Norfolk Southern revealed on January 23 that it will spend $792m on capital projects in 1997, an $84m increase on 1996. A week later Union Pacific announced that its 1997 capital spending would total $2·2bn, including more than $500m to implement the merger with SP.NS has allocated over $100m towards the automotive network it is developing for Ford. Of the remainder, $240m will go on track and bridge replacement, $144m toward loco refurbishment and purchase of six-axle, high-adhesion units; and $95m on rebuilding or purchase of wagons. The rest will go on upgrading bridges, dispatching and data transmission systems.The UP programme includes:
The UK National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) has called for the postponement of controversial local government reforms until after the next general election.The UK’s representative body for pension funds, in its response to the government consultation on changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), said it was wrong to focus wholly on costs.In May, the government published proposals that looked at forcing all listed assets in LGPS funds into a collective investment vehicle (CIV), which would only invest passively.It also proposed a second CIV to invest predominately in alternative assets. Both reforms were made to cut costs, with the CIVs achieving more scale than the 89 individual funds in England and Wales, and with passive investing being generally cheaper than active.However, in consultation, the NAPF argued that operational problems at some poorly performing funds were more important than cost issues at all the funds.It rejected the government’s move to mandate a shift of listed assets into passive vehicles, and voiced its support for a ‘comply and explain’ approach in statement of investment principles.The proposal to shift all listed to assets to passive came after consultancy Hymans Robertson, mandated by the government, produced research showing that, on aggregate, active investment by the LGPS performed as well as the index over 10 years.It then said the LGPS funds could save £660m on investment management fees by investing passively. However, consultancy Mercer, in its response, questioned the savings figure made by Hymans Robertson.It argued that the savings were unachievable, as active management fees often include performance-based bonuses, and said comparing active with passive was unfair.The consultancy said the government should focus on deficit management and governance over investment charges, which it said only made up a small part of LGPS costs.The use of CIVs was another contentious issue in many consultation responses, with little support for the government’s proposals in their current form.The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead (RBWM), an LGPS fund, said the government would do better to create a centralised procurement function for the LGPS, over CIVs.RWBM also said the creation of CIVs specifically for the LGPS was unnecessary, as the set-up costs would negate any positive cost impact, and enough of these funds already existed in the private market.Nick Greenwood, manager of the fund, said his view was categorically “no” for the creation of LGPS-specific CIVs, especially if it resulted in a multi-manager approach that required monitoring.“Such a service does not come cheaply and is likely to negate or wipe out any cost savings made through economies of scale,” he said.The fund strongly urged the government to reconsider proposals for a collective procurement service for investment mandates for LGPS funds.However, the fund did back the use of pre-existing CIVs in certain circumstances, as they can be used to benefit from periphery services such as dividend collection, where scale clearly creates lower costs.With regard to the shift to passive, the fund did not dispute Hymans Robertson’s findings.However, it said the figures also showed that the effectiveness of active management at the 89 LGPS funds varied greatly. Echoing calls made the NAPF, the fund said the government should focus on why this dispersion exists, rather than mandating a collective shift to passive.Greenwood said: “Much of the blame for poor underperformance is due to an over-reliance by LGPS funds on investment consultants and an extremely poor grasp of ‘risk’ and what it means to the end investor.”
Katainen, prior to assuming the economic and monetary affairs brief – vacated by Olli Rehn when he took up his seat as MEP in the European Parliament this summer – also served as Finland’s deputy prime minister and spent four years as finance minister. Financial markets regulation, in a departure from José Manuel Barroso’s preceding commission, will no longer be concentrated within the internal markets and services commission, overseen by Barnier.Instead, the UK’s Jonathan Hill was nominated as commissioner for financial stability, financial services and the capital markets union.In his role, he will be responsible for the three European Supervisory Authorities, including the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA).While there was no direct confirmation of the fact, Hill’s oversight of EIOPA and capital markets would imply that his directorate general would be the new home of the internal market commission’s directorates G and H – for financial markets and financial institutions, respectively.The financial institutions directorate also contains the pensions and insurance unit, which, under Klaus Wiedner, was responsible for the most recent draft of the IORP Directive.Hill is one of the commission nominees with the least front-line political experience, having until recently served as the leader of the House of Lords, the UK’s upper house.He has worked in a number of economic departments in the UK, and was head of former Conservative Party prime minister John Major’s policy unit.Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the centre-right commissioner from Poland, has been nominated as commissioner for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises.Explaining the decision to split the responsibilities of the internal markets commission, a statement said the EU had published “an ambitious and unprecedented series of regulatory and supervisory reforms to secure financial stability” in recent years.“Therefore,” it added, “the time has come to focus the existing expertise and responsibility in one place.”It said Hill would “ensure that the Commission remains active and vigilant in implementing the new supervisory and resolution rules”.While Juncker has the authority to assign portfolios to the commissioners, the college as a whole will still need approval from the European Parliament, which is likely to begin confirmation hearings the week of 22 September. Jonathan Hill, the UK’s centre-right commission nominee, is to succeed Michel Barnier as the commissioner in charge of financial markets regulation.Announcing the distribution of portfolios, European Commission president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed a reorganisation of the college of commissioners that sees former Finnish prime minister Jyrki Katainen named vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness.In his role, Katainen will be the senior commissioner in charge of all economic portfolios, including internal market matters and financial stability.He is currently the commissioner for economic and monetary affairs.
