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News Archives - February / March 2008


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Monday, March 31, 2008

Money Moves To SRI

One in every nine investment dollars managed by fund managers or institutional investors in the U.S. is now following socially responsible principles, says the US Social Investment Forum (SIF). Its report on Socially Responsible Investing Trends in the United States says 11 per cent, or $2.71 trillion, of the $25.1 trillion in total assets under management tracked in Nelson Information’s Directory of Investment Managers, are now in SRI strategies. Over two years, SRI assets in the U.S. market have increased more than 18 per cent, while total institutional assets under management have grown by less than three per cent. New growth areas include SRI ETFs and private equity and hedge funds based on social and environmental criteria.  

Demise Of Hedge Funds Unfounded

Warnings about the demise of the hedge fund industry are unfounded, says Riskdata, a French data provider. Responding to a report that questioned the future of hedge funds, it said its research shows massive outperformance by hedge funds for more than 15 years. Even after payment of all management and performance fees to the fund managers, they still outperform most asset classes.

Asset Allocation Options Offered

Almost 60 per cent of U.S. retirement plan participants have an asset allocation investment option in their plan, says a Spectrem Group research report. Participant Asset Allocation Trends: Target Date and Lifestyle Funds shows of the 59 per cent who could choose these funds, 14 per cent had access to lifestyle options, nine per cent could opt for target date portfolios, and 36 per cent had both as options. Of participants with asset allocation option access, 39 per cent have no money in them and 22 per cent have invested a portion of their accounts in those choices.

Systemic Concerns Dog U.S. Market

Recent policy moves in the U.S. have helped narrow some credit market spreads, but systemic concerns continue to dog financial markets, says BCA Research. It calls the list of monetary and fiscal actions taken in support of credit markets in recent weeks “impressive.” However, it says, in a research note, that even though certain spreads have narrowed, solvency issues remain. More significant directed fiscal policy action is required to deal with the underlying problem: falling house prices. As foreclosures climb, subprime-related asset write-downs will continue to erode bank capital and keep upward pressure on inter-bank lending spreads. As a result, banks will have to rebuild their capital bases over time, which means that deleveraging and forced selling will continue in credit markets for the foreseeable future.

Shepherd Launches Managers Global

David Shepherd has launched Managers Global to assist asset managers in accessing foreign markets. It provides institutional marketing capabilities to traditional and alternative asset managers outside their domestic markets. It expects to work with four to six clients in 2008 and to target institutional investment markets in Canada, Europe, and South Africa. Previously, Shepherd was a principal at Marvin & Palmer Associates, a large cap growth manager.

Aon Announces Promotions

Alex Diemer has been promoted to vice-president in the health and benefits practice of Aon Consulting. Yun Suk Kang and Rick Tessier, in Toronto, ON, and Cathy Perron in Montreal, QC, have been promoted to senior consultant. As well, in Toronto, Noelle Hamersley, Carol O'Leary, and Linda Shishis and, in Montreal, Martine Simard have been promoted to consultant. In the retirement practice, Bita Jenab has been promoted to senior vice-president while Thierry Chamberland and Rosalind (Roz) Gilbert are now vice-presidents. Alasdair Rew, in Toronto, and Guillaume Turcotte, in Montreal, are senior consultants and Philippe Laplante, Mathieu Laurendeau, and François-Gabriel Lord, in Montreal, and Lisa Virio, in Toronto, are consultants. Mike Leslie is a vice-president in the investment consulting practice. Jeremy Bell, in Vancouver, BC, and Claudia Gagné, in Montreal, have both been promoted to senior consultant and Mathieu Boivin, in Montreal, has been promoted to consultant.

Auditor General Speaks On Healthcare Fraud

Jim McCarter, auditor general of Ontario, will speak on Preventing Healthcare Fraud: An Auditor General's Perspective as part of the Canadian Health Care Anti-fraud Association Education Series 2008. He will outline the role of his office in auditing both Ministry of Health and long-term care programs as well as organizations in the broader public sector, with a focus on those areas where the potential risk of healthcare fraud is the greatest. It takes place April 22 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

Asset Allocation Trends And Patterns Discussed

Janet Rabovsky, practice leader of Watson Wyatt, will moderate a panel on institutional investor asset allocation trends and patterns at the Seventh Annual Canada Cup of Investment Management. The ‘Canada Cup’ is designed for institutional and retail investors and is expected to attract more than 350 participants. It takes place June 5 and 6 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

Panel Looks At Investment Innovations

Leon Bitton, of the Montreal Exchange; John Poos, of Nortel; Brendan George, of Aon Consulting; and Corey P. Case, of JPMorgan Alternative Asset Management; will look at innovations in pension fund investing at CPBI’s FORUM 2008. It will look at alternative investment schemes being utilized by Canadian pension plan sponsors, including portable alpha, unconstrained benchmarks, climate and carbon contracts, and 130/30 funds. It takes place May 12 to 14 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit


Friday, March 28, 2008

BCE Takeover Approved

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has approved the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan takeover of BCE Inc. However, the commission is requiring Teachers’ to make several corporate governance changes, most of which the fund and its U.S. partners had already proposed. One new change is a requirement that it appoint six of the 13 directors on the company's board. This is to ensure control remains in Canadian hands.

Flex Benefits Should Offer Right Mix

The key to implementing a cost-effective flex plan is to engage employees, says Marg French, of Mercer. Speaking at a CPBI seminar, she said “Nobody spends someone else’s money as carefully as they spend their own,” so it’s important to understand the data behind what employees are claiming and what non-traditional benefits are of value to them. Mercer has found, however, that excessive life insurance, health, and dental choices may, in fact, deter and overwhelm employees. Offering modular flex plans, perhaps with “flex credit” options, is an effective approach.

Growth Of Assets Slows

Growth rates for retirement assets began slowing worldwide in 2007, says Watson Wyatt Worldwide. Its 2008 Global Pensions Asset Study found in the 11 countries with the largest workplace retirement systems, the estimated growth rate for retirement assets was only two per cent in 2007. This was a significant drop from the 10.5 per cent growth rate for the five-year period ending in 2007 and from the 7.4 per cent per annum growth of the last 10 years.

More Funds Consider Legal Moves

Several large U.S. public pension funds are reportedly considering taking legal action against Bear Stearns. The Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board would consider action if any evidence of securities fraud is found. The $51 billion state pension fund has lost an estimated at $24 million. The $127.9 billion New York City Retirement Systems is considering a federal lawsuit against the company. It owns 274,000 shares of Bear Stearns stock. The $164.4 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, Albany, also is exploring options to protect assets in the fund. It holds 427,785 shares of Bear Stearns stock. The $1.8 billion Wayne County Employees’ Retirement System, Detroit, and the $4.3 billion Police and Fire Retirement System of the City of Detroit have filed an injunction to stop Bear Stearns from selling JPMorgan new shares to boost JPMorgan’s ownership.

Tremblay Vice-president Investments

Michel Tremblay is executive vice-president, investments, at Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc. In the last 20 years, he has held various management positions in investments and wealth management and has worked for several major financial institutions including Optimum Group, ING, and the National Bank. In his new duties, he will be in charge of its investment activities for securities, mortgage loans and real estate investments, segregated funds, and mutual funds.

Empire Picks President

Les Herr will succeed Doug Hogeboom as president and chief executive officer at the Empire Life Insurance Company. Lee takes over April 1. He joined the firm in 1999 and was, most recently, executive vice-president and senior vice-president, individual products. Hogeboom is retiring after a 34-year career with the company.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cost Increases Slow Down, But Double-Digit Trend Continues

Canadian private healthcare plans continue to face double-digit cost increases in 2008, says a nationwide survey of insurers and Blue Cross agencies by Buck Consultants. Its 2008 Canadian Healthcare Trend Survey shows that while the overall trend has dipped slightly from 2007, cost increases expected this year for combined prescription drugs, medical plans, and hospital coverage are still in the 13 per cent to 14 per cent range. For dental care, increased utilization combined with provincially-set fee guides mean cost increases are in the seven per cent to 11 per cent range, depending on the plan members’ province of residence. Combined total health and dental care cost increases are expected to continue at double-digit rates.

Budget Harmonizes Retirement Account Rules

The 2008 Ontario budget will harmonize the rules for life income funds with the rules for locked-in retirement accounts. Life income funds, which came into effect January 1, allow enhanced annual withdrawals and a one-time 25 per cent unlocking provision when the fund is first set up. Now, those who transfer retirement funds to life income funds can take advantage of the same rules.

