Binary thinking in the decimal age of pension scheme management
14th February, 2017
As someone who writes blogs and opinions, it would be remiss (and quite rude) of me not to read those of others. Although, slightly less rude not to agree with them all….
The industry views at present seem to be very much Yes (1), or No (0). There is no middle ground, it cannot be decimal. For example:
Pension schemes should not have valuations based on gilts vs Mark to market using gilts it is the only way
LDI is a false god vs LDI it all the end of the world is upon us
Active management is a con vs Active management is a must to maximise returns
Interest rates will be lower for longer vs Interest rates cannot stay this low
I read article after article arguing for either side of the fence. This argument spills into Trustee meetings with informed employers also picking a side, and making for interesting valuation debates. I do not shy from debate, quite the opposite, my problem is when applied practically it is very hard for the answer to be clear cut and binary.
I work on 12 separate Trusts, with 12 difference Board structures, with 12 different Employer personalities, 12 different employer covenants, 12 different funding plans, 12 different investment strategies all broadly on 12 different journey plans. The answers to key questions will be different for all. It may be 0.00234, or it may be 0.998483 – but it is almost certainly not going to be as clear-cut as 0 or 1.
When writing in dismissive form against the opinion of others, forgetting the middle ground (that most trustees must lurk) it makes for a confused audience. That is probably a bit hypocritical, whilst I dismiss the views of both sides of many arguments, but hey ho, it is my blog.
There is a need for balance, and for understanding and educating the pensions market on how to apply the excellent thinking to the practicalities of the day to day running of the Scheme.