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Pension funds set to escape 'too big to fail' regulation

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Pension funds are not to be classed as systemically important financial institutions but could still be subject to increased regulatory burdens proposed for ‘too big to fail’ asset managers.

A consultation by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) on which non-bank, non-insurer global institutions should be classed as systemically important financial institutions (NBNI G-SIFIs) suggested that pension funds could be excluded.

It said pension funds posed a low risk to “global financial stability and the wider economy due to their long-term investment perspective”.

The FSB’s paper also suggested pension funds were likely to be captured by additional regulation due to their relationship with asset managers but sought advice on whether the reasons for excluding the industry as a whole were sound.

It marks a clarification of the position of the FSB, which, in late 2013, would not be drawn on whether pension funds would be classified as systemically important.

Its 2014 consultation on non-bank institutions also did not directly address the status of the pensions industry.

The consultation, which will run through the end of May, asked respondents to explain why pension funds should be excluded or, alternatively, if the risks associated with the failure of a pension fund should warrant their inclusion as systemically important entities.

Mark Carney, chairman of the FSB and governor of the Bank of England, said the second consultation was an important step towards identifying those NBNI bodies deemed too big to fail.

“It will also enhance authorities’ understanding of the risks to global financial stability posed by the activities of entities in financial markets, including the distress or disorderly failure of non-banks and non-insurers,” he said.

However, pension funds could still be affected by new layers of regulation through their involvement with larger asset managers, with the consultation suggesting there could be an absolute threshold of $100bn (€92bn) in assets to trigger a manager’s inclusion.

“In addition to ‘size’, the FSB and IOSCO also considered the possibility of setting additional materiality thresholds based on ‘global activities (cross-jurisdictional activities)’,” the consultation said.

“However, since data regarding the international activities of NBNI financial entities are often not disclosed or reported to the relevant authorities, the FSB decided not to set additional materiality thresholds based on ‘global activity’.”

An absolute threshold based on assets under management could also impact a number of pension funds through their ownership of large asset managers, such as ABP’s ownership of APG and several large Dutch schemes’ stakes in MN.

Cecile Sourbes explores whether a pension fund can be too big to fail

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