foyston, Gordon & Payne Inc. will look at structuring and tracking a fixed income portfolio. It takes place May 10 in Montreal, QC. For information, visit Allocation Targets
OPTrust Remains Fully Funded
OPTrust achieved an investment return of one per cent for the total fund in 2018, says its ‘2018 Funded Status Report.’ In addition to remaining fully funded, the plan lowered its discount rate, already the second-lowest of Ontario’s public sector plans. The organization also received high service scores, with members and retirees rating their service satisfaction as 9.1 out of 10, a top six placement in a global benchmarking survey. “OPTrust’s objective is to maintain the funded status of the plan without taking excessive risk,” says Doug Michael, interim president and CEO of OPTrust. “In the worst year for markets since the global financial crisis, we maintained our fully funded status for the 10th consecutive year and increased the long-term stability of the plan by lowering our discount rate.” The plan remained fully funded in 2018 on a regulatory filing basis, while actuarial assumptions continued to be strengthened to enhance long-term funding health.
Healthcare Trend Factors Expect Increase
Plan sponsors face healthcare trend factors ranging from 11.5 per cent to 13 per cent for 2019, says an Eckler Group News. Every year, it informally surveys several insurance carriers to assess the health and dental trend factors they expect to use in their 2019 group insurance renewal ratings. Trend factors are the expected increases in claims costs due to inflation in the costs of medical and dental goods and services; utilization; and the impact of newer, more expensive drugs and procedures. Healthcare is made up of many elements, it says, which trend differently. For example, vision care usually has a maximum benefit and claimants are expected to claim the maximum. This benefit is sometimes referred to as ‘inflation proof’ because the upper end of the cost only changes when the plan sponsor agrees to change it. Drugs used to be one big category, but now, there are different trend patterns for specialty drugs versus traditional drugs. Specialty drug trend is increasing because of new treatment options and greater use of existing drugs. Traditional drug trend is not increasing at the same rate, but, as the Canadian population ages, there will likely be more utilization impact from drugs for high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. While plan sponsors can make the case for a lower trend factor if their claims base supports it, these trend factors continue to be higher than general inflation and will have an impact on 2019 renewal rating proposals, it says.
Europe Driving Green Bonds
European governments are increasingly driving growth of the fledgling green bond market, says DBRS Inc. In a report, it says European sovereigns are ramping up their issuance of green bonds, with Belgium, Ireland, and Lithuania entering the market with new offerings for the first time last year and the Netherlands expected to enter soon. Overall, global green bond issuance grew by six per cent in 2018, while European issuance rose by 15 per cent, representing 40 per cent of global issuance. European sovereign green bond issuance accounted for about one per cent of total European government bond issuance.
Generating Income Concerns DC Members
Defined contribution plan participants are concerned about how to generate income in retirement, more so than in past, says a BlackRock ‘DC Pulse Survey.’ Nearly two-thirds of workers (62 per cent) said the thought of having to translate retirement savings into regular income throughout their non-working years worries them, up considerably from 48 per cent last year. Meanwhile, confidence in retiring comfortably among those surveyed stalled. Only 60 per cent said they are on track to retire with the lifestyle they want, down from 61 per cent last year. Women especially are concerned, with just 50 per cent saying they feel they are on track to meet retirement goals, compared with 69 per cent of men. Women are also more inclined than men to want their employers to automatically reallocate assets to more appropriate investments (71 per cent for women versus 59 per cent for men) and to favour retirement investment products that generate income (45 per cent for women versus 38 per cent for men).
Hedge Funds See Inflows
The global hedge fund industry witnessed its first net monthly inflows in six months during February, with investors pouring an estimated US$1.63 billion into the asset class, says eVestment’s ‘Hedge Fund Asset Flows’ report. Combined with positive investment performance across the sector, this pushed aggregate assets under management for the industry up by $20.62 billion to $3,241 trillion. However, these results are disappointing when considered on a seasonal basis. February 2019 was the worst February for hedge fund flows in the past 10 years. It has typically been the most positive month of the year for net inflows, averaging $17 billion per February over the past decade and investor dissatisfaction with hedge fund performance during 2018 has been central in explaining this loss of confidence in the sector.
