Strathclyde hedges currency risk after bumper return

Scotland’s biggest public sector pension fund has moved to hedge the currency risk in its equities portfolio and crystallise investment gains.

Strathclyde Pension Fund’s trustee board agreed earlier this month to hedge a third of its overseas listed equity exposure, which made up roughly 80% of its overall equity portfolio at the end of March this year.

In a report to the trustee board, Strathclyde head of pensions Richard McIndoe said the fund had made “significant” gains from its foreign currency exposure in the 12 months to 31 March. This was largely down to the fall in the value of sterling following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016.

The pension fund – which caters for public sector workers in the Scottish city of Glasgow – returned 23% in the 2016-17 financial year, according to its annual report released earlier this year.

It should be stressed that a decision to implement a hedging strategy now would not represent a tactical play on markets or reflect any fixed view on the short-term outlook for sterling,” McIndoe said.

It is entirely possible that sterling will maintain its current value for a protracted period or depreciate further. In the former of those cases the fund would have incurred some additional cost for no additional benefit. In the latter, gains from currency would be reduced by the hedging. On the upside: future losses, should sterling subsequently recover, would similarly be reduced.”

Alongside the currency hedge, the Strathclyde trustees also approved investments worth £160m (€180m) into its Direct Investment Portfolio, which consists primarily of allocations to Scottish and UK assets, including private equity, infrastructure and renewable energy projects.

Within the new allocation, £80m is to be invested in the Pensions Infrastructure Platform’s (PIP) Multi-Strategy Infrastructure fund. Strathclyde was a founder member of the PIP – a collaboration between UK pension funds to promote investment in domestic infrastructure – and has already invested £50m in the multi-strategy fund.

Strathclyde is also to invest in three other funds through the Direct Investment Portfolio:

  • £30m in a renewable energy fund run by London-based boutique Temporis Capital;
  • £30m in a private debt portfolio managed by Toscafund Asset Management; and
  • £20m in a specialist wind power fund run by Resonance Asset Management.

The Strathclyde Pension Fund gained 2.1% in the second quarter of the year, CIO Jacqueline Gillies reported, bringing the fund’s assets above £20bn for the first time.

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