1X0/X0 More Than Marketing Fad

Short extension hedge fund Strategies are not simply a marketing fad is the decision of AIMA Canada members. They voted overwhelmingly against the premise that they are a marketing fad after hearing the topic debated by David E. Gold, asset class head, hedge funds, with Watson Wyatt; and Jean D. Masson, managing director, head of quantitative research for TD Asset Management. Gold, speaking in favour of the motion that they are a marketing fad, argued that while they look like a trend, they act like a fad as they are outperformed by pure hedge funds and will not perform well in uncertain markets, such as those that exist today. Masson, the debate winner, noted that while Gold called them mutual funds on steroids, steroids have positive uses too, not just the negative connotations from professional baseball. However, for those who believe in active management and who have skill managing long and short strategies, 1X0/X0 strategies have to be used.

Creation Of TMX Best Option

Given the global trend towards consolidation in the stock market sector, Desjardins Group believes that the agreement to merge the two Canadian exchanges is necessary to ensure long-term continuity in their respective markets, as well as to strengthen their positioning both nationally and internationally. This is the conclusion it submitted to the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) as part of the consultations on the consolidation of the Montréal and Toronto exchanges. "The creation of the TMX Group is the best option to ensure the greatest reach for the expertise developed in Montréal in this leading-edge, high-growth sector," says Alban D'Amours, Desjardins Group president and CEO. While it does endorse the amalgamation project, Desjardins would like to see the agreement texts better reflect the intentions and the spirit behind the work leading up to the development of the stock market consolidation project.

Fixing Credit Crunch Requires More

Fixing the U.S. credit crunch is going to take more than just monetary actions, says a Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. research note. And it says even government intervention won't be enough to prevent a recession. The note says the Federal Reserve’s liquidity provisions are not a substitute for capital, and do not remove the financial institution’s balance sheet constraints, which are at the epicenter of the financial credit crunch. Fiscal action may be needed to loosen the tight credit market conditions and the deeper and more prolonged the crisis, the bolder the initiatives will likely become. To alleviate credit market paralysis, the outright purchase of illiquid mortgage-backed securities is probably required.

CWT Enhances Online Tool

Canadian Western Trust Company (CWT) has launched its enhanced CWeb online query tool. CWeb is an Internet-based service platform that allows CWT to communicate account details and other critical information to clients and their partners. New CWeb features include a listing of intra-day and pending account transactions, visual representation of an account portfolio, consolidated reports for agent and compliance users, data sorting capabilities, and the option to export information.

Banking Committee Probing Bear Stearns Deal

The U.S. Senate Banking Committee wants chief executives from JPMorgan Chase and Bear Stearns to explain the transaction which kept Bear Stearns from entering bankruptcy. As well, it has invited Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox to testify at an April 3 hearing about their roles in the transaction. The committee says the deal would not have attracted its interest if it involved only the two companies. However, it says actions by the Federal Reserve, Department of the Treasury, and others merit a full and public examination by the committee. It wants a "thorough accounting" of the securities assets the Fed is guaranteeing with public funds.


Two U.S. pension funds have asked a Delaware court for an emergency order to stall the Bear Stearns takeover by JPMorgan Chase. The Police and Fire Retirement System of the City of Detroit and the Wayne County Employees' Retirement System claim the $10-a-share offer remains inadequate.

Cass Joins CPPIB

Ed Cass will lead the global capital markets group at the CPP Investment Board (CPPIB). Most recently, he served as chief investment officer for the Fortress hedge fund. Before that, he worked at Merrill Lynch, TD Securities, and Deutsche Bank in fixed income capacities.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ontario Hurt Most

Ontario will be the province that is most affected by the downturn in U.S. activity, say Desjardins Group economists. "Its economy is at the mercy of the manufacturing industry, especially the automotive sector, which is going through a period of major restructuring. It is more dependent on international exports than Québec is and will not be able to avoid a drop in production in the first two quarters of 2008. Technically, therefore, Ontario will be in a recession in the early part of the year. Québec will barely escape it, thanks to tax cuts and public spending on infrastructure," says Yves St-Maurice, director and deputy chief economist. He estimates real GDP growth in Ontario and Québec will be 0.5 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively in 2008, compared with 2.1 per cent and 2.4 per cent in 2007.

Emerging Economies Create Challenges

Long-term growth prospects for emerging economies create both challenges and opportunities for Canada, says a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The World in 2050: Beyond the BRIC suggests that China could overtake the U.S. by 2025 to become the world’s largest economy and will continue to grow to 130 per cent of the size of the U.S. economy by 2050. The Indian economy could grow to almost 90 per cent of the size of the U.S. economy by 2050. As the economies of emerging nations grow, Canada’s share of the global economy is projected to diminish. To maintain its competitive position, Canadian businesses will have to differentiate through innovation and technological progress. This will require greater investments in education and capital equipment to promote the productivity gains necessary for economic growth.

Employers Use Cost Sharing

U.S. employers have been using cost sharing and tiered copayment structures to decrease pharmacy benefit costs. However, Mercer has found employers are looking to other cost-reduction strategies such as more actively encouraging members to use generic drugs and mail-order plans to further reduce costs. To encourage the use of generics, some employers require members to pay the difference in cost between a brand-name and a generic drug, in addition to the generic copay, if they request a brand drug when a generic equivalent is available.

BNY Mellon Offers Alternative Services

BNY Mellon Asset Servicing now has a suite of alternative investment services for plan sponsors and not-for-profit institutional investors. The new services enable clients to better process, manage, account for, and analyze alternative investments. Services include data administration, reconciliation, document management, and ‘as of’ performance measurement, as well as integrated reporting and analysis through the company's Workbench information delivery system.

Relationships Grow Business

Advisers with 401(k) plan clients who make it a point to develop and maintain strong relationships can grow their 401(k) practice – and their revenue – by an estimated 40 per cent over 10 years compared with those who do not, says a Fidelity Investments report. As well, plan sponsors are more focused on the level of their adviser's support and knowledge than on fees as a cause for breaking an existing relationship. Plan sponsors say services – including employee communications, group investment meetings, proactive check-ins, and industry updates – are important, but also as areas where they are less than satisfied with their adviser's help.

Companies Not Fully Tapping Into Onsite Health Centre Potential

High health costs and a renewed focus on worker productivity have led an increasing number of U.S. companies to open onsite health centres in recent years. However, few companies fully tap the potential of these centres, says Watson Wyatt. Nearly one-third of companies (29 per cent) have or plan to have an onsite health centre by 2009, up from 27 per cent in 2006. Reducing medical costs was the chief reason 70 per cent of companies have opened a centre since 2000. Only 49 per cent of companies that adopted health centres before 2000 did so due to cost.

Current Trends Challenge Insurance Companies

Insurance companies need a strong grasp of current trends to successfully manage risk, optimize performance, and increase operational effectiveness, says Ernst & Young. While climate change is the greatest strategic threat facing the insurance industry, it says the baby boomer generation is causing a demographic shift with huge ramifications for the insurance industry. As this group reaches retirement age, their financial needs change and they need new products to fill the gap. Because current generations may not have sufficient funds for retirement, insurance companies are stepping into a role traditionally played by governments. That means insurers are facing intense pressure in cases of failure, intensified public scrutiny, and greater regulatory pressures.

Benefit Professionals Speak

CPBI Manitoba Region will present a six-part lecture series – featuring some of Manitoba’s most prominent benefit professionals – April 22, April 29, and May 6. The sessions April 22 will look at the basics of employee benefit plans and benefit plan cost management. April 29, the focus shifts to claims and disability management. The series concludes May 6 with sessions on benefits communication and emerging benefit issues. For more information, email


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

ABCP Worth About 60 Per Cent

Canada's $32 billion asset backed commercial paper (ABCP) market has lost more than 40 per cent of its value, says an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. Andre-Philippe Hardy’s estimate is based on court documents. The estimate shows $17.2 billion of leveraged super senior swap transactions were worth about 30 per cent as of March 4. Another $3 billion portion tied to U.S. subprime is worth about 20 per cent. If other assets underlying the paper are worth their full face value, it leaves a valuation of 56 per cent for the ABCP. This may be higher, however, because investment grade debt spreads have tightened since March 4. A committee led by Toronto lawyer Purdy Crawford hopes to fix the ABCP market by trading the commercial paper for longer-term notes.

Private Equity Firms Exposed To Lowest-rated Companies

More than half of U.S. companies on the brink of default have been involved in private equity transactions, says Standard & Poor’s. The study suggests that private equity firms appear to beef up their exposure in the lowest-rated companies, citing private equity presence of more than 60 per cent among CCC+ companies, but just 40 per cent at the B- level. The rating agency found that companies which it rates at B- or less with a negative outlook have been increasing in number since the middle of last year. There were 114 as of earlier this month, compared with 77 in December and 62 last June.

