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France 2015 - Ircantec

Mass storage facility

Judge’s comment: “Coherent and accountable, Ircantec displays an outstanding commitment and development to SRI which is not cosmetic but implemented across all asset classes” 

Ircantec, the €8.5bn supplementary pay-as-you-go pension scheme, manages pensions for nearly 4.9m retired and active public-sector employees, including both national and local government employees and those working in hospitals. But those are just the members it covers directly, for the scheme’s responsibilities extend to a huge deferred membership as its future pensioners includes non-civil-service contract staff who have been employed in the public sector at least once in their lifetime. Ircantec thus actually manages part of the future pensions for 16m French workers.

Now a points-based defined contribution arrangement, Ircantec was created in 1970 as the result of the merger of two former public sector schemes: Ipacte, for executive civil servants and Igrante, for non-executives. With 34 board members, bringing together employers and trade union representatives as well as qualified pensions specialists, Ircantec’s governance operates through clear and transparent guidelines.

In terms of day-to-day management, the Caisse des Dépôts (CDC), the French state’s long-term investment and economic development institution, acts as fiduciary manager, while portfolio management is outsourced to various external asset managers. The investment strategy involves an in-depth selection of asset managers based on both financial and extra-financial criteria, split 70% and 30% respectively.  Ircantec’s reserves were built up in the 1970s when the ratio of active members to beneficiaries was more favourable than at present. Since then, they have grown regularly thanks to both contributions and returns on investment.

Ircantec’s investment strategy is governed by two principles. Firstly it always seeks to provide sustainable secure pensions payments over the long-term. Added to this challenge since 2008 are the French government reforms introducing prudent person rules governing the solvency levels of long-term pensions institutions.

Secondly, Ircantec endeavours to maintain consistency with its key values as a pay-as-you-go pension scheme, and this includes its commitment to solidarity between generations. This concerns its extensive and comprehensive responsible investment charter, which outlines the conditions for the implementation of ESG criteria in all of its investments and sets out a structured engagement policy, which in turn defines Ircantec’s active ownership. 

The latest strategic asset allocation dates back to 2011 and divides Ircantec’s €8.5bn asset base between four asset classes as follows:

-        fixed-income bonds: 46%

-        inflation-linked bonds: 20%

-        equities: 29%

-        real estate: 5%

To tackle the issue of maintaining profitable, secure and responsible investments in an ever-changing environment, over the past year Ircantec has adopted a strategy to seek greater diversification and has defined a low-carbon investment policy, shifting from a top down analysis and investment model to one based on more collaborative relationships in the investment value chain to produce innovative and appropriate solutions.

Ircantec undertakes stress testing at least every two years to ensure its strategic asset allocation remains compatible with its prudent-person funding ratio requirements. These are based on demographic and financial assumptions that it regularly updates, as well as a discount rate based on the returns on its investments using current market rates. Furthermore, determined to enhance its commitment to address climate change issues and improve its long-term portfolio risk return profile, in 2014 Ircantec began implementing a low-carbon investment policy across its entire portfolio and to diversify its investments. As part of this commitment, Ircantec is currently developing with one of its asset managers an active low-carbon bespoke mandate based on a €1bn listed equity fund. It is also requesting that its asset managers enhance their focus on assets that finance energy transition, while it has increased the number of ‘green’ bonds in its portfolio by 11% within a year to represent a €185m investment.

2014 Essentials

Ircantec

Founded in 1970

Defined contribution multi-employer

Members

  • Active: 2,890,000
  • Retirees: 1,970,000
  • Deferred: 16,000,000

Assets: €8.6bn

Performance as a percentage:

  • one year: 5.45
  • three years: 23.94
  • five years: 22.58

Quick facts

  • Comprehensive and inclusive SRI charter across all asset classes
  • Large scale carbon reduction programme
  • Member base of 16m deferred alongside 4.9m active and retired members

Short-listed

  • ERAFP
  • FRR

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