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IPE special report May 2018

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PFZW to revamp portfolio, focusing on sustainability, 'comprehensibility'

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The €140bn pension fund PFZW has said lessons learned from the financial crisis have led it to revamp its investment portfolio along the lines of sustainability, manageability and comprehensibility.

Speaking at the International Corporate Governance Network’s (ICGN) annual conference, Peter Borgdorff, the scheme’s director, said the pension fund’s “attitude” had changed as the result of an extensive evaluation of “what went wrong in 2008”, when PFZW’s assets fell by 20%.

“We are now aware we are here for our people, not for ourselves or the asset management industry,” he said during a panel discussion.

He said PFZW would review its reasons for having invested in 22 asset classes, adding that the healthcare scheme would no longer invest in asset classes it did not fully understand.

“The investment chain is sometimes too complicated, and we will look critically at, for example, fund of funds structures, mainly for cost reasons,” he said.

Borgdorff declined to provide further details about the planned portfolio changes, citing market sensitivity, but he did say PFZW aimed to have the changes in place by 2020.

On the issue of supervision, Borgdorff said his pension fund preferred to show good behaviour voluntarily, rather than be forced to a change through regulation.

His sentiment was echoed by Guy Jubb, global head of governance and stewardship at Standard Life Investors UK, who said: “Asset managers are no longer operating under the radar.”

In his opinion, stewardship must be at the heart of the relationship between asset manager and asset owner.

“I want all my clients to ask what we have done on their behalf,” he said.

Lucy Tusa, senior consult at Mercer UK, added: “The ICGN Principles on Institutional Investors’ Responsibilities should be the gold standard for investors.”

She said she had noticed little change in the expectactions of institutional investors but that their interest in stewardship had increased.

However, Tusa also said she was worried about the fact changes had mainly come from regulators.

She agreed with Borgdorff that there were too many intermediaries in the investment chain.

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