Medicine Personalized To Individuals

The discussion around pharmacogenomics is specifically focused on the relationship between drug metabolization in terms of how an individual metabolizes a particular drug and their genetic makeup, says Ned Pojskic, leader, pharmacy and health provider relations, at Green Shield Canada. Speaking on pharmacogenomics at CPBI FORUM 2020, he said it fits in with the concept of personalized medicine which has been around for probably well over a decade now. “The idea is that medicine should increasingly become personalized to me as an individual, rather than a generic, one-size-fits-all approach,” he said. Right now, when a drug is developed for a condition, everybody with that condition takes that particular drug. With personalized medicine, the treatment is tailored to the individual. Taking that to the extreme is where drugs are designed specifically for an individual. In the simplest format, through pharmacogenomics, drugs and dosages can be determined based on an individual’s genetic makeup to make it more applicable to them. The promise of pharmacogenomics is more informed prescribing. Prescribing today is on the basis of what the standard patient might need. As a result of pharmacogenomics, there will be fewer adverse drug reactions and better health outcomes. In the longer term, it could also mean lower drug costs long term if health outcomes are better so it’s all important to consider this from a “promise perspective.”

Pension Plan Objective Critical

Truly looking at the objective when it comes to investing for a pension plan is critical when it comes to asset allocation, says Caroline Grandoit, vice-president, LDI and multi-asset class solutions, at Fiera Capital. In a panel discussion on ‘Building a Resilient Pension Plan: What are the Implications for Asset Allocation in a Highly Uncertain World?’ at the CFA Society Toronto’s ‘2020 Annual Pension Conference: The Next Decade and Beyond,’ she said this is most likely meeting a plan’s obligation to its members. By addressing its liabilities, efforts can be made to ensure it will meet its eventual funding goals and ensure the safety for the payment of the benefits. “That objective continues to be absolutely true even in a going concern funding world.” she said. Michael Sager, vice-president and client portfolio manager, multi-asset and currency management, at CIBC, said “every client, every pension plan is going to be different.” That means thinking about what the success looks like for each one. This means they need to determine if the same result can be achieved with a different approach. Todd Mattina, co-lead of multi-asset strategies and chief economist at Mackenzie Investments, said “when you’re thinking about asset allocation for pension plan, the asset allocation problem is really a three-pronged framework.” The most important thing is the shorter duration that many defined benefit plans have. Their framework is very long duration liabilities, in the neighborhood of 15 years or so. “But for a typical plan with a 60/40 type of asset allocation, this makes the duration of fixed income much shorter ‒ 2½ to 3½ years. This means plans need to be more liability aware, not necessarily liability driven.

OPTrust Select Adds Members

OPTrust Select has attracted 38 organizations with over 1,000 members since enrolment began in early 2019. It is a defined benefit pension offering designed specifically for organizations in the non-profit, charitable, and broader public sectors in Ontario. It gives the advantages of OPTrust’s large scale and investment expertise to organizations that did not previously offer a DB pension. “Non-profit workers are essential to the well-being of our province, which means that their well-being is essential too,” says Peter Lindley, OPTrust’s president and CEO. “The need for security and predictability has never been greater and, by joining OPTrust Select, the vast majority of these workers will have access to the income security of a DB pension for the first time.” Some of the most recent workplaces to join the plan employ workers who are represented by OPSEU, making these the first OPSEU members of OPTrust Select. An additional 50 organizations from across Ontario are in the process of applying to join and organizations have continued to apply throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agreement Provides Clarity

The ‘2020 Agreement Respecting Multi-Jurisdictional Pension Plans’ provides clarity around funding requirements for members from other jurisdictions, thus ensuring greater ease in administering multi-jurisdictional pension plans, says the Pension Investment Association of Canada (PIAC) in a letter to the CAPSA. PIAC has encouraged the pension jurisdictions in Canada to adopt this multijurisdictional agreement for some time now and it says it is pleased that the 2020 agreement has been adopted. It looks forward to completing full national ratification.

Mockery Made Of Traditional Safe Havens

The market mayhem in March triggered by the coronavirus pandemic made a mockery of traditional safe havens, says Cerulli Associates. COVID-19 caused an unprecedented exodus from both European bond and equity funds, which traditionally move in opposite directions with outflows hitting all asset classes. However, alternatives, safeguarded by the different redemption terms and valuation cycles of closed-end fund structures and private markets, were not dumped to the same degree as their liquid siblings. Even bonds, long believed to be a safe haven as they hold their value in times of volatility were hit with sharp falls and ensuing outflows hit every bond category. High-yield investors in euro-denominated mutual funds in riskier areas, such as emerging markets and corporate debt, were hardest hit.

Attention Turns To Recovery

With leading indicators bouncing off record lows and governments easing lockdowns, attention is turning to the shape of the recovery and post-crisis landscape, says the ‘AB Global Economic Outlook June 2020.’ Key factors for the pace and durability of recovery will be the effectiveness of policy support for households and firms as well as the extent to which the virus can be contained as restrictions are lifted. But even in a best-case scenario, recovery is likely to be slow and uneven, with some of the jobs and activity displaced in recent weeks likely to be permanently lost. That’s why timely post-crisis fiscal stimulus is vital, it says. Fiscal spending will add to the rising strain on public sector balance sheets, putting even more pressure on central banks to keep interest rates close to or below zero. However, rising debt is not the only way in which COVID-19 will leave its mark on the global economy. Behavioural change is inevitable, but the crisis is also likely to give added impetus to key secular trends: populism, deglobalization, and geopolitical conflict.