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Challenging Investment Beliefs

Presentation at the European Pension Fund Investment Forum (EPFIF), September 4, 2012, The Hague. The presentation covers how unearthing investment beliefs helps improve investment governance, but poorly thought out or implemented investment beliefs challenge the organisation as well.

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Challenging Investment Beliefs

  1. 1. Setting the SceneChallenging Investment BeliefsThe European Pension Fund Investment ForumAlfred Slager, September 4 2012
  2. 2. Simple question• What makes pension funds good investment managers – Management literature: quest to be a good company – Investment literature: similar approach until recently• Recent developments – Focus on investment process, choices embedded: investment beliefs – Beliefs: set of high-level principles established by trustees to give them focus ; assist effective internal decision making in complex environment.
  3. 3. Why we need to formulate beliefs• Makes sense – Companies have to articulate their unique proposition for client(s) – Relevant in financial markets where different visions co-exist – It concerns a lot of money, over a long period, and involves a lot of trust• If not – Difficult for trustees to evaluate new developments, and whether to include them in their own strategies – More likely to “join the herd”, increasing (opportunity) costs
  4. 4. What is an investment belief Investment Belief Theory Investment Organization Strategy• Observes behavior in the financial marketplace• Frames why the organization deals with this in a sophisticated way• The term “belief” is a deliberate choice – Investments not a hard science – Theories put in practice yet untested – Jargon - diversification, risk, long term horizon etc. mean different things to different people.• Trustees need a clear framework to make choices for a constructive dialogue with stakeholders
  5. 5. Investment Beliefs in all sorts and shapes• Financial Markets • Risk Management – Risk Premium: Emerging vs. Mature – LDI markets – Real risk – Market timing – Active vs. Passive • Societal – Diversification – Sustainability• Organisational – Costs – Innovation – Investment Process – Investment Governance
  6. 6. Application of beliefs rather limited• My assessment for the pension fund sector: – 10% Formulate them and act on it – 10% Formulate them – 80% Do not formulate them but • Copy behaviour from other organisations • Outsource discussion to investment manager • Sometimes afraid of consequences of making them implicit
  7. 7. Why we need to challengeinvestment beliefsAll lined up to work in the participant’s interest, but let’s not forget Trustees Status, reputation Pension Fund Interesting job Staff Asset Manager Be innovative, show skill
  8. 8. Challenges that cripple• Beliefs system copied from leaders• Beliefs based on results, not fundamentals• Beliefs without acting on it• Simplification• (Too) high conviction beliefs
  9. 9. Beliefs should challenge organisation • Funds invest and have implicit beliefs. Should be made explicit. • Are the beliefs evidence based? • Whose belief is it? Who does it create work for? Is it somebodies hobby? • Are they implemented in the investment policy and organisation?
  10. 10. Beliefs should challenge organisation • Is there a culture to review them, and adjust if necessary? • Investment staff weary of less degrees of freedom • Beliefs should reflect the governance and complexity (and not add to it)
  11. 11. Alfred Slagera.slager@tiasnimbas.eduRead more on our work on investment beliefson