Holistic Focus Put On SRI
Gone are the days when socially responsible investing (SRI) was defined as an investment strategy that sought to avoid companies that profit from ‘sin’ (alcohol, tobacco, gambling, firearms, etc.). The investment strategy has adopted a holistic focus on environmental, social, and governance issues (ESG), says a white paper by Karen Kaufman-White, investment research associate at Strategic Benefit Services. ‘Doing Good While Doing Well’ says ESG issues can have a material impact on a company’s performance via reputational, operational, and financial risks or via commercial opportunities (such as clean technology innovations to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy). And, there is a growing body of research that suggests companies with a holistic consideration of ESG measures have better long-term financial outcomes and may provide more opportunities for profitable investing endeavors.
Employers Connect Summit Concludes
Morneau Shepell’s ‘2019 Employers Connect’ summit concluded following events held from January 30 to March 19. Sessions were held in Vancouver, BC; Calgary and Edmonton, AB; Toronto and Ottawa, ON; Halifax, NS; and Montreal and Quebec City, QC. More than 500 attendees learned about the findings from its latest research on workplace mental health and gained insights from Canadian employers and Olympians on how organizations can support their employees across physical, mental, social, and financial wellness. In its research, it found that more than one third of employees report that they are more stressed now from work (35 per cent) and personal issues (36 per cent) than they were five years ago, but workplace approaches to mental health are improving. More than two-thirds of employees (67 per cent) and managers (71 per cent) agree that their organization creates an environment that supports mental wellness on the job.
Thiessen Joins Pacific Blue Cross
Prediction Machines Discussed
Ajay Agrawal, an artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning expert, founder of the University of Toronto’s creative destruction lab, and co-author of ‘Prediction Machines;’ will be the featured speaker at the CFA Society Toronto ‘Prediction Machines,’ session. He will discuss leveraging the growing AI market, efficiently allocating capital investments to best prepare for tomorrow, and preparing for the disruptions to long-standing industries, millions of jobs, and age-old notions about work, employment, and leisure. It takes place April 25 in Toronto, ON. For information, visit Predictive Machines
OHIP+ Revisions Now In Place
As of today, OHIP-insured children and youth age 24 in Ontario who do not have prescription drug coverage under a private plan will remain eligible for the Ontario Drug Benefit program through OHIP+ and will continue to receive benefits from the program without co-payments or deductibles, says an Eckler ‘Group News.’ The Ontario government has issued the final regulation and a notice on the upcoming changes to OHIP+. Since January 1, 2018, OHIP+ has been providing coverage for eligible Ontario residents under age 25. Ontario residents who have a private plan will be required to access prescriptions through that plan. Residents and families who have significant out-of-pocket costs despite having private coverage can apply for additional financial support through the Trillium Drug Program, which remains available to all OHIP-insured Ontarians with high prescription drug costs compared with their household income. The change to OHIP+ will likely affect both private plan sponsors and their participating members. Plan sponsors have enjoyed a temporary reduction in drug costs (from January 2018 to March 2019) that will no longer be available and they will need to adjust their benefit plan budgets accordingly. Members could see an increase in out-of-pocket drug costs since private plans may not cover the entire cost of some prescriptions. Additionally, OHIP+ applicants should be aware of the process for applying to the Trillium Drug Program to avoid delays in claims payment.
Markets Caught By Data
Markets are caught between incoming data pointing to slower global growth and forward-looking factors that suggest improvement later in the year, says Russell Investments ‘2019 Global Market Outlook – Q2 Update.’ It says global cycle conditions will moderately improve in 2019, but the window of opportunity for equity markets is limited. The Fed’s pause on interest-rate hikes has helped push markets up, but wage growth is already threatening corporate profit margins. It believes wage growth will eventually find its way into inflation and bring the Fed back into action. Europe has suffered from several one-off events that have depressed growth, but these are viewed temporary for the most part and growth in the region should improve through the year. Fiscal easing is likely to provide a decent tailwind, with the European Commission expecting that could represent 0.4 per cent of GDP this year. In addition, the European Central Bank has become more dovish, pushing out its guidance on the timing of the first funds rate rise to the end of 2019. The Asia-Pacific region is set to benefit from the increased focus on policy stimulus from the Chinese government. Emerging Asian equities should be able to deliver around 10 per cent earnings growth for 2019. While Japanese economic activity has been disappointing, the big downgrade to industry consensus earnings expectations is too pessimistic.