Co-operators Studies Climate, Social Trends

Environmental and demographic changes could greatly affect the way insurance companies provide products and services in the years and decades ahead, says a study for The Co-operators. The Future of Sustainable Insurance: A Thought Leaders Study outlines the opportunities and threats the insurance industry will face over the next 10 years and the approaches that responsible insurance companies should take to contribute to the betterment of society, the economy, and the planet itself. Ten thought leaders in sustainable insurance from Europe, North America, and Australia shared insights about best practices, anticipated trends in sustainability, threats to the insurance industry, and opportunities for new products and services.

Saskatchewan Introduces Public Sector Plan Amendments

Two pension-related bills have been introduced on first reading in the Saskatchewan legislature, says the Hewitt Monitor. Bill 9 amends The Superannuation (Supplemental Provisions) Act so that an annuity paid to a "new spouse" must be equivalent in value to the total of the commuted value of the allowance otherwise payable to the superannuate and the commuted value of the entitlement to an allowance on the death of the superannuate of the person who would otherwise be a spouse. In addition, the act is amended to provide that a payment, allowance, entitlement, or amount standing to the credit of any person in a fund may be retained as a set-off for the purpose of recovering an overpayment of an allowance or benefit paid pursuant to a superannuation act. Bill 10 amends various acts to accommodate phased retirement as introduced through recent amendments to the federal Income Tax Act.

Funds Should Explore Sustainable Beliefs

Pension fund officials are being encouraged to explore their sustainable investment beliefs in a bid to prevent uncertainty about the potential performance of their portfolios, says a Watson Wyatt briefing note. Investing for the future suggests the uncertainty of how companies’ returns and long-term growth will be affected by, for example, the arrival of regulations tracking their impact on the environment, means pension funds. Investors “should seek to understand which companies are best placed to minimize costs, increase efficiency, and exploit value opportunities” as it will “become impossible to take a long-term investment view without considering the impact of sustainability issues on investments.” Jane Goodland, author of the report and part of of sustainable investment research team at Watson Wyatt, says the overriding issue for pension funds should be to consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters as creating value and managing risk, as their fiduciary responsibility is to deliver the best possible returns for the benefit of members. Complicating matters, however, is there is no set formula for establishing the needs of pension funds concerning ESG.

DC Assets Concentrated

Assets in employment-based Defined Contribution plans (typically 401(k) plans), individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and Keogh plans in the U.S. are concentrated in families with high family income and higher net worth, says a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). The March 2008 EBRI Notes reports individual account retirement plans assets totaled $6.8 trillion in 2004. More than 63 per cent of assets in individual account retirement plans were held by individuals with a family income of $100,000 or more in 2004. More than 25 per cent of assets were held by individuals with a family income between $50,000 and $99,999, and around 11 per cent of assets were held by individuals with family incomes below that.

Can CAPs Meet Objectives?

Capital Accumulation Plans – Can they meet your objectives? will be the topic of an ACPM half-day session on the special challenges associated with these plans. It takes place May 7 in Toronto, ON. Registration and full program information will be available later this month.

Seminars Offer Overview Of Benefits

The Toronto Area Chapter of the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS) will hold two full-day primary seminars designed for those looking for a quick overview of employee benefits. Topics to be covered include health and dental and life insurance in the group benefits session and setting up a pension plan and DC plans from accumulation to payout in the pension benefits session. It takes place May 8 and 9 in Toronto, ON. For more information, eMail or call Wayne Murphy at (416) 674-2407 X 237


Monday, March 24, 2008

OTC Drugs May Be Restricted

The recent federal budget may force corporate drug plans to stop covering over-the-counter medications, says Watson Wyatt. It says benefits and insurance companies have asked the Canada Revenue Agency how a measure to tighten up the medical-expense tax credit by removing over-the-counter drugs from the program will affect employee benefit plans. Many company drug plans provide coverage for non-prescription medications if ordered by a doctor which is permitted by Canada Revenue Agency. With rules becoming tighter, drug plans may amend coverage to match them.

Gold Price Will Surprise

Gold is a commodity people try to relate to in supply and demand terms, but it is really a currency issue, says Andrew Marchese, portfolio manager and Canadian director of research for Pyramis Global Advisors. Speaking at its Global Market Update Conference, he said with real rates flat or negative, and likely to become more negative, he is extremely bullish for gold. He said everybody will be surprised to see the price of gold going forward and it will happen in relatively short order. However, “if you think moves have been parabolic now, wait a few years and they’ll surprise you even more.”

TFSAs Let Canadians Accumulate Big Retirement Nest Eggs

TFSAs will allow anyone to accumulate significant tax-free nest eggs, say Jon Kesselman, a professor in the graduate public policy program at Simon Fraser University, and Finn Poschmann, director of research at the C.D. Howe Institute. Responding to criticism that the $5,000 annual limit is too low, they say taxpayers can make contributions to any family members' accounts and, better yet, TFSA contributions do not reduce contribution room for tax-deferred savings accounts. As well, because tax has already been paid on funds in a TFSA, a dollar in a TFSA will typically be worth about 180 per cent of a dollar in an RRSP.

Barclays Launches Frontier Fund

Barclays Global Investors has launched the Frontier Markets Fund, which offers exposure to pre-emerging market economies. The fund will invest in 16 frontier market countries and will be benchmarked to the MSCI Frontier Markets Index.

States Consider Subprime

Retirement systems in South Carolina and Pennsylvania are considering buying mortgage-related investments, believing that the subprime mortgage crisis means the ones with good credit ratings could yield strong returns later. The subprime mortgage crisis was brought on by the lenders in the U.S. mortgage industry taking greater risks by lending to people who had poor credit histories. They were betting that home values would continue to rise and that these borrowers would be able to refinance before their monthly payments moved higher. When that didn’t happen and home prices fell, people began defaulting on their loans and securities tied to mortgages dropped in value. Now, some see bargains as investors realize the underlying assets the securities represent are far from worthless.

JPMorgan May Up Offer

JPMorgan Chase & Co. may quintuple its offer to buy Bear Stearns Cos. to $10 per share in an effort to pacify angry Bear Stearns shareholders, says a New York Times report. Its original agreement was to pay $2 per share, considered a fire-sale price for the 85-year-old Wall Street investment bank which collapsed in a liquidity crisis after suffering large subprime mortgage losses. While the original agreement was supported by federal regulators, the U.S. Federal Reserve is now balking at the new price and, as a result, the renegotiated merger might be postponed or collapse.

Employer-sponsored Care Increases Loyalty

Employers looking to boost the commitment levels of their employees would do well to consider offering them access to a backup child and elder care program, says a poll by LifeCare, Inc. It found 88 per cent of all respondents said that having access to an employer-sponsored backup care program would make them much more/more loyal.

FASB Wants Detailed Breakout

FASB has issued a proposal to require a more detailed breakout of corporate pension fund asset allocations to obtain a better assessment of risk. Assets which would be identified include hedge funds, private equity, foreign exchange contracts, and asset-based and structured debt as well as negative positions in derivatives or other instruments. Disclosure would include fair value measurements of assets, ranging from market-based pricing to less transparent pricing.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Investors Exit Emerging Market Bonds

Investors are now exiting emerging markets bonds, says Samarjit Shankar, director of global strategy at the Bank of New York Mellon. Speaking at a CIBC Mellon breakfast seminar, he said until 2006 investors had been moving into the sector. Now they are being much more selective, “picking and choosing by country.” With the U.S. domestic economy in a “tailspin” right now, Shankar says capital has flocked to the shorter end of the curve with investors seeking safety and liquidity. “The one underlying theme in markets right now is that you’re going to see continued weakness in the U.S. dollar,” he said.

RCMP Plan Investigation Adequate

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) investigation of the RCMP pension plan was adequate, says an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) review. The OPP review concluded that although there was lack of independence, it did not ultimately affect or obstruct the final outcome of the investigation. It also found there were no deliberate or intentional acts by any RCMP or investigation team members to derail or jeopardize the investigation and no evidence that information was deliberately withheld from the investigation or that outside influences were a major stumbling block. However, it does recommend that a further investigation be undertaken to determine if criminal misconduct was involved in the outsourcing of the RCMP insurance plan. The commissioner of the RCMP has requested that the OPP conduct an investigation into this matter and the OPP has accepted this request.

Bank Works Out ABCP Deal

The Bank of Montreal has successfully restructured two asset backed commercial paper (ABCP) trusts. Investors who hold the short-term commercial paper in the Apex and Sitka Trusts will exchange those investments for notes with maturities of five to eight years. The longer-term notes are considered a better match for the underlying assets. The solution is similar to a proposal to fix the broader third-party ABCP sector. By fixing the trusts, BMO will avoid a $495 million write-down and $1 billion in related potential losses.

