Consulting Firms Work On Sustainability

Twelve leading investment consulting firms in the UK have established the ‘Investment Consultants Sustainability Working Group,’ with the aim of seeking to improve sustainable investment practices across the investment industry. The group believes that while the investment industry has made progress on a number of areas within sustainability, more urgent and constructive action needs to be taken to address the systemic challenges that we face, particularly in relation to climate change. The member firms believe that they are optimally placed to promote a focus on sustainability which could ultimately help to drive greater change within the industry. It has set out commitments for its members. They include engaging across a broad range of stakeholders, including asset owners, asset managers, and regulators; seeking investment outcomes which are genuinely sustainable and not treat sustainability as a tick box exercise; and aligning with, and supporting, existing industry bodies and initiatives. Member firms include Aon, Mercer, and Willis Towers Watson.

Subsidiary Strengthens Position

A Great-West Lifeco Inc. subsidiary will acquire the retirement services business of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. With this acquisition, Empower Retirement has strengthened its position as the second largest player in the U.S. retirement market. It now has more than 12.2 million retirement plan participants in 67,000 plans. In addition, Empower and MassMutual intend to enter into a strategic partnership through which digital insurance products offered by Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC3, and MassMutual’s voluntary insurance and lifetime income products will be made available to customers of Empower and Personal Capital.

Bâtirente Unveils Climate Commitment

Responding to the urgent need to take action, Bâtirente has unveiled an ambitious climate commitment. For more than 15 years, it has worked to promote responsible finance. Now, by 2025, it will gradually reduce its exposure to climate risk by 50 per cent through the reduction of its investment in GHG-emitting companies, thus reducing the carbon footprint of its portfolios. It will also invest in the economy’s transition by doubling its capital allocation in impact investments ‒ currently 13 per cent of its assets under management ‒ in order to actively contribute to environmental solutions, including those that promote a just energy transition, clean energy, innovation and job creation in these future sectors, and to participate in the financing of climate-resilient infrastructure. Pierre Patry, treasurer of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and chairman of the board of directors of Bâtirente, says, “Our commitment aims at mitigating both the cause of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the consequences of this climate change by building resilience.” Climate change is one of the dominant concerns that has guided its course of action in sustainable investing over the years. It has demonstrated its leadership in this discipline through carbon footprint measurement, green bonds, shareholder engagement, and the introduction of impact strategies in equities and real estate.

Employers Role Critical In Retirement Saving

Employers play a critical role in motivating their employees to begin saving for retirement, says Cerulli Associates. Their research finds that an employer’s matching contribution is the most influential factor motivating participants to begin saving for retirement. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of 401(k) participants indicate they would be very likely to increase contributions if their employer increased the matching formula (e.g., matches up to four per cent instead of up to three per cent). At the same time, only one-third (32 per cent) would be very likely to increase their contributions if they received a personalized statement with financial projections showing inadequate retirement savings. Additionally, participants most frequently indicate they began saving for retirement because their employer offered a matching contribution (46 per cent), they could afford to start saving for retirement (44 per cent), or they were automatically enrolled in their employer’s retirement savings plan (29 per cent). In addition to employer contributions and auto-enrolment features, participants can benefit from tailored retirement planning advice and holistic financial wellness programs.

Short-Duration Valuable Tool

At a time of historically low interest rates and historically high levels of market volatility, growing numbers of U.S. institutional investors are finding short-duration credit strategies to be valuable tools in striking the difficult balance of risk and return, says a report by Greenwich Associates. “In the run up to the COVID-19 crisis, institutional investors were working to close troubling funding gaps ‒ often by pushing fixed income allocations into products providing greater yield and, with it, greater risks,” says Davis Walmsley, Greenwich Associates managing director. “These moves left them exposed to a market correction and in need of portfolio liquidity amid an upsurge in volatility.” ‘Short Duration Credit: A Multifaceted Addition to the Fixed-Income Toolbox’ says prior to the start of the crisis, corporate pension funds participating in the study reported average funding ratios of 84 per cent, while public pensions reported average funding levels of 70 per cent. Since then, institutional funding ratios have been affected by high levels of market volatility, a shuttering of the global economy and a further decline in interest rates that were already stuck at historically low levels. In this environment, institutions have one thing in common: the need to optimize yield on fixed income assets at all points on the yield curve and risk spectrum. Institutions in the study are using short duration credit in three primary ways: to optimize cash allocations, as a complement to core fixed income allocations, and as a diversification to credit.

Navacord Adds Dehoney

Navacord Corp. has expanded its benefits business coast-to-coast with the addition of BC-based broker Dehoney Financial Group. Now in its 40th year of business, Dehoney provides a complete portfolio of corporate solutions including benefit and retirement consulting, administration, and life insurance products for executives and employees. It serves a mix of public and privately owned companies across all major sectors of the Canadian economy.

Alberta Blue Cross Makes Fitness Easier

Alberta Blue Cross is making fitness easier by sharing easy exercise videos and tips on its social media platforms for Albertans to access from the comfort of their homes. Prior to COVID-19, its employees were encouraged to take 15-minute wellness breaks on-site led by workplace wellness specialist Terry Skidnuk, as part of its commitment to promoting the wellness of its own employees. With the majority of employees shifted to working from home during the pandemic, the breaks have been made digitally available and accessible to all Albertans. From yoga and meditation to core and strength workouts, trained fitness instructors have been creating at-home workout videos not only for employees, but for all Albertans to use from the comfort of their living rooms.

Ng Heads Responsible Investing

Deborah Ng is head of responsible investing and director, total fund management, at the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. She has been with the organization since 2004, most recently as director, strategy, and head of responsible investing.