Activist Hedge Funds Fail To Make Change
Mangers of activist hedge funds are “more or less impotent to effect meaningful change” at companies, says J.B. Heaton, an attorney and former professor at the business and law schools of University of Chicago and Duke University. In a paper, he says while activist hedge funds are good at pushing companies to sell themselves, a decade’s worth of research now shows hedge fund activism to be a mostly “ankle-biting affair.” He says many had expected this group to create “economically-meaningful improvements” at companies, succeeding where activist shareholders such as pension funds failed based on research through the mid-2000s. “Hedge fund activists are neither the threat to corporate strength that opponents decry nor the power for positive change that activists and their supporters claim.” They have failed to become a “meaningful force” for improving the operations and share prices of companies they target partly because they have “no comparative advantage in generating ideas” for meaningful change beyond a sale.
Canada Too Focused On Carbon
Canada can become a leader in sustainable finance by looking at how traditional industries can become greener, says Barbara Zvan, chief risk and strategy officer at the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP). Currently Canada is too focused on climate change and carbon which is reducing investment in the country, she told the CFA Society Toronto’s ‘2019 Annual Spring Pension Conference’ panel discussion on ‘Sustainable Finance and Climate Risk: Practical Guidance from the Field.’ She said the Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance Sustainable defined it as capital flows (as reflected in lending and investment), risk management (such as insurance and risk assessments), and financial processes (valuation and disclosure) which assimilate environmental and social factors as a means of promoting economic growth and the long term stability of the financial systems. There is a demand for products such as sustainable infrastructure, clean tech innovations, innovation in gas and oil industries, sustainable assets and financial products, and green and transition linked financial products. Stephen Kibsey, vice-president of emerging risks at the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, said it takes a bottom up approach to sustainable investing and climate change is one of its priorities. For example, a year ago it promised to reduce the carbon intensity of its portfolio by 25 per cent by 2025 by factoring climate change into all of its activities. However, to make their investment more rigorous and meaningful, he said investors need to understand the science of climate change. Pieter Wijnhoven, managing director at Ortec Finance Canada, said there are two ways to look at climate risk. The first is by looking at individual holdings and how portfolios are positioned. The other is to look at specific systemic risk which can be incorporated into portfolios. There are three global warming pathways ‒ the two per cent target from the Paris Agreement on climate, a 1½ per cent quick transition to reduce emissions and carbon footprints; and a business as usual approach (four per cent) which will result in more global warming. If the world opts for a quick transition, it will have a big impact in the short term on Canada because of the dependence on energy in its economy.
ACPM Pension Protection Proposals Reflected In Budget
The Association of Canadian Pension Management (ACPM) is very pleased to see its advocacy efforts reflected in the 2019 Federal Budget. Its positions on decumulation measures and products, unclaimed pensions, and protection of pensions were all addressed. Specifically, it has recommended that the current tax rules be amended to permit cost effective longevity protection through deferred annuitization and the pooling of longevity risk using variable annuities offered in capital accumulation plans. The budget proposes two measures to be available under the Canadian tax rules related to registered plans: advanced life deferred annuities (ALDA) and variable payment life annuities. The ALDA provides for a delayed start, up to age 85. The VLDA would permit pooled retirement pension plans to provide a variable payment life annuity to plan members as opposed to requiring members to transfer their accumulated account balances out of these plans and into a registered retirement income fund or similar product. The ACPM also participated in a government consultation process last summer supporting the introduction of a framework that would permit plan administrators to transfer unclaimed benefits to the Bank of Canada following a plan wind-up. This typically occurs when plan members cannot be located. To protect workplace pension plans, the budget announced that the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Canada Business Corporations Act, and federal pension legislation will be amended to better protect workplace pensions in the event of corporate insolvency. The required legislative amendments, when released, will be reviewed by ACPM to consider the implications for pension plan administrators and sponsors.
