There remain powerful incentives for pension plans to reduce equity-related volatility, in particular the regulatory environment and a desire on the part of corporate sponsors to mitigate the impact of pension plan volatility on their balance sheets. In addition, rising equity markets over the course of 2012 and early 2013 will have generally lifted funding levels, providing some of those plans on a path to a lower risk position with an opportunity to reduce equity allocations.
As Nick Sykes says -European Director of Consulting in Mercer’s Investments business- the Pension schemes across Europe, but particularly in the UK, remain on a path towards a lower-risk investment strategy.
This approach in reducing risk will not simply mean increases to government bond allocations and simple swap strategies. Instead, there would be increasing interest in assets that offer a relatively stable and inflation-sensitive income stream, such as ground lease property and infrastructure. Sophisticated LDI strategies are also proving essential for providing a greater degree of flexibility and responsiveness to changing market conditions
What is LDI strategy?
Liability-driven investment policies and asset management decisions are those largely determined by the sum of current and future liabilities attached to the investor, be it a household or an institution. As it purports to associate constantly both sides of the balance sheet in the investment process, it has been called a “holistic” investment methodology.
In essence, the liability-driven investment strategy (LDI) is an investment strategy of a company or individual based on the cash flows needed to fund future liabilities. It is sometimes referred to as a “dedicated portfolio” strategy. It differs from a “benchmark-driven” strategy, which is based on achieving better returns than an external index such as the S&P 500 or a combination of indices that invest in the same types of asset classes. LDI is designed for situations where future liabilities can be predicted with some degree of accuracy. For individuals, the classic example would be the stream of withdrawals from a retirement portfolio that a retiree will make to pay living expenses from the date of retirement to the date of death. For companies, the classic example would be a pension fund that must make future payouts to pensioners over their expected lifetimes (see below).
Below you can find a nice infographic elaborated by Mercer about how is the current situation of Pension Plans in Europe and what are the expectations.