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Interest Rates – Where to From Here?

Understanding the dynamics that drive interest rates is critical to understanding the level of current rates, why they have changed in the past, and how they might change in the future. This understanding allows investors and pension sponsors to make informed decisions on how to deploy their bond portfolios and what to expect from their long-term, interest rate-sensitive liabilities.

A Powerful 3 Step Strategy: Increase Expected Return on Pension Assets at the Same (or Lower) Level of Funded Status Risk

It is possible for pension plan sponsors to increase expected returns on assets by 100 to 300 basis points (1-3%) per year for the same or lower funded status risk. The process and steps are spelled out below. Follow along and you’ll see how to increase expected returns, potentially cutting years off of the time required to reach full funding while also decreasing the pension expense reported in the financial statements.

Double Digit Equity Returns 2019 YTD — how do you protect your equity position for the rest of the year?

With both international and US equity markets up approximately 15% year-to-date reversing most of the 4th quarter 2018 correction, many plan sponsors are asking themselves “should we consider any changes to protect the equity gains that we have…

Replicating Private Equity

Private Equity is illiquid and challenging to benchmark. Many investors use “S&P 500 +3%” in order to compare performance in the absence of an observable, investable asset. This paper describes a methodology for creating a private equity proxy or replication strategy using derivatives.

Pension Investing – Next Generation of Glide Paths

Pension plan sponsors, especially those with frozen pension plans, have spent significant time deciding on the most appropriate balance between growth (return seeking/equities) and hedging (liability matching/long-term bonds) assets to meet their objectives. For most, the ideal goal is to fully fund the pension plan through a balance of investment performance, cash contributions and a rising interest rate environment while not subjecting themselves to higher than desired funded status risk.

Pension De-Risking – The Next Evolution in Reducing Funded Status Risk

There has been an evolution of pension plan de-risking over the years, giving us 3 different versions. Many plan sponsors have avoided moving more quickly to de-risk using strategies 1-3 because of the negative impact that each of these can have on a sponsor’s reported profits as well as expected cash contributions to close a deficit. We are now poised for de-risking version 4.0, in which plan sponsors will utilize modern risk management tools to significantly reduce funded status volatility while maintaining expected returns.

News

New Mortality Tables Released – What it Means for Plan Sponsors

New Mortality Tables Released – What it Means for Plan Sponsors

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) published new mortality base tables and a new mortality improvement scale in late October. These new releases are likely to result in relatively small changes to plan sponsor income statements and balance sheets, and will most likely start to impact minimum contribution requirements in 2021; in most cases, these small changes will be favorable to plan sponsors.

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Retirement Update – November 2019

Retirement Update – November 2019

Despite the Fed lowering rates in October, long-term corporate bond yields stayed relatively flat for the month. At the same time because of a relative calm on the geopolitical front, equity returns posted a decent month led by international and emerging market stocks. When taken together, most plans that have some return seeking assets in their portfolio would have seen funded status increases over the month.

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Improving Expected Returns: Corporate Defined Benefit Plans

Improving Expected Returns: Corporate Defined Benefit Plans

Many corporate defined benefit pension plans utilize interest rate derivatives and/or Treasury STRIPS to manage interest rate risk. They also typically have large allocations to active fixed income managers as part of their liability-matching bond portfolios. Conversely, many plans invest in passive equity strategies as they do not believe that alpha can be reliably obtained by long-only equity managers.

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Michael Clark Appointed President of the Conference of Consulting Actuaries

Michael Clark Appointed President of the Conference of Consulting Actuaries

River and Mercantile Solutions (R&M) announced that Michael Clark, Managing Director and Consulting Actuary, was appointed President of the Conference of Consulting Actuaries (CCA), effective October 30th. In this role, he will provide continued direction on the CCA’s strategic plan and continue to provide leadership on the CCA’s board of directors.

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PBGC Premium Increases Continue – How Sponsors Can Fight Back

PBGC Premium Increases Continue – How Sponsors Can Fight Back

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has announced the2020 Plan Year premium rates. This announcement reminds plan sponsors that providing the same pension benefits continues to be more and more expensive, especially if they maintain underfunded liabilities. Luckily, sponsors can implement a number of Simply Smarter SolutionsTM to mitigate this increased cost burden.

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Retirement Update – November 2019

Retirement Update – October 2019

Long term interest rates saw some of the steepest rises in recent memory in early September, with the 10 year US Treasury yield rising ~30bps in a few days. This increase was not fully sustained for the rest of the month but discount rates did remain higher compared to their multi-year lows achieved in August.

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Convexity – The Forgotten Risk for Pension Plans

Convexity – The Forgotten Risk for Pension Plans

Most sponsors of corporate pension plans are familiar with their risk being asymmetric: they only benefit to a point if a plan’s funding level improves, but are on the hook for all underfunding if it does not. This recognition of asymmetry has led to a large increase in plans adopting Liability Driven Investing (LDI) frameworks.

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Pension Plan Annuity Purchase Update – Q2 2019

Pension Plan Annuity Purchase Update – Q2 2019

For the fifth consecutive quarter, total pension buyout sales surpassed $4.7 billion. This is down 42% compared to Q2 2018 when FedEx completed a $6 billion transaction. However, a total of 112 buyout contracts were sold in Q2, bringing 2019 sales to 190 contracts, an increase of 32 compared to first half 2018. Total 2019 sales are estimated to surpass $25.5B, which could end up being less than the total sales from 2018.

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