FSCO Restricts Use Of Excess Contributions
The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has restricted the ways in which a defined benefit plan sponsors can use excess contributions as a result of funding rules that came into force on May 1, 2018, says Morneau Shepell’s ‘News & Views.’ In the FSCO guideline, “excess contributions” refers to contributions that have been made by the employer in excess of minimum contribution requirements set out in the last valuation report, including those that were made in accordance with the requirements of an expired valuation report while a new valuation report with lower funding requirements was being prepared. Because of the introduction of the new DB funding rules, many DB plan sponsors may have accumulated significant excess contributions over the period from December 31, 2017, until a valuation report could be filed under the new DB funding rules. FSCO has made clear its interpretation that excess contributions are not an overpayment to a plan and so, cannot be refunded under the Pension Benefits Act. Refunds will only be permitted for mistaken payments that were not required under the act. As well, FSCO states that the new contribution holiday restrictions in the act significantly limit the flexibility to use a prior year credit balance (PYCB). Excess contributions may still be used to establish a PYCB or increase the PYCB in a valuation report. However, FSCO interprets the new provisions as only permitting the PYCB to be used to offset special payments in respect of a funding deficit. A PYCB can no longer be applied against the normal cost of benefits or the PfAD on normal cost contributions, unless there is an available actuarial surplus. FSCO will still allow excess contributions to be used to reduce any contributions otherwise required during the remaining months of the fiscal year, but excess contributions cannot be applied in respect of contributions beyond the fiscal year. The new interpretations will be applied on a go-forward basis. FSCO’s new interpretations relating to the use of excess contributions will be of concern to DB plan sponsors in Ontario who had been counting on the use of excess contributions to cover the normal funding cost on a prospective basis. The restrictions on applying a PYCB against the normal cost appears to be an inadvertent result of amendments to the act and it may be hoped that the government amends this language in the future, it says.
Confidence Improves In Asia
Investor confidence has shown a mild improvement over the past month, driven by an increase in investor risk appetite in Asian markets, says the State Street Global Exchange’s ‘Global Investor Confidence Index.’ has risen by 0.4 points to 71.3 over this period. It represents a modest recovery when set alongside a V-shaped improvement in the price of risk assets. Investors face growing political and economic risks, including a deterioration in U.S.-China trade negotiations, the danger of a hard Brexit in the UK, and fears around populist candidates securing victory in May’s European political elections. This continuing market uncertainty has discouraged European and North American investors from significantly raising their allocations to equities markets. In Europe, the index (ICI) fell 7.8 points to 88.4 over the month. In North America, it saw a slight rise of 1.9 points to 68.3. Asian investors demonstrated a stronger appetite for risk assets, reflected in a 3.6 point rise in the Asian index to 100. A reading of 100 is neutral, indicating that investors are neither increasing or decreasing their allocations to equities and other risk assets.
CPPIB Invests In Aqua
Aqua America Inc., a publicly traded water and wastewater utility based in the U.S., will receive an approximately $750 million investment by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB). The investment marks an important step in obtaining permanent financing for its pending acquisition of Peoples Natural Gas. Through the investment, CPPIB will acquire approximately 21.7 million newly issued shares of Aqua’s common stock. Aqua’s acquisition of Peoples will create a new utility infrastructure company that will be positioned to have an impact on improving infrastructure reliability, quality of life, and economic prosperity in the areas it serves.
Long Moves To Willis Towers Watson
Michael Long is a senior pension consulting lawyer with Willis Towers Watson’s benefits advisory and compliance team. His practice will focus on pension plan governance, legislative and regulatory compliance, and plan administration and documentation. He brings 22 years of pension consulting and regulatory experience in both the public and private sectors in Canada and the United States. Most recently, he worked with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario.
Aging Workforce Risks Examined
‘Managing your organization: potential risks and solutions for an aging workforce’ will be the topic of a CPBI Ontario Signature Series. It will feature panels on retiree benefits in the face of escalating costs and changing priorities and on the challenges faced by pension plan administrators and sponsors in communicating with an aging workforce. Panelists are Rachel Arbour, assistant vice-president, plan services at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP); Hatem Belhi, director, pension, payroll, and employee benefits at the city of Toronto; Janice Holman, a principal at Eckler; Holly Reid, a partner at Blakes; and Sherry Shaw, vice-president, benefits and health, at Accompass. It takes place April 9 in Toronto, ON. For information, visit Aging Workforce
Keohane Retiring As Head Of HOOPP
Jim Keohane, president and CEO of the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), will be retiring in March of 2020. He will continue in his role for a full year while the board of trustees conducts a search to find a successor and will work closely with the board to ensure a smooth transition. He began his career at HOOPP in 1999 as manager, equity trading. From there, he had progressively senior roles and became CEO in 2012. He is a pioneer in the area of liability-driven investing, which he introduced and implemented at HOOPP. He also developed HOOPP’s derivatives capability. During his time as president and CEO, the fund has doubled in size, growing to $79 billion in assets.