Source: Spence Johnson“This is having significant implications for investment managers in DC, since most cost savings are being realised through the investment rather than the administration segment. In many cases, funds will not be considered unless they can fit within the charge cap after accounting for the administration costs.”The UK government brought in the 75bps charge cap in April 2015. It applies chiefly to default DC arrangements used for auto-enrolment.Some smaller DC schemes are struggling to reduce costs below the charge cap, however.Spence Johnson reported that schemes with fewer than 100 members were, on average, still being charged more than 75bps at the end of 2015. In part this was down to employers not being able to shoulder costs, as is the case with larger schemes.Elsewhere in its report, Spence Johnson predicted that the DGF market would grow to £289bn by 2020. The estimated 11% annual rate of asset growth is lower than in recent years, however, due to maturing defined benefit schemes and a reduction in inflows from non-UK clients.In the UK, the growth will be driven primarily by DC and auto-enrolment, Spence Johnson said. In particular, the next few years will see employee and employer minimum contributions rise from a combined 2% of salary to 8%. The UK’s charge cap for defined contribution (DC) schemes triggered outflows from some diversified growth funds (DGFs) in 2015 and 2016, according to Spence Johnson.A report by the consultancy firm estimated that more than £1bn (€1.2bn) had exited DGFs with annual charges between 70 and 79 basis points in the 18 months to the end of June 2016.In total, at the end of the second quarter of last year there was £9.3bn invested in DGFs with an annual charge of less than 40bps. This followed inflows of £3.7bn in the same 18-month period.Despite this significant shift, Spence Johnson estimated that almost £4bn was still invested in the 70-79bps range, and more than £400m was still in more expensive products. Spence Johnson’s report said: “Many schemes have reduced costs by more than what is necessary in order to allow themselves a buffer, and also prepare themselves for any potential future further reduction in the charge cap.#*#*Show Fullscreen*#*#
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has presented a model to government for the much-anticipated “pension dashboard” .The dashboard was designed to allow consumers to view all their pension savings through one interface. The ABI led the move, co-ordinating with 17 pension firms and six technology companies in an effort to meet a 2019 deadline for implementation set by the government.However, Duncan Howorth, chairman of ITM, one of the technology groups that contributed to the dashboard’s development, said some providers could still be reluctant to engage and provide access to data.“Even once the technology infrastructure is designed, connecting the sheer volume of data out there is a crucial challenge that has held this development up until now,” he said. “The dashboard prototype clearly proves that a fully functioning service is achievable but it’s just a start. A reluctance to engage may be coming from some quarters, caused in part by legacy issues, but this system will only succeed if the industry works together and agrees an approach to data sharing.”The UK Treasury has fully endorsed the development of the dashboard, and the Department for Work and Pensions gave information to help include state pension payments in the dashboard’s data.Howorth urged providers yet to engage with the project to voluntarily participate in the continuing work, as they might risk being forced to by the government.“We would argue that being ‘forced’ to provide consumer benefit isn’t the smartest reputational move,” he said. “So, the sooner all parties get involved, the better for everyone. For those willing to step up to the plate, any challenges should pale into insignificance when compared to the long-term efficiencies and lower costs generated by the dashboard.”Simon Kirby, economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “Harnessing the power of technology to give people easier access to their information will help them be more informed when planning their retirement – one of the most important financial decisions in a person’s life.” The prototype will be officially unveiled during the UK’s FinTech Week, beginning on 12 April.Aon’s small scheme fiduciary modelAon Hewitt has launched a fiduciary management service specifically aimed at UK schemes as small as £5m.The service, called “Fruition”, will design bespoke plans for pension funds, combining growth portfolios with liability-matching portfolios. These can be designed to reflect each scheme’s liability profile, Aon Hewitt said.Sion Cole, senior partner and head of European distribution at Aon Hewitt, said smaller schemes’ needs were “distinctive and require services that meet them more specifically” than generic fiduciary management pooled arrangements.“Fiduciary management has tended to be seen as an option for medium-sized schemes,” Cole added. “But for the smaller scheme, an adapted version of the established approach was needed to make it both effective for the members and economical for the scheme.”Aon Hewitt and other investment consultants providing fiduciary services are under intense regulatory scrutiny following a report from the Financial Conduct Authority, published last year. The UK regulator has recommended investment consultants be referred to the Competition and Markets Authority for a full investigation of competition standards and pricing transparency.
