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of-manager model are not the cutting edge products that would be available la carte.
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Conflict of interest. Some clients appreciate the independence of actuaries and investment managers and hesitate to bundle these services. In recognition of this, many manager-of-manager models allow plan sponsors to maintain their actuary.
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Reducing Interest Rate Risk. The 60 percent equity/40 percent fixedincome asset allocation does not show any signs of changing. However, many plan sponsors are looking at the 40 percent fixed-income exposure and wondering if there might be a better way to manage that side alone. Most of the problems today that you see in the media (airlines going bankrupt with underfunded plans) came about because of a mismatch in the duration of the liabilities and the assets. Duration is a measure used by investment managers to quantify the impact of changes in interest rates on the value of an investment typically a bond portfolio. Basically, it is a measure of interest rate sensitivity. Bonds with longer duration are more sensitive to swings in interest rates than shorter durations and vice versa. Liabilities, like pension plans, have a duration too. By using the projected benefit payments paid out of the plan, one can calculate an equivalent measure of duration as the one used in fixed-income investing. The vast majority of the fixed-income portfolios of DB plans use the Lehman Brothers Aggregate (LB Agg) Index as a benchmark. LB Agg is a broad market index of fixed-income vehicles issued by government, corporate, assetbacked, and other organizations. Currently, the duration of the LB Agg is around four years. Compare this with the duration of most mature DB plans (typically 10 to 15 years) and you can see the problem. Over the past several years, as interest rates have declined, the value of the fixed-income portion of the DB plan portfolio has decreased some, but the liabilities with their longer duration have increased substantially more. Many clients, although hesitant to reduce their equity allocation, are seriously looking at ways to extend the duration of their fixed-income portfolio. Some initial steps like investing in longer-term fixed-income products pegged at the Lehman Brothers Long Government and Long Credit will get plan sponsors in the right direction. However, limitations exist, since these initial steps probably will only get the portfolio to a 10year duration. For those plans that want to match the duration of your DB plan s liabilities, other options are available and we are seeing more and more plan sponsors exploring them. Some of these options may be more
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A MANAGER S GUIDE TO STRATEGIC RETIREMENT PLAN MANAGEMENT
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appropriate for larger plans and include using futures, swaps, and zero coupon bonds to extend the duration nearer to the plan s duration. Even though now may not be the best tactical time to extend the duration of the plan s portfolio given the low interest rate environment, we are seeing clients seriously considering this now for possible implementation. Feedback. Regardless of how you deploy the plan s assets, you need to perform periodic reviews of performance. The road map for your review should be your IPS. Benchmarks, criteria, and other performance-related items should be identified in the IPS. As mentioned in 4, plan sponsors can choose their own schedule for review commensurate with their needs. Our recommendation is to review performance no less frequent than annually, with twice a year our recommended standard. More frequent reviews would be called for if problem issues are identified, a new manager is hired, funds have been placed on a watch list, the economy or financial markets are struggling, or your company is experiencing internal issues. The issue of when to fire an investment manager is difficult, but must be addressed in a professional manner. Typical criteria for firing investment managers include significant underperformance over a market cycle (typically thought of as no less than three years), change in investment personnel, nonadherence to investment policy such as investing in nonapproved asset classes among others. We recommend a system of putting a manager on watch when any of these issues come up, and then more diligent review to determine the next course of action. Sometimes, after a manager is on watch, the issue resolves on its own. Other times, it does not, and then the plan sponsor should terminate the investment manager.
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IS THE 60 PERCENT/40 PERCENT ASSET ALLOCATION DEAD News flash! During 2000 and 2001, Boots, a U.K. pharmaceutical company, sold all of the equities within its pension plan and invested in bonds. This was hailed as the beginning of a new trend that would affect pension plans in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Many experts thought that pension plans would change their asset allocation from the traditional mix of 60 percent equities and 40 percent fixed income, but guess what happened next Nothing. Even Boots, in its most recent annual report (2005), showed a 10 percent allocation to equities. Boots drastic change in investment strategy was a fantastic exercise
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