Long Waits Cost Canadians
Long waits for surgery and medical treatment cost Canadians $2.1 billion in lost wages last year, says a Fraser Institute study. It’s estimated more than one million Canadians waited for medically necessary treatment in 2018. “Waiting for medically necessary treatment remains a hallmark of the Canadian healthcare system and, in addition to increased pain and suffering and potentially worse medical outcomes, these long waits also cost Canadians time at work and with family and friends,” says Bacchus Barua, associate director of health policy studies at the Fraser Institute and co-author of ‘The Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care, 2019.’ The study finds that the estimated 1.08 million patients who waited for medically necessary treatment last year each lost $1,924 (on average) due to lost wages and reduced productivity during working hours, or $2.1 billion combined. When including the value of time outside the traditional work week ‒ evenings and weekends (excluding eight hours of sleep per night) ‒ the estimated cost of waiting jumps from $2.1 billion to $6.3 billion, or $5,860 per patient. Crucially, the $2.1 billion in lost wages is likely a conservative estimate because it doesn’t account for the additional 8.7-week wait to see a specialist after receiving a referral from a general practitioner. Taken together (11 weeks and 8.7 weeks), the median wait time in Canada for medical treatment was 19.8 weeks in 2018. “As long as lengthy wait times define Canada’s healthcare system, patients will continue to pay a price in lost wages and reduced quality of life,” Barua says. Because wait times and incomes vary by province, so does the cost of waiting for healthcare. Residents of Manitoba in 2018 faced the highest per-patient cost of waiting ($2,852), followed by Prince Edward Island ($2,594), and Alberta ($2,538).
Caisse Exceeds Carbon Target
The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec exceeded its target with the addition of $10 billion in low carbon assets in 2018, prompting it to raise the target for 2020. Its second ‘Stewardship Investing Report’ updates actions taken and concrete results it has obtained in 2018 on a variety of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. With regard to the fight against climate change in particular, the 10 per cent reduction in carbon emissions for each dollar invested in 2018 is on track to reach the 25 per cent reduction target for 2025. It also took a leadership role in creating a global coalition of institutional investors representing over $6 trillion in assets under management. In the context of the G7, the Investor Leadership Network (ILN) launched three major initiatives on stewardship investing in 2018 to produce concrete results in 2019. These initiatives cover the areas of diversity, infrastructure, and climate change reporting. As well, its work on women in business continued, notably with the launch in Québec of Cheffes de file and continuing the Devenir entrepreneure campaign, two initiatives to strengthen and support women in business and as entrepreneurs. Last year saw it continue to exercise constructive influence in the public companies in which it is a shareholder by voting and directly engaging with many of them. It addressed various topics, including executive compensation, women on the board of directors, and assessing climate change risk. “In 2018, we acted on several fronts to meet our objectives because we understand that our financial performance will only be as sustainable as the world we invest in,” says Michael Sabia, president and chief executive officer of la Caisse.
Sun Life Offers Gender Affirmation Coverage
Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada will offer gender affirmation coverage through extended healthcare plans. The coverage will help people transitioning to what they see as their authentic selves. “We know there can be a significant impact on an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being when they do not feel connected to their gender,” says Marie-Chantal Côté, vice-president, market development, at Sun Life Financial Canada. “Gender affirmation procedures and hormone therapies can help a person feel empowered to align their body with their gender expression.” The offering will provide financial support to plan members by reimbursing expenses covered by their workplace plan. Employers can offer core or enhanced coverage. Core coverage is for basic surgical procedures not covered under the individual’s provincial or territorial healthcare plan ‒ for example, the reduction of the Adam’s apple and/or voice surgery. Enhanced coverage is for surgical procedures to align feminine or masculine features to the transitioned gender. This could be facial bone reduction and/or cheek augmentation. Gender affirmation coverage will be available to employers who wish to add it to their existing group extended healthcare plans, beginning this April.