Alternative investments – a term which can include asset classes ranging from infrastructure to hedge funds – should be redefined because of their growing importance at the core of many asset owners portfolios, delegates at IPE’s annual conference heard.Speaking on a panel session discussing the future of alternatives at the Prague event, Mats Langensjö, founder and senior adviser at M. Langensjö & Company, said that for many investors such assets were “not an alternative, but [at] the core, the most important part of the portfolio”.Langensjö said that 20 years ago, he had described alternative investments to students at Stockholm University as everything that wasn’t bonds or equities. Since then, the concept had gradually evolved, he said, and everyone now defined alternatives in different ways.“It’s everything from hedge funds to land, and some even involves real estate,” said Langensjö, who has been a key figure behind the shaping of Sweden’s national pension buffer funds over the years. Joseph McDonnell, Morgan Stanley Investment ManagementFellow panellist Joseph McDonnell, EMEA head of portfolio solutions and senior portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, told the IPE conference that after the long bull market in equities, a lot of investors were now considering more significant allocations to alternatives.“The problem you have is that not all alternative markets are in great shape,” he said. “The liquidity premium you get on private equity was not what it was four or five years ago in terms of future commitments, and we need to think about that.”He added: “If you want to make money in the private equity space, you need to move down to the small-cap space.”Looking at the private equity sector, he said there was also a lot of cash in funds still waiting to be deployed, which was not good for investors. McDonnell said there was also too much capital going into private credit.On hedge funds, he said that the trend for investors to disaggregate how these funds made their money would continue, aided by analysis tools available to pension funds. Partly as a result of this, alternative risk premia strategies “should be a growth area in the next few years, just like smart beta”, McDonnell said.Langensjö said scale was important in alternatives “just to be able to diversify and have different allocations to different things, and to justify having the staff and the resources needed to do those very complicated deals in infrastructure”.However, McDonnell said it was possible for smaller pension funds to get alternatives exposure, as a lot of such funds with well-defined diversified strategies were investing in these assets.“A lot of them are partnering with fiduciary asset managers and consultants. I think you can have a nucleus internal team of, say, two or three people, and build a portfolio that’s quite robust in terms of time and thinking, and include about seven or eight complementary alternative strategies,” McDonnell said. Mats Langensjö
The Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze river in ChinaWind power also suffers from a low energy density, which creates enormous problems of environmental pollution. At their peak, wind turbines can produce as little as nine megawatts per square kilometre. As Allison points out, to match a one-gigawatt coal-fired plant requires several hundred turbines. The same goes for solar energy, which requires covering vast areas of hillside and meadow.The remaining alternative energy source is biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. These, however, require prime agricultural land to be turned over for energy production rather than food.Energy for a developed economy not only has to be able to be supplied at peak periods, it also needs to be supplied reliably. Wind and solar cannot provide continuous energy so energy would need to be produced in excess of peak demand and stored efficiently.Battery producers such as Elon Musk’s Tesla are trying to create more efficient and cheaper battery technology, but to store amounts required to satisfy substantial fractions of whole economies cost effectively requires improvements in battery technology that may just prove to be impossible by the laws of chemistry, according to Allison.Nuclear power, of course, suffers from a bad press – even though it may be the only way forward to solve an existential crisis of global warming. The reasons for this are historical though, not scientific.The economics of nuclear power have been distorted by safety standards that have been set at levels far in excess of any requirements based on scientific and medical arguments – see this 2005 paper from a team at France’s Academy of Medicine. Safety levels are set by assuming that radiation damage to biological cells is linearly proportional to exposure even at levels of exposure barely above natural radioactivity levels. This ‘linear no threshold’ (LNT) model lies at the heart of the excess safety requirements seen in nuclear energy.However, the LNT model has recently been questioned in relation to the tendency to reduce medical radiation imaging to reduce supposed radiation damage. As a 2018 academic paper argues: “The consequences of misdiagnoses due to imaging avoidance are potentially more immediate and harmful than any future LNT-predicted cancers avoided by stringent dose-reduction strategies.”Will nuclear power come back into vogue for investors? It certainly needs to be treated more enthusiastically if there is to be any credible hope of replacing the burning of fossil fuels to tackle global warming.One step that should be taken is a re-evaluation of safety requirements from first principles, based on actual scientific evidence rather than relying on dodgy extrapolations