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FSB adds ‘reach for yield’ to pension fund vulnerability list

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) has added to its list of “potential vulnerabilities” of pension funds following feedback to a consultation on proposals for policy recommendations arising from concerns over the financial stability implications of asset management.

The FSB yesterday published its final policy recommendations for tackling “structural vulnerabilities” from asset management activities.

Like the consultation document that preceded it, yesterday’s report includes an annex setting out the FSB’s thinking about the vulnerabilities that pension funds could pose from a financial-stability perspective.

This is relevant to its work on methodologies to decide whether financial institutions other than banks and insurers – such as asset managers, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds – should be deemed of global systemic importance; this would lead to a G-SIFI designation and come with rules.

Pension funds could yet also still be deemed “systemically important” financial institutions, with the FSB having in its June 2016 consultation document said it may consider financial stability risks posed by pension funds when it resumes its work on these G-SIFI assessment methodologies.

The same point is made in its final policy recommendations report, but its list of “potential vulnerabilities” of pension funds has been expanded.

A new risk has been added to this list, to do with the “reach for yield and portfolio balancing”.

The FSB said the low-interest-rate environments could cause pension funds, particularly defined benefit (DB) plans, to “reach for yield”, in particular as the funding status of some DB schemes has deteriorated.

“Furthermore, recent moves into higher-risk credit securities and credit-intensive alternative assets could result in large, unexpected losses should market conditions deteriorate,” it said.

A spokesman at the FSB told IPE the addition resulted from findings from comments received on the report, such as from BlackRock, the Investment Association and the Committee on Capital Markets Regulation, as well as from internal analysis. 

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