USMCA Held As ‘Trump’ Card
Right now, there is a 60 per cent chance the US-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA) trade agreement will be ratified, says Jeffrey Wright, analyst for Eurasia Group’s North America practice. However, this is down from 65 per cent at the beginning of the year before U.S. President Donald Trump shut down the government which damaged relations between the White House and the House of Representatives, he said in the ‘Negotiations under threat: the outlook for USMCA ratification in the U.S.’ session at the CFA Society Toronto’s ‘2019 Annual Spring Pension Conference.’ Withdrawing from the agreement before it is ratified remains Trump’s “trump card.” He sees trade as a signature issue. However, the U.S. Democrats must appear to be fighting for working class support by challenging the agreement. The ideal solution is for enough Democrats in the house to vote for the agreement that it can proceed and the Democrats can still appear to be opposed. And while they are wary of handing Trump a victory, House Democrats are key players and may use it to hold the Trump administration accountable. A key consideration could be the 2020 election. Whether it is a winning issue or a millstone for voters is unknown. Some polls show the agreement is popular, but 30 per cent of Americans don’t know what it is or what is in it. That means there is lots of room to shape opinion. Actual withdrawal is unlikely, he said, but the threat is real and Trump is like “a crazy man with a gun. He’s not likely to use it, but you don’t want to find out,” he said.
Emerging Markets Set To Return
Emerging market funds are set to make a return, now that the strong headwinds have abated, says Cerulli Associates. After 12 torrid months, the MSCI Frontier Markets Index was down 15 per cent in U.S. dollar terms as at the end of February 2019 compared to the MSCI World Index’s one per cent gain so investors in frontier markets are able to breathe a sigh of relief. Frontier markets have been far less rewarding for investors than their emerging counterparts. In the past 10 years, the frontier markets index has delivered an annualized return of 8.6 per cent, compared to 10.7 per cent for EM and 13.7 per cent for the MSCI World Index. However, several of the headwinds that have hampered frontier markets have eased. “The U.S. Federal Reserve appears less likely to tighten policy further, the threat of trade disputes appears to have diminished, and China has put in place measures to stimulate its economy,” says André Schnurrenberger, managing director, Europe, at Cerulli Associates. “Together these factors may be constructive for frontier markets in the near term.” Several regions appear favourable for investors at present. In the Middle East and North Africa, fiscal reforms, rising corporate earnings, improving valuations, and higher inflows of foreign capital should stand the region in good stead. Similarly, several catalysts such as population growth, rising incomes, and urbanization are benefiting a number of Asian markets, including Vietnam.
AI Benefits First Movers
AI (artificial intelligence) can help investors and managers get an edge if they are first movers, says Paulo Salomao, managing director of asset management and pensions at Accenture. Whoever gets there first will get the short-term benefits, he told the CFA Society Toronto’s ‘2019 Annual Spring Pension Conference’ session on ‘Recent and Future Evolution of AI in Investment Management.’ However, results from using AI are only as good as data. This means early adopters need to invest in data foundations. It is being tried in a number of areas including investment research, investment risk management, security selection, and operations. The real value is being found in risk management as it can create scorecards on risk based on unbiased information. With AI, risk can be defined in any way an investor wants. Other applications can be used to identify trader bias or tendencies. Do they, for example, trade more aggressively in the afternoon if they suffered losses in the morning, he said. And while it is not a panacea, it can unlock large value in certain areas of the industry.
BC Extends Temporary Solvency Relief
The government of British Columbia has amended its Pension Benefits Standards Regulation to extend temporary solvency funding relief measures for defined benefit pension plans to valuations with review dates on and after December 31, 2018, and prior to January 1, 2021, says Morneau Shepell’s ‘News & Views.’ The measures will affect DB pension plans registered in British Columbia. In October 2016, British Columbia enacted solvency funding relief measures for valuations with review dates between December 31, 2015, and December 31, 2017, inclusive. This permitted DB pension plans to reduce their solvency funding requirements by extending the regular solvency amortization period from five to 10 years and consolidating all prior solvency deficiencies into a single new solvency deficiency. Employers who took advantage of solvency funding relief during the original 2015 to 2017 period will be eligible to fund new solvency deficiency payments over an amortization period of 10 years. They will not be able to consolidate previously established solvency deficiencies. Employers who did not take advantage of solvency funding relief during the original 2015 to 2017 period will also be eligible to consolidate their prior solvency deficiencies up to the date of the review.
