The 20-year relationship between The Open University (OU) and its actuarial adviser and consultant Sedgwick Noble Lowndes (SNL) may be about to change.
David Prince, the OU’s pension fund manager in Milton Keynes, told IPE: For the first time we are asking ourselves the question whether to appoint Noble Lowndes again. We haven’t decided to throw them out, necessarily, but we are wondering whether the one-stop approach is the right one anymore, so we are now talking to the other consultants in the top six to see whether they are any better or different in ways that we should know about. We just don’t know and we need to find out. When I have done so, I shall report to our trustees. We are only interested to talk to the top consultants.”
The fund, with some 400 pensioners in tow, has an asset allocation of £45m ($73m) on behalf of 1,450 active and 450 deferred members, and Prince is concerned to optimise the asset mix.
While the fate of SNL is as yet undecided - and the consultancy is still in with a chance, since it will be invited to re-tender - the Confederation Life Insurance Company (which became Sun Life Canada Asset Management) has been less lucky. Dissatisfied with its performance, the OU has relieved it of its balanced mandate in favour of Legal & General Investment Management, with which Prince says he is “perfectly happy” and that he has “no plans to replace them”.
Prince says he will also be “talking to other universities to see what can be learnt from them,” explaining that redundancies and continuing job cuts in the university sector are changing his fund’s membership profile in such a way that the time may have come to go for a more aggressive investment style.
Thus far, more than half the OU’s fund has been invested in UK equities, leaving 26% for overseas equities, 10% in UK fixed-interest, 5% in index-linked gilts and 4% in UK property. The OU’s custodian bank is Midland Securities Services.
q SNL has been appointed by Portman Travel to provide pension consulting, actuarial, administration and healthcare services. Bracknell, UK-based Portman is the UK’s largest independent business travel agent. It has a final salary scheme with 85 members and a contracted-out defined contribution scheme that is open to over 300 employees.