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Dutch GP scheme to simplify portfolio in attempt to drive down costs

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The €8.5bn occupational pension fund for general practitioners (SPH) said it would reduce the number of asset classes and managers, in order to drive down performance-related fees. 

Its total asset management costs were 0.67% of its assets, an increase of 11 basis points, it said in its annual report for 2013. The fund added that administration costs amounted to €461 per participant last year.

The GPs’ scheme – one of the best-performing pension funds in the Netherlands – reported a 5% return from investments, outperforming its benchmark by 1.3 percentage points.

As a result, it saw its funding rise to 139.3% – exceeding the required level by 15.5 percentage points – enabling it to grant its 17,705 participants an indexation of 3.4%.

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According to the pension fund, its investments in emerging markets delivered “by far” the worst results last year. 

With a return of 17.7%, the scheme’s 39% equity portfolio was the best performing asset class. SPH added that the average return was 25%, with Japanese equity generating more than 50%.

It said that it replaced an American small caps manager last year, and that it made an allocation to PGGM’s Developed Market Alternatives Equity PF Fund, at the expense of existing allocations to developed markets.

In 2013, pensions provider and asset manager PGGM took over SPH’s provider DPFS, after first taking a stake in the company in 2011. PGGM has been carrying out ICT tasks for SPH since the end of 2012.

SPH further made clear that it incurred a 1.8% loss on its 36.4% fixed income holdings of Dutch, German, Australian and Canadian government bonds, thanks to rising interest rates. It indicated that it nevertheless outperformed its benchmark by 1.5 percentage points.

The pension fund explained that the steep rise of interest rates in Australia and Canada came at the expense of 0.5 percentage points of its total return, and said that it made its first allocation to the Emerging Market Debt Local Currency Fund of PGGM.

SPH noted a “clearly positive trend” for its 9.7% property investments, with listed real estate delivering 5%, “largely thanks to emerging markets”.

Hedge funds (5.3%), yielded 8.9%, outperforming their benchmark by 5.9 percentage points.

Infrastructure returned 7.1%, the report said, adding that it wanted to expand its current 1.7% allocation to 5%.

The pension fund attributed the 4.2% loss on its 5% commodities portfolio to dropping gold prices and badly performing agricultural markets.

Private equity generated a loss of 38.4% and the fund remains invested in its two private equity funds. However, as SPH is in the process of divesting its private equity holdings, the allocation only stood at 0.1%.

The pension fund further said that it lost 6.3% on its 3% inflation-linked bonds portfolio as a consequence of rising interest rates in the UK and the US.

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