APG in the Netherlands and Hermes in the UK - two pension management organisations that are owned by their largest client, respectively the largest pension funds in their two countries.
Long known as a passive manager and for its focus funds, Hermes divested its passive business in 2007 and has sought to build up a wide variety of boutique strategies that are available to external investors.
APG, in contrast, is an ‘all-in' pension provider, seeking to manage entire portfolios on a fiduciary management basis.
Yet, in talking to the CIOs of the two organisations in this issue, we see many common threads. Angelien Kemna, CIO of APG, and Saker Nusseibeh, CIO of Hermes, were both appointed in 2009 after attaining senior positions in the asset management industry.
In this issue, both Kemna and Nusseibeh share a vision for a different kind of dedicated pension manager that is not only proficient as an investor, but whose interests are aligned with clients and the end user, the eventual pensioner.
Kemna: "Our job is to take good care of the pension savings of scheme participants, and that is what we focus on." She adds: "I am a strong proponent of bringing pension fund investments back to their original purpose."
Nusseibeh: "It's time we went back to managing the pensioners' money and sometimes that means telling the client the truth," he says in this issue of IPE, adding: "We think there is a space for the people who look after the client quietly, day-in and day-out."
Are these words more than just talk?
Nusseibeh's vision for an investment office embedded in the asset management company - a cost centre whose sole responsibility was towards clients - is one he has now put into reality. And for Hermes this was a serious commitment that involved considerable hardware and people investment.
Kemna believes in a ‘back to basics' approach that involves eschewing complexity and over-engineered products. Her policy of ‘controlled simplification' means putting beta in order by reassessing benchmarks before looking at the expensive building blocks of alpha.
There are relatively few large-scale organisations that are exclusively dedicated to managing the assets of pension funds and that also seek external business. Like others, APG and Hermes share considerable challenges, not least about aligning smaller clients' interests with the interests of the controlling client.
Perhaps it is no surprise that the views of the two CIOs should be so aligned. Both appear genuinely committed to the challenge of doing things differently and it is by their success or otherwise in this endeavour that they will be judged.