This year we held the annual global strategy meeting of the Wasserdicht Pension Funds in the Netherlands. As this year’s organiser, I suggested a pleasant country house hotel near Hilversum.
The plan is for dinner with my global investment colleagues prior to discussions all day
on Friday, when we will discuss our current strategies and ideas for the future. I have invited an academic, the CEO of small fiduciary manager, and the chief investment officer at a Dutch asset manager to present to us and act as sparring partners in our discussions for part of the day.
In reception I meet Joe from the Wasserdicht London office. He has a handful of files under his arm and is followed in by Cliff from Toronto who is already looking relaxed in a sports jacket. Jim from Dallas arrives with Tokui-san a few minutes later and they warm their hands in front of the large open fire in the hall. Helmut from Frankfurt is the last to arrive, having just driven all the way from Frankfurt. He joins us when we are catching up over drinks in the bar.
There’s nothing like rising markets to lift the mood at a strategy meeting, even though we know the journey ahead is bumpy. ‘No idea why everyone is so focused on the Dow when its construction methodology is based on share prices, not market caps,’ says Jim over dinner. ‘True,’ replies Joe, ‘no-one in the UK looks at the FTSE 30 any more but it’s good for the media to have a reference point.’
‘Sentiment is good, even in Japan,’ adds Tokui-san later on. He then leads a discussion about the Abe government’s currency policies and we all voice our opinions about the currency war.
‘We have ended our active currency strategy,’ concludes Joe. ‘We were disappointed by our active currency manager, and we think our dollar assets act as a natural hedge against falls in global equity prices. In the meantime, I’d stay out of sterling assets if I were you,’ he adds. ‘Maybe your new Canadian central banker can help,’ jokes Cliff.
Despite the rising optimism, the Dutch pension funds are in a bad situation and my colleagues want to know all about this. ‘It’s what we call solidarity,’ I say. ‘We’re all supposed to be in it together as a country but we cut pensions. It’s a good thing Wasserdicht takes a prudent, long-term view towards pension funding, so we are unaffacted.’
Joe is interested to know in more detail about our Dutch defined ambition plans.
‘People were discussing this at the NAPF conference last week,’ he tells me. ‘But no-one is clear about what it means. ‘Trying to explain our Dutch defined ambition pensions would take half a day,’ I tell him. ‘Not to mention another half a day to explain why it doesn’t work’.
Pieter Mullen is investment director at Wasserdicht Pension Funds