Employees Must Feel Included
Inclusion when it comes to diversity in a workplace is more than having a certain number, it is giving them voice, says Tanya Van Biesen, executive director, Canada, at Catalyst. In the ‘Diversity Panel: Beyond Awareness to Practical Tips on Making Change Happen’ with Kelly Battle, vice-president, relationship management, at Sionna Investment Managers; at the CFA Society Toronto’s ‘2019 Annual Spring Pension Conference,’ she said it is important to ensure all employees feel included as feelings of exclusion can have a negative impact on employee behaviour and retention. If a company pursues a course of hiring to become more diverse, it may find some positions are easier to fill than others. However, if they want diversity in their workplace, she said, they need to make sure they stick to it. Battle said one of the challenges is managing our own bias. One thing to watch for is gender bias language in job descriptions. Often the language is more masculine than feminine and a more neutral approach is needed to ensure candidates do not self-exclude. Van Biesen said another danger is part of being human. There is a tendency to not look for differences in candidates and look only for those who are the same as the person doing the hiring. This means companies miss out on the different views and ideas that come from having a diverse workplace.
Virtual Care Launched By Teladoc
Access To Teladoc Health, a global provider in virtual care, has launched Teladoc Telemedicine Services. It will provide Canadians with 24×7 access to convenient, high-quality medical care regardless of their location across the country. The new service addresses healthcare access issues Canadians are facing in terms of overcrowded emergency rooms, physician shortages, and long wait times. It also supports efforts of employers to address illness-related productivity issues. According to Statistics Canada, approximately five million Canadians over the age of 12 do not have a regular care provider and for those who do, same- or next-day appointments are difficult to obtain. The service connects patients with licensed doctors who can provide immediate resolution for an array of conditions. Cold and flu, allergies, upper respiratory infections, pink eye, and urinary tract infections are among the many conditions for which members can be diagnosed and prescribed medication (if necessary), via phone or mobile app. It is currently available for sale to employers and insurers throughout Canada.
Peru’s Market Depth Enhanced
The Bolsa de Valores de Lima (BVL), along with Cavali ICLV S.A. (the Peruvian Central Securities Depository, CSD), Scotia Capital USA, Scotia Sociedad Agente de Bolsa S.A. (Scotia Bolsa), Citibank del Peru S.A. (Citi Peru), and pension fund manager AFP Integra, has introduced a new securities lending platform in Peru that enhances the Peruvian market depth, liquidity, and efficiency and provides clients with greater opportunity to invest in Latin America. AFP Integra has worked with Scotia Capital, Scotia Sociedad Agente de Bolsa, Cavali, and the BVL to develop sustainable processes for securities lending in local markets, enhancing controlling and reporting systems to prevent and reduce risks associated with these types of transactions. Access to securities lending on the platform requires the services of a local broker dealer, such as Scotia Bolsa, to execute the trade on behalf of the foreign broker. The enhanced platform includes a formal legal structure incorporating industry standard documentation.
Staff Changes At FGP
John Di Re is an associate portfolio manager at FGP (Foyston Gordon Payne). With 17 years of investment experience, he was most recently with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) where he was a senior principal with sector expertise in healthcare and industrials. Andrew Aucoin is an associate portfolio manager. He joined the firm in 2005 and was most recently a senior research analyst. He will continue to focus on EAFE companies.
Pharmacare Examined At Session
The CPBI Ontario ‒ Ottawa Chapter Spring Seminar will examine ‘National Pharmacare & Global Benefits.’ Jean-Michel Lavoie, assistant vice-president, product development, group benefits, at Sun Life Financial, will talk about how it is taking an active role in paving the way towards a model that builds on the strength and assets of both the public and private sectors. Genevieve Lemieux, vice-president – health and benefits practice leader for Ottawa health solutions, at Aon, will provide a summary of global benefits governance. Laurent Brosseau, sales vice-president at Aetna International, will discuss programs for expatriates and Beth Tremblay, global benefit lead at Shopify, will share her experience with global benefits. It takes place May 1 in Ottawa, ON. For information, visit Pharmacare