Pension funds should train ‘excessive care’ over liquidity dangers, OECD warns


Pension funds ought to be “extraordinarily cautious” when investing in illiquid belongings as rising rates of interest and falling inventory markets improve the chance of a fast money rush, the OECD has warned.

Within the current period of low rates of interest, pension funds have poured cash into different investments, comparable to infrastructure initiatives and personal fairness, in an try to flee the low yields of presidency bonds.

However such investments are often illiquid, which means that funds can not rapidly flip them into money when wanted. Whereas there was no use for funds to do that prior to now decade, the UK pension disaster in October confirmed how a pointy rise in rates of interest could make a distinction.

“There’s now a requirement to permit higher flexibility in regulation [defined contribution] illiquid and infrastructure funding schemes, and that is good,” mentioned Pablo Antolin, chief economist within the personal pensions division of the OECD’s Monetary Affairs Division. “However we additionally must be extraordinarily cautious as a result of liquidity points are essential in managing funding methods.”

Together with liquidity dangers, the OECD has warned that the extent of due diligence required for different investments is probably going past the attain of many smaller funds.

“When you will have an enormous pension fund with an enormous funding crew that is extra expert, they’ll afford to make these selections and worth these illiquidities fairly effectively to signify them,” Antolin mentioned. “Nevertheless, small and medium-sized pension funds can not, they usually want monetary devices to take a position. . . What we have seen is that there aren’t many monetary devices that may spend money on illiquidity and infrastructure.”

The warning comes as pension funds’ urge for food for different investments reveals little signal of slowing. In December, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset supervisor, mentioned the position of personal belongings, which embrace all the pieces from infrastructure to personal credit score, was turning into “extra essential than ever” as extra firms turned to them for returns.

Allocations to different belongings have benefited public pension plans globally.

For instance, the Virginia Retirement System, which has 778,000 members, reported that its public fairness and glued earnings holdings for fiscal 2022 have been down 14.8 % and 10.6 %, respectively. In distinction, its actual belongings and personal fairness returned 21.7 % and 27.4 % over the identical interval.

Nearly half of public pension funds with greater than $3 trillion in belongings worldwide plan to extend their publicity to alternate options, in accordance with a current survey by the Official Financial and Monetary Establishments Discussion board (OMFIF).

Property that shield in opposition to inflation, together with infrastructure and a few actual property, have been among the many greatest performers, the survey discovered.

“Given this dramatic superiority and lingering issues [global pension funds] with inflation, it’s not stunning that there’s an urge for food to maneuver additional into actual belongings and personal fairness,” OMFIF mentioned on the Impartial Discussion board on Central Banks, Financial Coverage and Public Funding.

Nevertheless, OMFIF identified the dangers of this method.

“Chasing larger returns in comparatively illiquid markets provides funds much less flexibility to alter their technique sooner or later,” the report mentioned, including that “the current UK pension disaster suggests the necessity to maintain liquid belongings as money in dangerous occasions.” immediate recruiting instrument. “.

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