Ahold Delhaize Pensioen, the pension fund for the Dutch workers of grocery chain Ahold Delhaize, has chosen Achmea Investment Management as its new fiduciary manager. The fund expects the switch from AXA Investment Managers will lower investment management costs.
Achmea IM will take care of the pension fund’s balance sheet management, liquidity and risk management as well as manager selection and monitoring from 1 July 2021.
The €6.3bn Ahold Delhaize Pensioen administers pensions for 90,000 workers of supermarket chain Albert Heijn, grocery chain Etos and liquor store chain Gall & Gall.
AXA IM, the current fiduciary manager for Ahold Delhaize Pensioen, will be replaced.
“This doesn’t mean we’re unhappy with their service, but we conducted a search for a new manager in 2020 and have concluded there are better candidates available at the moment,” said Eric Huizing, executive vice president investments for the pension fund.
Once AXA IM’s contract with Ahold Delhaize ends, the manager will have no major fiduciary clients left.
AXA IM wanted to continue its mandate, but was dropped from the selection process during the first, exploratory phase. Huizing didn’t specifically say what made the other candidates better placed.
“We have held discussion with five selected parties, both online and on site as far as the coronavirus restrictions allowed this,” Huizing said. “Eventually we have chosen Achmea IM.”
A Dutch touch
Huizing and the pension fund’s director, Renate Pijst, both strongly denied being Dutch was a prerequisite for winning the mandate, but being a local player clearly played to Achmea IM’s advantage.
Huizing said: “An advantage of Achmea is that it, being a local player, is standing inside the Dutch pension market with both legs. I think AXA IM isn’t rooted here in the same way.”
The fact that the pension fund chose Achmea Pensioenservices last year as its new administrator did not affect the selection process, Pijst said. “These tender processes were completely separate.”
Huizing also praised Achmea IM’s “strong bargaining power”. He said: “We expect investment management fees to come down thanks to this.” In 2019, Ahold Delhaize Pensioen paid €8.5m in fees to external managers, while paying another €1.2m to AXA IM for its fiduciary services.
According to Huizing, it’s too early to say what will change in the pension fund’s investment portfolio under the new fiduciary. “Achmea has told us they have some ideas, but we will only take decisions on the portfolio by Q4. We have agreed AXA IM will transfer the investment portfolio integrally to Achmea on 1 July.”
However, Huizing expects the switch to Achmea IM will enable it to exchange a couple of investment funds for mandates, which wasn’t possible under AXA IM. This would not only lead to cost savings, it would also make it possible for the pension fund to “fully implement our new responsible investment policy,” Huizing explained.
Ahold Delhaize Pensioen currently invests in investment funds in emerging market equities and debt and in global high yield bonds.
The pension fund has developed a responsible investment policy over the last couple of months together with its members and the plan sponsor, Huizing said.
“Last year, we discussed our ambition regarding responsible investing, and concluded we want to make active choices.” The fund eventually opted to tailor its responsible investment policy according to two themes that fit both the fund’s members and its sponsor: climate and food.
The pension fund doesn’t yet know how it will embed the two themes in its new responsible investment policy. “We are ready for Achmea IM to inspire us on this,” said Huizing, as the fund’s new fiduciary manager will also be responsible for its implementation.
Read more: The March edition of IPE Magazine has an in-depth report into the Dutch fiduciary landscape.