Cash Levels Reach New High

Cash levels have reached a new high, says a survey of fund managers from Merrill Lynch. However, fund managers continue to see value in equities. Cash positions reached 42 per cent this month, an increase from February’s 41 per cent. The survey found that 25 per cent take the view that equities are undervalued on absolute terms and relative to bonds. While this combination does not guarantee a rally, Merrill says that it has, in the past, been a prerequisite for a comeback.

Sponsors Need To Understand Financial Literacy

Capital Accumulation Plan sponsors need to understand the financial literacy of their members, says Peter Arnold, national practice leader, investment consulting, Buck Consultants, an ACS Company. Speaking at a session on CAPs and Communication Gaps, he said its 2008 Capital Accumulation Plans Survey found almost 75 per cent of sponsors believe their members are confused over the investment options offered and more than two-thirds do not believe they are getting enough investment education. Understanding the financial literacy of members can enable the sponsor to decide if, for example, its membership cannot deal with investments and the sponsor then must find a way to help them find investment advice. It also enables the sponsor to gauge the level of investment education and communications planning needed. Sponsors must deal with both investment education for members and communication to members as one strategy.

U.S. To Drag Canada Down

Canada will not escape the economic malaise that is underway in the United States, says the March issue of the TD Quarterly Economic Forecast. The American contraction will also widen regional divides in Canada with the west in the best shape to weather the downtown with Ontario in the worst position. The U.S. troubles will contribute to modest 1.1 per cent economic growth for Canada in 2008. Two direct linkages will harm the domestic economy. The current tightness in the credit cycle will raise the cost of funding, restricting investment for Canadian companies. As well, the combination of a high Canadian dollar and weak U.S. demand will continue to drag export growth. The 2009 outlook is more promising. The adjustment underway in the U.S. will allow lenders and homeowners to work through oversupply, stagnating home prices, and the excesses of past lax lending standards. This will lead to fewer restraints in consumer spending and lending behaviour, allowing consumer spending to sustain a convincing recovery by the fall of the year.

Moriarity Heads Up UTAM

William Moriarity is president and CEO of the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM). He was with Royal Bank and RBC Capital Markets, most recently as head of the global research division. He takes over his new position in April.

RDSPs Examined

The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), a new plan that will allow funds to be invested tax-free until withdrawal, will be examined at breakfast seminar April 4 in Toronto, ON. Introduced in 2007, it is intended to help parents and others to save for the long-term financial security of a child with a disability. Contributions to an RDSP will be eligible for the new Canada Disability Savings Grant. Jamie Golombek, of AIM Trimark, will examine the operational and tax issues surrounding the implementation of these plans. For more information, visit


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bear Stearns Maple Bonds Safe

A Canadian money manager holding Maple bonds issued in Canada by U.S. investment bank Bears Stearns Cos. Inc. believes JPMorgan will assume them. Phillips Hager & North Investment Management Ltd. holds a total of $2.65 billion in Maple bonds, including some issued by Bear Stearns. Scott Lamont, a vice-president at PH&N, says they are not worried about their status. He cites a Moody's Investors Service report that indicated JPMorgan will assume all debt obligations of Bear Stearns upon close of the transaction.

Risk Management Key Consideration For Alternatives

Transparency and risk management are just as important to investors as performance when deciding whether to retain their managers of alternative investments, says a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Its global survey of 226 institutional investors and alternative investment providers found that flattening returns have contributed to investor pressure for more and better governance. The quality of compliance and risk management process and transparency were rated higher than performance among the criteria for deselecting investment providers. The findings back up the belief that when returns start to moderate, investors focus more intently on operational infrastructure.

Canadians Plan To Keep Working

Almost half of Canadians aged 45 to 54 do not plan to fully retire, and will work to remain active or earn money to survive. A national survey by Secor Consulting and Leger Marketing shows that as Canadians become older, maintaining their current lifestyle becomes more important. Over time, the worry that this will not be possible also increases. Eighty-six per cent of respondents highlighted maintaining their current lifestyle as very important.

Northern Trust Enhances Compliance Monitoring

Northern Trust has enhanced its investment compliance monitoring capabilities for institutional asset servicing clients globally by expanding its range of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. Screening capabilities now cover issues including prohibited nations – companies with business or other ties to nations identified as supporting terrorism or human rights violations and sanctioned nations; and Shari’ah law – companies with connections to activities that violate Islamic law including prohibitions on predatory lending.

Retirement Needs A Guess

While two out of three people think about how much they'll need for retirement, half say calculating that number isn’t easy and they don’t know where to start, says an ING survey. More than half have calculated the money needed for retirement, but more than a third say all they could do is guess. When asked what they should consider to calculate the amount they’ll need for retirement, over a third mentioned living expenses. No other factor – including life expectancy, healthcare costs, and age of retirement – was considered by more than seven per cent of respondents.

Funds Pulled From Asian Markets

Global investors withdrew more than $700 million from funds focused on Asian markets up to mid-March, says Emerging Portfolio Fund Research (EPFR). The emerging market fund-tracking firm cites the current state of global stock markets and existing volatility as reasons for the withdrawals. There was also a capital outflow of as much as $2 billion from emerging market equity funds. Investors showed little confidence in the view that growth in key emerging markets has decoupled from the U.S. economic cycle.

De Pompa Joins E*TRADE

John De Pompa and Sid Brougham have joined the executive team at E*TRADE Canada Securities Corporation. De Pompa joins the firm as director, chief compliance officer. He was previously with UBS Investment Management Canada. Sid Brougham is director, chief operating officer. He was formerly at RBC Dexia Investor Services.

Newman Speaks At FPL Conference

Peter C. Newman, author of more than 20 books including The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister will be the keynote speaker at The 4th Annual FPL Canadian Electronic Trading Conference. A Canadian authority on business, politics, and culture, his conclusions on where Canada is heading will make everyone sit up and take notice. It takes place May 5 and 6 in Toronto, ON. Topics to be covered include changing buy-side sell-side relationships in a multi-asset electronic world and the effect of globalization on the exchange business. For more information, visit


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chill Sent Through Financial System

The collapse of Bear Stearns and its acquisition by JP Morgan has sent another chill through the global financial system, says RBC DS The Harbour Group: Harbour Notes. It calls it the “biggest casualty” of the credit crisis that started with the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble. As well, it raises fears that it may be the first of several large-scale firms to fail and raises concerns about a major financial problem that could push the economy into a deep and prolonged downturn. The worst case scenario is that this could turn into something similar to the U.S. experience in the 1930s or the Japanese situation that has prevailed since the equity and property bubbles burst in 1989. However, it does say the odds of this turning into a system-wide issue that causes a deep equity market and economic downturn are very low given the actions by central banks since the crisis began last July.

Financial Stocks Have Further Downside

Financial stocks have further downside of as much as 50 per cent, based on multiples of tangible book value as a result of the Bear Stearns buyout. Meredith Whitney, an Oppenheimer & Co. analyst, says JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s buyout of Bear Stearns for $2 a share, or only two per cent of the stated book value at the end of the fourth quarter could result in a major negative revaluation of financials. Based on tangible book value, banks look expensive. However, as goodwill writedowns start to take place, investors will focus more on tangible book value and stocks will revalue to lower levels. Canadian banks are responding by tightening their credit as a result of the Bears Stearns near failure. They are said to be cutting back on loans to financial players and running worst-case scenarios on derivative contracts and credit to test their exposure to their rivals. Most global banks saw their access to funds from other banks disappear. The freeze in money markets resulted in an 80 basis point jump in the overnight dollar London interbank offered rate (Libor), the biggest one-day jump since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

aple Bond Fate Uncertain

The fate of $2.65 billion in Maple bonds Bear Stearns has issued in Canada in the past four years is one uncertainty surrounding the proposed bailout of Bear Stearns Cos. Inc. by JPMorgan Chase & Co. JPMorgan has pledged to guarantee Bear Stearns's counter-party risk, but it is not known if this will extend to the 11 issues of fixed- and floating-rate Canadian-dollar-denominated debt that it has sold with the help of Scotia Capital Inc. and RBC Capital Markets. Scotia Capital is monitoring the situation and still making a market in Maple bonds, says spokesman Frank Switzer. The Investment Industry Association of Canada says that a total of $26.9 billion was raised in 71 Maple bond issues last yea including issues by JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs Group, Morgan Stanley, and Lehman Bros.

