Wednesday 10th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: JP Morgan Asset Management has appointed Paul Farrell as head of UK Institutional Clients. Based in London, Farrell will join JPMAM in April and will report to Patrick Thomson, head of International Institutional Clients. Farrell will be responsible for leading the sales team that manages and builds client relationships with Institutional Pension Funds in the UK & Ireland. He will have responsibility for direct client relationship management in the defined benefit as well as business development in the defined contribution marketplace and will work closely with our consultant client team led by Karen Roberton. Farrell joins most recently from Dimensional Fund Advisors, where he served as Head of UK Institutional Clients and was responsible for new business development, client service and consultant relations. Before that he was head of UK Strategic Clients at BlackRock - Vistra Group, a provider of fund admin services, has bought UK-based business expansion services provider Nortons Group, the accounting and advisory service. The Nortons team, led by Andrew Norton and Pete Doyle, is joining the Vistra Group to boost their existing range of services and benefit from Vistra’s global reach. Martin Crawford, CEO of Vistra Group, says: “Offering support services to companies moving abroad is a core business for Vistra and of growing importance. Nortons has the expertise, the experienced staff, and the network to add significant value to this service line. We are very proud to welcome Andrew Norton, Pete Doyle, and their colleagues to our international team and look forward to expanding our global reach with their experience and leadership". The acquisition of Nortons is expected to complete by the end of February and will take the combined headcount of the Vistra Group, inclusive of the soon to be merged Orangefield Group, to over 2,200 staff in 39 countries - Asian markets had another tough day. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 2.3% to its lowest closing level since late 2014, and reaffirming a trend across the last few months the yen remained near its strongest level against the dollar in over a year. Despite the Bank of Japan's decision last month to introduce negative interest rates, a policy that tends to weaken the local currency, the yen has strengthened in recent sessions to levels not seen since 2014. The Japanese 10-year treasury yield traded shortly in negative territory, and touched -0.08%, before stabilising above the neutral mark. The dollar was last up 0.1% against the yen at ¥ 115.00. Australia's S&P ASX 200 fell 1.2%, the downward drift being led by energy stocks. The Australian Dollar consolidated yesterday’s gains and is currently testing the next resistance, which lies at $0.71. AUD/USD up 0.21 in local trading. Other Asian currencies did well today against the dollar. The South Korean won rose 0.74%, the Taiwanese dollar edged up 0.60%, while the Indian rupiah climbed 1.05%. That uptick was not reflected in equity markets. The Topix index slid 3.02%. In Singapore the STI slipped 2.14%, while New Zealand equities were down 0.85% respectively. China's markets are still closed for the Lunar New Year holidays – The story today is all about Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s testimony to the US Congress. Analysts say that the market is pricing in no further rate increases in the near future and given the volatility in the markets and the general air of panic right now among investors, it would be a catastrophic move for the Fed to raise interest rates even a quantum in coming months. Truth is that no matter how well Yellen paints the US economy is it a story of two halves: yes, job numbers are rising, but there looks to be a lot of slack in the overall economy and this is contributing to a gradual weakening of the US dollar (but not against the euro). In fact, Europe is making the US look good; hence the wild swings in investor sentiment. Still, bank stocks look to remain vulnerable for the remainder of the quarter. This week's economic calendar is light; hence the focus on the Fed. The other bit of advanced market news is that expectations are rising for a rate cut by Norges Bank. Emerging market currencies are broadly trading higher this morning. The South African rand rose 0.85% against the US dollar, with USD/ZAR back below the 16.0 mark at around 15.9350. The Russian ruble also took advantage of this respite and gained 0.65% versus the greenback, which helped USD/RUB to edge lower to 79.10. In terms of data, watch out for industrial and manufacturing production figures from France, the UK and Italy and CPI data from Denmark and Norway - In commodities, Brent crude oil was last up 2.4% at $31.05 a barrel in thin trade on speculation about possible production cuts, but remains down nearly 9% for the week and roughly 19% for the year. Peter Rosenstreich, head of market strategy at Swissquote Bank explains, "Crude oil has been able to rebound off the 12-year low ($27.78) after falling sharply by nearly 8% on Tuesday. The positive catalyst was the news that Iran has indicated that they would be willing to work with Saudi Arabia on production limits. However, markets remain sceptical of this or any coordinated production cuts. There seems to be no relief on selling pressure in sight as the US government released reports indicating that demand will remain soft by lower demand growth forecasts. In addition, the Paris based International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that the supply glut will continue through 2016 as production cuts have been made at a slower pace than forecasted.” In other market news this morning, spot gold in London was down 0.2% at $1188.05 an ounce, while three-month copper futures on the London Metal Exchange fell 0.7% to $4,463 a ton.

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West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority completes first Local Government Pension Scheme buy-in

Friday, 20 April 2012
West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority completes first Local Government Pension Scheme buy-in West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (WMITA) has completed the buy-in of its pensioners with Prudential and the assistance of Mercer and Squire Saunders. This is the first  local authority involvement in UK’s buy-in market. With a premium in the region of £272m, this is the largest such transaction to date in 2012. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (WMITA) has completed the buy-in of its pensioners with Prudential and the assistance of Mercer and Squire Saunders. This is the first  local authority involvement in UK’s buy-in market. With a premium in the region of £272m, this is the largest such transaction to date in 2012.

West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (WMITA) has completed the buy-in of its pensioners with Prudential and the assistance of Mercer and Squire Saunders. This is the first such transaction for any local government pension fund. With a premium in the region of £272m, this is the largest such transaction to date in 2012.

A buy-in is an insurance wrapper which provides payment of pensions for the insured section of a pension fund’s members. The Fund continues to be managed as before but the transaction gives them certainty over their costs. This is distinct from a buyout where the liabilities are fully transferred to an insurance company.



According to Geik Drever, director of Pensions at the West Midlands Pension Fund, the transaction forms an important part of the WMITA Fund’s risk management strategy, "and has insured  circa 50% of the fund’s liabilities. It has protected the fund and the sponsor against the volatility of investment markets and any unanticipated increases in life expectancy of the pensioners. Risk management is a very important part of local authority governance for both the main fund and the WMITA Fund, and as such this is a welcome outcome given the policies in place for the Funds as well as the Authority.”

According to Clifford Sims, partner at Squire Saunders, the law firm which advised the authority and its fund on the legal issues surrounding the transaction: “As in all local government contracts, the public sector procurement process, which requires great depth of transparency and objectivity, had to be followed. This transaction is the first time that these procedures have been entwined in the processes surrounding a bulk annuity transaction. Another feature was that the price was determined by an electronic auction process enabling the price to be settled in a matter of hours.”

Paul Middleman, fund actuary and head of Public Sector Consulting, adds, "Whilst we have seen this in the private sector this is breaking new ground in the sector in terms of local authority pension fund risk management for a sponsoring employer and ultimately the taxpayer. The transaction required a team with specialist knowledge and experience when determining whether it was the right option. Now one Fund has taken the plunge we could see this becoming a viable option for Funds when dealing with legacy liabilities as part of the governance around their risk management strategy."

Squire Sanders' team was headed by pensions partner Clifford Sims, assisted by senior associate Ohad Graber-Soudry on procurement issues and pensions associate Sian Williams. Global legal practice Squire Sanders, with 37 offices in 18 countries, has one of the largest pensions law teams in the UK. 

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