based on experiments done half a century ago.However, the more critical step for nuclear power to be seen as a solution rather than a problem is a wider dissemination of facts, rather than a recounting of historical nightmares. The world may need more advocates like Wade Allison for that to happen. Hitachi seems likely to abandon plans to build a nuclear power station in Wales due to a lack of firm investor commitments. This follows the abandonment by Toshiba of a nuclear project in Cumbria last year.The loss of several nuclear power plants not only leaves a gaping hole in the UK’s energy strategy and its ability to keep the lights on in the years ahead, but also is another major setback for an energy source that should provide the key to realistically tackling carbon dioxide-induced global warming.There is a great deal of talk about replacing fossil fuel-based energy sources with alternative energy in the form of water, wind and solar power. Such energy sources clearly have their place and as their prices reduce and can be set free from government subsidies, their importance rises.But to assume that they alone can replace fossil fuels in a modern economy seems fantasy. Wade Allison, emeritus professor of physics at Oxford University, pointed out in a newsletter in July that one kilogramme of water behind a dam that is 100 metres high can provide just 1/3,600 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy. One kilogramme of coal, on the other hand, provides about 7 kWh of energy – 20,000 times more. As a result, hydroelectric schemes have to be enormous to generate the same amount of energy as a coal-fired equivalent. The environmental and human costs of such schemes are themselves controversial. China’s Three Gorges reservoir on the Yangtze River, which stretches for 600km and is the largest such project in the world, required relocating 1.3m people and inundating 13 cities, 140 towns, and 1,350 villages.
MPs reject withdrawal agreement againThis afternoon, MPs in the UK’s lower house of parliament voted against the withdrawal agreement for the third time in as many months. The agreement was rejected by a margin of 58 votes.Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, has called an emergency meeting for 10 April to discuss the implications.In view of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons, I have decided to call a European Council on 10 April. #Brexit— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) March 29, 2019In a statement, the European Commission said the likelihood of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit had increased because of the result in Westminster today.“The EU has been preparing for this since December 2017 and is now fully prepared for a ‘no-deal’ scenario at midnight on 12 April,” the Commission said. “The EU will remain united. The benefits of the withdrawal agreement, including a transition period, will in no circumstances be replicated in a ‘no-deal’ scenario. Sectoral mini-deals are not an option.”The UK had been due to exit the EU today, but the government was twice defeated in its attempts to pass its withdrawal agreement through parliament. The EU extended the Article 50 deadline until 12 April to give the UK government time to explore other options.‘Deeply disappointing’ UK prime minister Theresa May signed the letter triggering Article 50 – and formally beginning the Brexit process – two years agoSeparately, the FCA has “reaffirmed” a commitment with the US regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to “continue close cooperation and information sharing” after Brexit.The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was originally signed in 2006 and relates to all elements of financial regulation between the UK and US.Andrew Bailey, the FCA’s chief executive, recently met with SEC chairman Jay Clayton to sign two updated MoUs regarding cross-border and international regulation and information sharing.Bailey said: “As part of our preparations for Brexit we have been working with our partners in the EU and globally to ensure there is minimal disruption. These MoUs will ensure the UK can continue to be a key market for funds and fund managers. Today’s amendments will ensure continuity and stability for consumers and investors in the UK and US.”Clayton added: “The SEC and the FCA have a long history of effective cooperation on supervisory and other matters. The amended MoUs we entered into today reaffirm this commitment and collaboration with respect to the oversight of our respective registrants for the benefit of each of our markets and investors.” Nausicaa Delfas, executive director of international at the FCA, said: “The documents published today are the final stages in our preparations in the event that the UK leaves the EU without an implementation period: they ensure that firms have certainty of the financial regime they will be operating within, and so can plan accordingly to meet the needs of their customers.”The FCA’s policy statement is available here. Chris Cummings, the Investment AssociationChris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association, the lobby group for the UK’s £7.7trn (€8.9trn) asset management industry, described the situation as “deeply disappointing”.“The immediate and now urgent priority is to avoid a no-deal cliff edge that would be the worst possible outcome for millions of savers and investors and for the asset management industry,” Cummings said.“It is deeply disappointing that given we are potentially just days away from leaving the EU, we continue to see this political paralysis. Whatever form the next political moves take, the government has to deliver a deal which protects the British economy and does not further damage investors’ confidence in the UK as a place to do business.