ABCP Protected

A bid to put $32 billion of asset backed commercial paper (ABCP) under the protection of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act has been approved by the Ontario Superior Court. This gives the Pan-Canadian Investors Committee, which is working to restructure the troubled asset class, additional time. An agreement that had been keeping the market frozen, and preventing the paper's value from crashing, expired at midnight last Friday. The court protection extends until April 16, at which point it could be extended, and the committee has negotiated a standstill agreement with the asset providers until the end of April. While some details of the plan are still being negotiated, the committee has secured 98.5 per cent of the $14 billion in backup funding commitments it needs for the smooth operation of the restructured market. As well, nearly all participants in the third-party asset-backed commercial paper sector want legal releases signed to make it more difficult for investors in the sector to successfully sue them.

Allegations Can Lead To Rejection

Allegations of unethical behavior in hedge fund managers’ background is enough to make private and institutional investors reject them, says a Survey of Due Diligence Practices Among Investors in Alternative Investments by Greenwich Roundtable and Quinnipiac University. The study found the most common ethics lapse involved misrepresentation of credentials.

Healthcare Benefits Cost $2.59 An Hour

Employer-provided healthcare benefits cost an average $2.59 hourly in 2005, almost $1 more than in 1999, says a Kaiser Family Foundation study of employer payroll and health benefits costs. The median cost to U.S. employers of employee healthcare coverage as a share of payroll rose from 8.2 per cent in 1999 to 11 per cent in 2005. 

MacKay Heads Ceridian

Dave MacKay is president of Ceridian Canada Ltd. He moves up from chief operating officer. He joined the firm 25 years ago and has held a number of increasingly senior leadership positions. He succeeds Jim Burns who has been appointed president, Ceridian International.

What To Look For In A Hedge Fund

Winning in a losing market: How to choose hedge funds will be the theme of a presentation by James McGovern, managing director and CEO, ArrowHedge Partners, at the 6th Annual Morningstar Investment Conference. He will discuss what to look for in a hedge fund and in a manager. The conference takes place June 11 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit


Monday, March 17, 2008

ABCP Committee Wants Protection

A committee of investors seeking to revive asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) will ask a Superior Court of Ontario judge to grant the notes bankruptcy protection, says a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail. While there is no provision under Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act to grant bankruptcy protection to the 20 trusts involved, an arrangement could be made to convert them into corporations, which are eligible for protection. If the court application is successful, assets linked to ABCP – such as mortgages and car leases – will be protected from default notices, lawsuits, and other potential claims until a restructuring is approved by the courts. The investors committee had been trying to convert the short-term notes into long-term bonds and believed this would repay virtually all principle owed to investors. Under bankruptcy protection, repayment could average 80 cents on the dollar.

 Real Estate Favoured Alternative

Real estate is the most popular alternative investment among public pension plans in the U.S. and Canada, says a report by the Government Finance Officers Association. Real estate was the favourite alternatives asset class for 85 per cent of respondents, followed by private equity (60 per cent), venture capital (44 per cent), and hedge funds (42 per cent). Overall, 52 per cent of the 150 public pension plans polled either invest or plan to invest in alternatives. The ones do not invest are typically either barred by law or by investment policy from doing so or are governed by conservative boards of trustees.

Sponsors Unaware Of Impact Of Better Execution

When buying and selling securities, over half (53 per cent) of pension fund sponsors in Canada are not aware of the impact of adopting best trade execution practices, says a Morneau Sobeco 60 Second Survey. The survey also revealed that out of the pension fund sponsors that are aware of the impact of best execution practices – or what the industry refers to as ‘best execution’ – the majority (32 per cent) estimates that these practices improve their fund's return by more than 50 basis points and maybe even as much as one per cent annually.

Ethical Funds Sustainable Leader

The Ethical Funds Company was named Canada’s sustainable investment and banking leader at the 2008 Globe Awards for Environmental Excellence Gala. The award is in recognition of its success at marketing socially responsible investing (SRI) to investors by showing how individual investments can help to change the world. Ethical has been at the forefront of this industry for more than 20 years and has $2.6 billion in assets under management.

Employers Using Consumer-Directed Health Plans

The number of U.S. companies that offer consumer-directed health plans (CDHP) is rising and the number of workers who enroll in the programs has nearly doubled over the last two years, says a Watson Wyatt and the National Business Group on Health survey. As well, health cost increases for companies with high CDHP enrollment are about half those facing companies offering only traditional health coverage. The number of companies offering CDHPs is now at about 47 per cent, up from 39 per cent in 2007. Employee enrollment also continues to rise. Fifteen per cent of employees at organizations that offer CDHPs are currently enrolled in such plans, up from 10 per cent
in 2007. CDHPs offer a way for companies to control costs while increasing employee accountability for healthcare decisions.

Marmer Speaks At Oakville Event

The Changing Institutional Landscape will be the topic at a Toronto CFA Society event in Oakville-Mississauga. Harry S. Marmer, executive vice-president, institutional investment services, at Hillsdale Investment Management Inc., will discuss a number of issues that are causing the landscape of the institutional business to change including the end of the foreign investment limits and the focus on alpha and beta in investment decision-making today. It takes place May 29 in Oakville, ON. For more information, visit


Friday, March 14, 2008

CPPIB Airport Bid Accepted

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) partial offer for 39.2 per cent of the fully paid ordinary shares in Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) has met the required levels of approvals and acceptances. CPPIB has successfully achieved the minimum acceptance condition and approval under Rule 10 of New Zealand’s Takeovers Code necessary to allow the offer to continue. It said earlier this week it would voluntarily reduce its voting power on all shareholder resolutions, with the exception of resolutions that affect the rights attaching to its shares, to satisfy the regulation by reinforcing the fact that CPPIB will not have control over the airport.

Market Value Of Funds Unchanged

The market value of assets in these pension funds amounted to $957.2 billion for the three-month period ending September 2007, essentially unchanged from $956.9 billion in the second quarter, says Statistics Canada. This situation reflects both the performance of Canadian stocks on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the rise in value of the Canadian dollar, hindering gains in foreign stock holding. At the end of September, pension fund assets held in stocks and equity funds accounted for 39.1 per cent of total assets; bonds and bond funds, 32 per cent; real estate, 6.6 per cent; short-term investments, 3.6 per cent; mortgages, 1.4 per cent; and other assets, 16.9 per cent. Pension revenues declined to $28.3 billion in the third quarter, after peaking in the previous quarter at $34.7 billion. This decline was due to reduced employer contributions, investment income, and profits from buying and selling stocks.

Trust-based DC Used Because It Fits

A Fidelity report shows that 70 per cent of UK firms have opted to implement a trust-based Defined Contribution plan as it "fits" with existing Defined Benefit arrangements. However, 'Corporate Commitment to Pension Provision' says if employers could start from scratch, 60 per cent would prefer a contract-based scheme such as a stakeholder or group personal pension (GPP). More than 60 per cent now operate at least one trust-based DC scheme, a slight increase from 2006.

Employers Enhancing 401(k)s

Many companies that shift from traditional Defined Benefit pension plans to Defined Contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, are enhancing contributions to their DC plans, says Watson Wyatt Worldwide. However, the overall retirement value delivered by employers that provide only DC plans is generally less than what is provided by companies with a combined DB and DC approach. Its survey of 300 large U.S. employers found that 40 per cent have replaced their DB plan with a DC plan as their main retirement vehicle for new hires in the past 10 years. More than three-quarters of these companies made enhancements to their DC plan after freezing or closing their DB plan, with the majority (52 per cent) introducing or increasing a non-matching contribution.

Strategies Could Revolutionize Plan Management

Canadian institutions are in the early stages of a strategic shift that could ultimately transform the way pension assets are managed, says Greenwich Associates' 2008 Canadian Investment Management Research Study. An increasing number of Canadian plan sponsors are adopting techniques and strategies designed to more closely align the structure of their investment portfolios with pension liabilities. About one quarter of Canadian institutions say they have adopted some form of asset-liability matching strategy in their portfolios and another 19 per cent say they have plans to do so. Slightly more than 10 per cent have taken the next step and implemented liability-driven investing strategies.

 Investors Want Lasting Changes In Executive Compensation

In the wake of U.S. Congressional hearings on executive compensation and the continued distress of the global investment markets, the CFA Institute Centre for Financial Market Integrity has restated its call on behalf of investors worldwide for improved disclosure, transparency, and shareowner influence on executive pay practices. In December 2007, the CFA Institute Centre asked the SEC for improvements to its executive compensation and related-party disclosure rules. In its letter, the CFA Institute Centre recommended 10 changes to existing SEC rules such as limiting companies' ability to use "competitive considerations" as a reason to avoid disclosure of compensation strategy and disclosing the role a company's CEO played in determining his/her own compensation.

