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PME’s van den Brink slams asset managers

SWITZERLAND - Roland van den Brink, managing director investments at the €16bn Pensioenfonds Metalektro (PME), has attacked asset managers for not understanding their pension fund clients.

Speaking at a seminar at the IFM conference in Geneva, Van den Brink said: “The industry hardly knows the things which are in the mind of their clients. It is about returns.”

He stressed that for employers within PME, the health of their pension funds was crucial for their business competitiveness. He added that as the state is set to provide less indexation for pensions, the corporate pension scheme faced higher responsibilities to members.

Van den Brink said he had “closed the doors” to managers who had not grasped PME’s needs.

He gave as an example a manager who had suggested a real estate investment without explaining why PME should have embarked on the venture and how the investment would have ultimately benefited the fund.

He also said he had lost patience with managers boasting of their own career achievements or of their company without concretely saying how their services benefited PME. But not all managers were like that, he stressed.

Van den Brink said he also expected managers to indicate the right time to start using the investment product suggested by the asset manager.

Elsewhere at the event, Peter Morgan, who runs the closed £20bn Mineworkers Pension Scheme and Staff Superannuation Scheme explained the fund did not put special emphasis on either alpha or beta strategies. “Ultimately it is money to pay pensions.”

Trustees could be “merciless” if managers did something that they were not authorized to do.

Poor returns would not immediately constitute a sacking offence. Morgan said the fund would try to understand what triggered the poor performance and keep monitoring the manager.

Morgan explained that trustees monitored asset managers' business structure, their philosophy, their staff and the way they are motivated.

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