“It is now urgent that politicians find a way to work together that protects UK savers, our economy and our international competitiveness.”Cummings had already called for asset managers to implement their contingency plans for a no-deal scenario, saying earlier this month that they had “no choice” due to parliament’s “paralysis”.He added today: “The industry also needs certainty about how future regulation will impact us, and our customers. The UK is the largest centre for asset management in Europe and maintaining that position is crucial to the health of the UK economy, so we need the UK to have a strong voice in the rules and regulations that govern us.“It is also vital that the industry can continue to offer products and services across borders. Currently, UK investors can save into more than 10,000 different funds and we need to maintain that access so that they have the widest possible choice to grow their money.” The UK’s financial regulator has finalised its rulebook for asset managers and other market players in the event of the UK leaving the EU without agreeing a withdrawal deal.The announcement comes as UK lawmakers voted against the withdrawal agreement struck between UK and EU negotiators in November – the third time the agreement has been rejected.The measures finalised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) today relate to companies in the European Economic Area doing business within the UK, and vice versa. They were mostly unchanged from plans set out a month ago, the FCA said in a statement, and generally allowed for firms to keep operating under existing rules for a limited period of 15 months, despite the potential abrupt end of the UK’s EU membership – now set for 12 April.
Border to Coast Pensions Partnership, one of the largest UK public sector pension pools in the UK with assets worth approximately £45bn (€52bn), has launched a global equity alpha fund, with assets worth £5bn.External managers for the fund had already been appointed in June, namely Harris Associates, Investec Asset Management, Lindsell Train and Loomis Sayles,Boarder to Coast announced that eight out of 12 of the partner funds invested at launch, with assets from 14 mandates across both segregated and pooled vehicles being transferred to the alpha fund.The restructuring of the assets to the target portfolios of the selected external managers has now been completed with the support of BlackRock and Inalytics as the transition manager and adviser. This brings the pool’s assets under management to around £15bn, excluding commitments to private markets of £1.8bn that are currently being placed.The competitive manager selection and economies of scale will result in aggregate annual management fee savings to partner funds of £3.5m per year. The fund seeks to achieve a long-term return 2% pa ahead of the MSCI All Country World Index after deduction of manager fees, a statement disclosed.Graham Long, head of external investment at Border to Coast, said “The fund aims to combine the highest quality, best value investment managers into a coherent portfolio where the outcome is greater than the sum of the parts.”Chris Hitchen, chair of Border to Coast, added that this is the pool#s largest fund launch to date. It followed largest and most complex transition to date.
In Macquarie’s eyes, the rise in importance of DC schemes in the UK means the country is beginning to look more like its home pension market, which has been dominated by DC schemes since the 1980s and where it said consolidation of funds and a greater focus on reducing fees resulted in growing demand for products like True Index.“A lot of it comes down to familiarity,” said Scot Thompson, co-head of Macquarie’s systematic equities team. “We’re seeing both DB and DC schemes in the UK undergoing very similar sorts of experiences where they’re challenged in terms of fees, so it’s an opportunity for us to help investors solve investment problems.”This could take the form of developing a bespoke solution or delivering a lower cost version of “some of the more expensive indices you might find out there,” he added, citing global emerging markets as an example of the latter.True Index is a low tracking error strategy with the addition of a total return swap. On a daily basis the swap determines that if Macquarie outperforms the index it retains the outperformance and if it underperforms it makes up the difference.“Every single day the net asset value of the fund matches the return of the index, which is really important because then you are able to trade on the fund without any risk of breaking swaps,” said Thompson.“Another way of thinking about it is a performance fee with a 100% clawback.”Macquarie said that, if employed correctly, True Index strategies could increase pension funds’ diversification while helping to reduce costs.Looking for IPE’s latest magazine? Read the digital edition here. Developments in the UK occupational pensions market have prompted Macquarie Investment Management to make available in the UK an index investing strategy that it has been offering to defined contribution (DC) schemes in Australia for more than two decades.The £299.7bn (€324bn) asset manager currently has two mandates from UK clients for True Index, which delivers exact daily index returns for no management fee.One mandate is with a defined benefit scheme for a separately managed account, and another has been developed for a DC fund with the support of Mobius Life, an investment platform, and could be a model for a commingled vehicle in future.A spokesperson for Macquarie said the asset manager was considering a further commingled fund for public offer, but this was still under construction.