Members Not Turned Off By Higher Savings Rate

While many plan sponsors are reluctant to set a higher default savings rate for fear of 'turning off' employees, research from MassMutual 's Center for Behavioral Research shows otherwise. Among approximately 400 plans with automatic features evaluated, those with a default rate higher than three per cent actually had higher participation rates (84 per cent) than those defaulting at three per cent or lower (72 per cent). Automation: 3 Steps to a High Performance Plan suggests important criteria for retirement plan advisors and sponsors to consider when evaluating the adoption of automatic plan features include automatic enrollment, automatic deferral increase, and automatic asset allocation. Now Cross-country

C-surance Global Services/MDI’s flagship product is now available to group benefit advisors and actuaries across Canada. Implemented in Quebec in 1996, it provides a ‘software as a service’ approach to group benefits management. It is scalable to respond to the needs of every size operation.

HRPAO Changes Branding

While the official name will remain the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (HRPAO), it has moved to a logo which shows HRPA. The soft rebranding process follows the lead of other HR associations in the world which do not identify themselves geographically. It decided to take the soft approach to allow Canadian HR professionals to get used to the new acronym.

Demographics Impact Claiming Trends

A predominance of women or men in a workforce is likely to affect claiming trends in a benefit plan. Since these demographics need to be considered when designing employee benefits plans and workplace health and wellness strategies, Connex Health will present a session on Addressing Women's Health in the Workplace. Dr. Vivien Brown, a family physician who has worked extensively in women’s health, will look at the medical issues that impact women and current and future medical therapies to improve the lives of women and help them remain fully productive in the workplace. It takes place April 10 in Burlington, ON. For more information, visit


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cooper, Hamilton Examine New Retirement

Dr. Sherry Cooper and Malcolm Hamilton will discuss the issues of aging and retirement at a CPBI Ontario breakfast seminar inspired by Cooper’s new book, The New Retirement – How it will change our Future. Cooper is executive vice-president and global economic strategist for BMO Financial Group. She will speak on how the retiring boomer generation will redefine retirement. Hamilton is a principal and worldwide partner at Mercer. He will discuss how Canadians should address the financial challenges of retirement and the growing gap between the fact and fiction of aging. It takes place April 17 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

Glide Path Needs Consideration

Plan sponsors considering the addition of target-date funds need to consider the funds’ glide path and whether the offerings should be actively or passively managed, says the Vanguard Investment Counseling and Research report, Evaluating and Implementing Target Date Portfolios – Four Key Considerations. It also suggests that plans need to consider whether a customized fund is the right idea. Finally, plan sponsors need to think about the potential impact on plan participation of adding or not adding a target-date option.

Disclosure Guidelines Impact View Of Risk

Proposed pension disclosure guidelines from the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) could impact the overall pension management process, but will specifically impact the outside view of risk in asset allocation decisions and as a primary factor in investment strategy implementation, says an CFO Summary from SEI Global Institutional Solutions. It says pension plan sponsors have historically made asset allocation decisions based on return objectives or a better match to liabilities while being comfortable with the level of risk the investment presented to the organization. Now, however, the sponsor must understand these decisions to a deeper level and be able to discuss their decisions with users of their financial statements. Risk has typically been a key factor in asset allocation decisions, but it takes on new importance with these changes.

DB Health Delays Shift To DC

While the proportion of Defined Benefit plans closed to new employees jumped to 26 per cent in 2007 from 22 per cent in 2006 in the United States, the share of closed Canadian funds has been stable at about 20 per cent for the past three years, says Greenwich Associates' 2008 Canadian Investment Management Research Study. At the same time, the share of Canadian plan sponsors operating DC plans has been steady at about 50 per cent. Canadian plan sponsors are under less pressure to close their DB plans in part because the plans themselves are better funded. The average funding ratio for Canadian pension plans now stands at 99 per cent, up from 97 per cent last year.

State Street Expands Commission Management

State Street Corporation has expanded its commission management service offering. State Street Global Markets, its investment research and trading arm, has acquired FinancialSockets, a firm that offers asset management firms a technology solution for managing and reporting on their usage of research and execution commissions. Its new offerings include a commission management platform that consolidates tracking, analysis, and reporting of costs and payments to address regulatory and business management reporting requirements.

 Crawford Speaks at ABS 2008

Purdy Crawford, chair of the Investors Committee examining third-party asset backed commercial paper, is the keynote speaker at the 11th Annual Asset Securitization Forum, ABS 2008. The event will examine topics such as Canadian securitization and the global credit crunch and choosing between ABCP and term funding. It takes place June 1 to 4 in Mont Tremblant, QC. For more information, visit

 Hedge Fund Alpha Creation Examined

How hedge funds create alpha will be the topic at a Rotman Master of Finance Speaker Series April 10 in Toronto, ON. Richard R. Lindsey, president and CEO of Callcott Group, LLC, a quantitative consulting firm, and co-editor of How I Became a Quant: Insights from 25 of Wall Street’s Elite, will lead the discussion. For more information, visit


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Teachers’ Satisfy CRTC

The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan has addressed a concern that the structure of its deal to takeover BCE Inc. will comply with Ontario pension laws. Two weeks ago, a hearing before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was postponed so it could get a letter from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) approving the proposed shareholder structure. Ontario pension laws restrict pension funds to no more than 30 per cent of a company's voting shares. To remedy this, it arranged for a former Teachers’ executive, P. Morgan McCague, to hold two-thirds of BCE's class A voting shares and vote them according to Teachers' orders. It must still show the proposed takeover and privatization complies with foreign ownership rules for the broadcasting sector.

To Hedge Or Not To Hedge?

Unlike their counterparts in the United States, Canadian institutions are not making a big move into hedge funds, says Greenwich Associates’ 2008 Canadian Investment Management Research Study. Instead, when seeking out alternative investments, Canadian institutions are drawn to real estate and private equity. Allocations to real estate jumped to 8.4 per cent of Canadian institutional assets in 2007 from 5.5 per cent in 2006 and 5.3 per cent in 2004. Meanwhile, allocations to private equity surged to five per cent of assets from 2.6 per cent last year and 2.2 per cent in 2004. Allocations to hedge funds have been moving in the opposite direction, shrinking to 1.2 per cent of Canadian institutional assets in 2007 from 1.5 per cent in 2006 and 1.6 per cent in 2004.

Social Media Can Benefit Employers

Social media has started to improve companies' ability to enhance employee communication, says Watson Wyatt Worldwide. When properly rolled out, social media can help companies engage employees. Instead of simply mass eMailing information or posting to an intranet in hopes employees will see it, social media tools help employees actively participate in creating and sharing information. This shift to employee-generated content has resulted in employees' becoming more engaged online. However, at the moment, many companies are focused on the risks of social media. Executives often express concern about giving employees the ability to create content and many information technology departments are blocking employee access to the most popular external social media tools.

CIBC Mellon Enhances Securities Lending Operations

CIBC Mellon Global Securities Services will use EquiLend to automate its securities lending operations. It says this will facilitate greater connectivity with securities borrowers, positioning it to deliver superior returns to Canadian securities lenders. It also reflects its ongoing commitment to strengthen automation across its business to mitigate operational risk and achieve greater processing efficiency.

CPPIB Joins Wireless Consortium Group

Manitoba Telecom Services Inc., the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), and The Blackstone Group L.P. have formed a consortium to bid as an entrant in the Advanced Wireless Services spectrum auction. The auction, which is scheduled to begin May 27, is being conducted by Industry Canada to foster greater competition and innovation in the Canadian wireless market. Each will own approximately one-third of the new entity.

Five Things Your Insurance Broker Should Communicate

Understanding your business ranks as the top thing an insurance should communicate when developing a plan for employee healthcare benefits packages, says The Wilshire Group, an insurance affiliate of CheckPoint HR, LLC. It says each business has unique needs and cannot afford a one-size-fits-all  insurance strategy. Brokers should also show a commitment to the client, independent judgment, exceptional expertise and service, and openness for change.

AIMA Debates Short Strategies  

‘Short extension (1XO/XO) Hedge Fund Strategies are Simply a Marketing Fad’ will be the subject of AIMA Canada’s fifth annual luncheon debate in true parliamentary tradition. Speaking for the resolution will be David E. Gold, asset class head, hedge funds, with Watson Wyatt. Speaking against is Jean D. Masson, managing director, head of quantitative research, for TD Asset Management. It takes place March 26 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

TFSAs Election Issue For Many Employers

Nearly a quarter of employers polled would consider Tax Free Savings Account (TFSAs) an important campaign issue if a federal election were called before enabling legislation was passed, says a Morneau Sobeco 60 Second Survey. Nearly 40 per cent said it was likely or definite that their organization was likely to set up an employer-sponsored TFSA. "The positive interest at this early stage is already very high. We think it is likely that interest in an employer-sponsored TFSA will rise further in the months ahead as more employers become comfortable with the concept and learn how TFSAs can be factored into their organization's overall retirement and savings programs," says Greg Hurst, Morneau Sobeco's National DC Practice Leader.

