Real assets, bonds boost performance at Swiss pension fund APK
The CHF9.3bn (€8bn) Aargauische Pensionskasse (APK) has reported an “unexpected” return of 5.3% for last year, pushing the funding level further towards 100% after the 97% reported in 2013.
In a statement, the fund said it was surprised to see all asset classes, except commodities, make a positive performance contribution over 2014, given the market environment.
At the APK, bonds returned almost 8%, making them the third highest performing asset class, just behind infrastructure (10.4%) and equities (12.9%).
The pension fund said it was able to “profit from booming equity markets as much as our risk-bearing capacity allowed”.
It also argued that the lifting of the euro/Swiss franc peg at the beginning of the year and the introduction of negative interest rates on banks’ deposits by the Swiss Nationalbank (SNB) had made a challenging investment environment even more difficult.
“The challenge to generate the necessary interest rate at a justifiable risk level has been further exacerbated,” the fund said.
Meanwhile, the CHF2.5bn Schaffhausener Pensionskasse (PKSH) published its first annual report as an independent entity.
The Swiss government recently forced cantons to sever ties with their pension vehicles to increase transparency on the financing of retirement provision, and some of these new entities have struggled to achieve full funding.
But the PKSH has already reached a 105.8% funding level, boosted by a 10.5% return last year – well above the market average of approximately 7%.
At the beginning of the year, the SNB’s surprise move to cut the peg to the euro cost the fund 350 basis points in funding, although strong equity markets helped to make up for the losses by the end of February.
In the Pensionskassen’s annual report, Rosmarie Widmer Gysel, chairwoman of the supervisory commission, drew attention to a “much graver” problem than the SNB’s decision.
She warned that, “after a fat bond year, we are now looking at many lean years, as bonds have already realised the major part of their performance over the remaining duration in 2014”.
Swiss government bonds returned around 9% in the PKSH’s portfolio last year.
For 2015, the pension fund wants to continue to sell certain assets from its real estate portfolio in order to exploit the “very good” market environment.
Additionally, further purchases “at competitive prices” are to be made.