Retirees Maintain Disposable Income

On average, Canadian workers had family disposable incomes at age 75, when most are retired, that were 80 per cent of their incomes at age 55, when they were working, says a Statistics Canada study. However, the extent to which they maintained their income in retirement varied with their level of income. Disposable incomes for wealthier Canadian workers declined significantly after they headed into the retirement years, but those with low incomes encountered relatively little change. It found that among workers with average incomes at age 55, family disposable income fell after the age of 60, declined until 68, then stabilized at about 80 per cent of the income level they had when they were 55.

Canadian Funds Add Foreign Exposure

Freed from past regulatory constraints on foreign investments and driven by a desire for diversification and higher returns, Canadian pension plans, endowments, and foundations are adding international assets to their investment portfolios at a rapid rate, says Greenwich Associates. Its 2008 Canadian Investment Management Research Study shows that as recently as 2003 – when institutions were still limited by the Foreign Property Rule – international equity represented slightly less than half of institutional equity portfolios in Canada. That share rose to 51 per cent in 2004, to 56 per cent in 2006, and surged to 58 per cent in 2007. All told, foreign securities represent about 30 per cent of institutional assets in Canada, with non-domestic equities making up more than 29 per cent and international bonds accounting for slightly more than 0.5 per cent.

CPPIB Reducing Voting Rights

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) will further restrict its ability to vote its shares of Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) if its partial takeover offer is successful. CPPIB intends to voluntarily reduce its voting power for all shareholder resolutions, with the exception of resolutions that affect the rights attached to CPPIB’s shares, to 24.9 per cent of all AIAL voting shares. The voluntary restrictions mean CPPIB will meet the 25 per cent limit on voting rights for overseas investors wishing to acquire shares in substantial companies or companies that have sensitive land in New Zealand.

Tsotsos Represents Canada 

Bill Tsotsos has joined the North American Institutional sales operation for Baring Asset Management. He will be chief representative and managing director (Canada). He was most recently director of institutional sales for Scotia Cassels Investment Management Limited.

Dunham Heads Asset Servicing Sales

Jon Dunham is head of North America asset servicing sales for Northern Trust. He joins the firm from Bank of New York Mellon Corporation where he spent more than 20 years in various business development roles, most recently as national sales and marketing director. He will manage an institutional sales team based in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and Toronto.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Risk/Reward Asymmetry Threatens DB

The risk/reward asymmetry where plan sponsors are responsible for funding shortfalls, but are severely constrained from accessing surpluses, is the major impediment to not only the funding of private sector Defined Benefit pension plans, but to their continued existence, says The Pension Investment Association of Canada (PIAC). In a presentation to the Alberta and British Columbia Joint Expert Panel on Pension Standards, it says the imbalance in the current DB funding model arises almost exclusively from solvency valuations. Solvency valuations have increasingly gained in importance over the years creating significant contribution requirements for plan sponsors and leading to unnecessary over funding for the majority of plans. It recommends two methods to address this issue – the use of letters of credit, which already exist on a permanent basis in Alberta, and permitting plan sponsors to set up special purpose accounts (solvency accounts) that are independent from the main pension trust.

Termination Of Firefighters Upheld

The termination of employees eligible for permanent or total disability benefits has been upheld on appeal, says the Hewitt Monitor. In Calgary (City) v. International Association of Fire Firefighters (Local 255), the Alberta Court of Appeal confirmed that it is not unreasonable to assume that the parties who entered into the Firefighters Supplementary Pension Plan (FSPP) would never return to work and would not be expected to maintain their employment status. The trustees of the FSPP determined that two firefighters employed by the city were eligible for permanent disability benefits under the plan, which provided bridging benefits in relation to the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP). When the trustees required the firefighters to apply for LAPP benefits, the city insisted that their employment be terminated. The firefighters then grieved their terminations.

Corporate Plans Rise In 2007

Corporate Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution pension plans had combined assets of $5.8 trillion as of December 31, 2007, up 1.8 per cent from $5.7 trillion at the end of 2006, says the U.S. Federal Reserve’s flow of funds report. Corporate DB plans had assets of $2.35 trillion, down 1.7 per cent from $2.39 trillion at the end of the previous year. Corporate DC plans had assets of $3.5 trillion, up 5.7 per cent from $3.31 trillion at the end of 2006.

Cote Moves To Mercer

Jean-Daniel Côté is a principal with Mercer in Montreal, QC, and the Canadian leader of its DC retirement consulting group. He has 20 years of experience in pension consulting, retirement planning, and investment and asset management, as well as employee communications and training.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Education, Marital Status Influence 401(k) Investing

While the average U.S. household invests about 55 per cent of its 401(k) or other Defined Contribution plan assets in common stocks, many Americans are investing all or nothing in equities, says Watson Wyatt Worldwide. Its analysis of data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances found plan participants who are younger, better educated, risk-tolerant, and in the private sector – as well as being in a pension plan and engaging in long-range financial planning – hold a larger share of equities in their retirement accounts than do other participants. Investors who are married, in good health or not a union member are also less likely than other investors to avoid equities altogether. Almost 20 per cent of working households allocated nothing to equities in their retirement accounts with more than 25 per cent allocating 100 per cent of their Defined Contribution plan assets to equities.

Opt Out Proposal Dangerous

Letting people opt out of pay-as-you-go state pension plans could cause a decline in consumption in the long run, says the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Its report argues that introducing a partial or fully-voluntary retirement provision will fail because "given the option, consumers who are liquidity constrained and those that are impatient do not fully save the surplus that accrues from the reduction in social security taxes." The result may see consumption and output increasing in the short-run, but lead to a long-run decline. The Czech Republic is looking at allowing people to opt out of its state-run plan.

Chernenkoff Now With Genus

Brent Chernenkoff has been appointed vice-president, institutional sales, at Genus Capital Management. He has more than 13 years investment experience, having previously worked with the Bank of Ireland, UBS, and Scotia Cassels.

Healthcare Survey Results Revealed

The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey 2008 will be revealed at the CPBI FORUM 2008 closing luncheon reception. The survey examines areas such as what Canadians think of their employer-sponsored health benefit plans and whether employer incentives are improving employees’ health. The FORUM runs May 12 to 14 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

Strategic Overlays Examined

Strategic overlays and private equity will be among the topics examined at Advanced Investment for Pension Committee Members. Set for June 4 and 5 in Toronto, ON, it offers an introduction to advanced investment tools and options including real estate, private equity, managed futures, hedge funds, infrastructure, commodities, and collateralized debt obligations. Speakers include Rashid Maqsood, vice-president, treasury at Rexel Canada Electrical Inc.; and John Por, founder and principal of Cortex. For more information, visit 

ABCP Crisis Discussed

The profound impact of the third-party asset backed commercial paper crisis on Canada's credit market with be the topic of a Toronto CFA Society event April 22 in Toronto, ON. Purdy Crawford, chairman of the Pan Canadian Investors Committee which is looking at solutions, will be one of the featured speakers. The session will look at reasons for the failure and the consequences of the frozen ABCP market. For more information, visit


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Congress Examines Canada’s Pension Model

David Denison, president and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), has told two U.S. congressional subcommittees that the CPPIB is not a sovereign wealth fund. In fact, he invited U.S. policy makers to examine the structural characteristics and maximum-strength governance model that distinguish the CPPIB from sovereign wealth funds. “At the heart of the sovereign funds issue is the question of political control and the potential that sovereign funds may be used in support of national or political – rather than economic – goals. The governance model of the CPPIB is instructive in this regard because it was specifically designed to protect against political interference, while maintaining a high degree of accountability,” he said.
State Street Appointed By ING

State Street Corporation has been appointed by ING DIRECT Canada to provide investment services and investment management for three new Streetwise funds. It will manage four investment strategies in each of the funds on a sub-advisory basis and provide custody, accounting, and fund reporting for the funds.

Funded Status Of U.S. Plans Dips

The typical U.S. pension plan’s funded status fell 0.7 percentage points in February, says BNY Mellon Asset Management. Assets of the typical moderate-risk pension plan benchmark portfolio declined 1.4 per cent, while there was a 0.7 per cent decrease in the average pension plan’s liabilities. The funded status of the typical U.S. pension plan declined 3.9 percentage points for the first two months of 2008.

Event Focuses On ICPMs

Soft dollar conduct and GIPS requirements will be among the subjects addressed at the 10th Annual Compliance Readiness Strategies for Investment Counsel and Portfolio Managers Conference. Speakers include Katie Walmsley, president of the Investment Counsel Association of Canada, and Rebecca Cowdery, a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. It takes place in Toronto, ON, June 5 and 6 with pre-conference workshops set for June 3 and 4. For more information, visit

Gold Survey Results Revealed

GFMS Limited will reveal the results of its 2008 gold survey April 9 in Toronto, ON. Based in London, UK, GFMS is a consultancy specializing in research into the global gold, silver, platinum and palladium markets. The gold survey, now in its 41st year, provides an in-depth analysis of developments in the market and contains statistics on the main gold trading, consuming, and producing countries. For more information, visit


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

130/30 More Than Fad

The 130/30 investment product is more than a “fad,” says Christopher Holt, founder and editor of Speaking at Mindpath‘s 2nd Annual Alternative Investments and Absolute Return Strategies for Institutional Investors, he said not only is there a strong fundamental rationale for these products, but their performance has met expectations. As well, there is a growing number of offerings and an infrastructure – indices, niche funds, and lending exchanges – growing up around them.

Natural Resources Post Strong Results

Investment funds that target the natural resources sectors more than made up for their poor showing in the first month of the year by posting strong results in February, says data from Morningstar Canada. Its Natural Resources Equity Fund Index gained 9.8 per cent for the month, which was easily the best return among its 42 Canada fund indices. Indices that measure the performance of domestic equity funds all had positive returns in February with small cap equity fund categories outpacing their larger capitalization counterparts. The worst performing fund index in February was U.S. equity with a 5.3 per cent loss, resulting from poor market performance by the S&P 500 Index, combined with a 2.3 per cent appreciation of the Canadian dollar versus the U.S. currency.

Pace Of DB Change Slows

The pace of Defined Benefit pension plan change in the U.S. appears to be slowing, says a Hewitt Associates survey. It says 72 per cent of respondents that offer a pension plan say they will make no changes in 2008, compared to 41 per cent last year. Only three per cent are very likely to close their plans and two per cent may freeze their plan. Last year, six per cent said they might lose their plan and four per cent were considering freezing it. The study found that companies are now focusing on management of the financial and other risks of their plans more effectively, given the requirements of the Pension Protection Act.

Growth Better Than Value

U.S. growth stocks outperformed value stocks in all size categories except microcaps in February, says Russell Investments. This reversed the performance in January. The Russell 1000 Growth Index lost two per cent for the month, while the Russell 1000 Value Index had a 4.2 per cent decline. The Russell MidCap Growth Index was down 1.5 per cent, the smallest loss among its U.S. indices. Its Top 50 Index had the worst performance with a loss of 4.7 per cent.

Spencer Health Adds Rudic

Peter Rudic has joined the professional relations staff of The Spencer Health Network Inc, administrator of the Spencer Vision and Spencer Dental preferred provider networks. He will work with Spencer Dental to expand the current network of 50 dental offices throughout the GTA and assist with further network expansion throughout Ontario.

Canadian Companies Invest In Social Responsibility

Canadian companies are investing significantly in socially responsible programs, policies, and public statements, says a Richard Ivey School of Business and Jantzi Research Report. It says corporate social responsibility scores were up in 2007 versus 2006, especially in the areas of corporate governance, employees, and the community. The report wasn't all positive, however. Improved corporate social responsibility scores tended to be driven more by changes in intentions (policies and programs) rather than outcomes. As well, for some companies, improvements in corporate governance – such as separating the roles of chair and CEO – were offset by increased executive compensation, which is generally regarded as an erosion of good governance.

Barry Sits On Groupworks Board

Gery J. Barry will sit on the board of directors of Groupworks Financial Corp. He is currently the executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. Prior to that, he was president and chief executive officer of Liberty Health.

 Opportunities Found In Wind

Investing Opportunities in Wind Energy will be the topic at a Toronto CFA Society event March 18 in Toronto, ON. Strategic wind players in Canada – including Canadian Hydro, a developer of green power in Canada with three wind plants in Alberta; Bullfrog Power, a buyer of green energy sources including wind in both Alberta and Ontario; and Suez Energy North America which recently acquired the wind company Ventus, a leading developer of wind assets across Canada – will provide an overview of the investment opportunities in wind and clean energy. For more information, visit


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Plans Pay Higher Fees

Pension plans are paying more to money managers than they did five years ago, says a Watson Wyatt paper. Global pensions are paying an average 50 per cent more in fees than they were five years ago. Fees now average about 1.1 per cent; in 2002, they averaged 0.65 per cent. The move to alternative investments is cited as one reason for the increase.

Emergis Implements Claims Management Solution

Emergis Inc. has completed the implementation of its multi-benefit health claims management solution at La Capitale Insurance and Financial Services Inc. La Capitale is the first customer to use its Assure Claims integrated solution. Under the 10-year agreement, Emergis will manage La Capitale’s drug and dental claims in a first phase, and will be adding extended health claims management in a second phase.

Court To Decide When Plan Is ‘Bona Fide’

The Supreme Court of Canada will rule on when a pension plan is ‘bona fide’ under the New Brunswick Human Rights Act, says the Hewitt Monitor. The case is the result of a mandatory pension plan retirement policy which required an employee, a miner, to retire at age 65. However, the province's Human Rights Act contains an exception to the general prohibition on age discrimination in employment based on the "terms or conditions of any bona fide retirement or pension plan. The Supreme Court has reserved judgment in the employer's appeal and its decision is expected before the end of the year.

CPPIB Continues Airport Takeover Bid

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) will continue with its partial takeover bid for Auckland International Airport, despite government changes to foreign ownership rules. New Zealand now imposes a foreign ownership control test on its major strategic assets.

Best Doctors Adds Two

Jason Hutton is director of sales, corporate accounts, with Best Doctors Canada. He has held roles of progressive responsibility within both the pharmaceutical and medical device industries and brings more than 14 years of successful experience in both sales and business development to the position. Jodi Marrin is director of marketing. She has more than 10 years of experience in consumer and B2B marketing for clients such as Bank of Montreal, Mosaik MasterCard, Shred-it Document Destruction, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Delta Hotels, and Queen’s School of Business.

Are Quant Models Safe?

Quantitative finance models are becoming increasingly sophisticated and quants are taking on responsibilities for larger and larger investments. However, is this a safe and stable scenario? Paul Wilmott, a financial consultant, will examine ‘Where Quants Go Wrong: Simple Things They Should Have Told You at University’ March 13 at a Toronto CFA Society session in Toronto, ON. He will argue that quants' lack of real-world experience and blind belief in mathematical modelling is a dangerous combination. For more information, visit


Monday, March 3, 2008

ABCP Process Nears Completion

All participants in the third-party ABCP restructuring process are continuing to work to finalize certain details of the restructuring plan, says the Pan-Canadian Investors Committee for Third-Party Structured ABCP. This work includes the separate restructuring for Devonshire Trust. Complete information on the plan will be made available before March 14. "Negotiations with Canadian banks on the definitive terms of their participation in the margin funding facility are continuing. We remain optimistic that they will support our restructuring plan as participants in this facility," says Purdy Crawford, chairman of the committee.

Alberta Adjusts Pension Policies

Alberta Finance has made several changes to its pension policies, says the Hewitt Monitor. It has released Pension Policy Bulletin, #40 – Pension Jurisdiction which covers membership in pension plans, as well as the applicable legislation when benefit entitlements are transferred from a pension plan to a locked-in account. In addition, Policy Bulletin #33 – Audited Financial Statements has been updated to confirm that, if the employer directed assets in a Defined Contribution provision are equal to or greater than $1 million, audited financial statements must be completed for the entire DC provision. In addition, financial statements are to be prepared on an accrual basis so that, unless the pension plan is in the process of terminating, there likely should be receivables showing for contributions and payables for benefits. As well, investment income should be broken down by type of investment class in a manner that is relevant to direction of the employer's investment decisions. Alberta Regulation 17/2008, the Teachers' Pension Plans (Legislative Provisions) (Relationship Breakdown Extension 2008) Amendment Regulation, has been further extended to April 2010. The rules allow either pension partner to file a matrimonial property order reflecting the laws that were applicable with respect to the division and distribution of benefits before May 1, 2004.

Pension Funds Using Private Equity

Canada’s pension plans have proven to be valuable strategic partners in private equity investment, says a Blakes’ perceptions study. The perception of the increased importance of pension plans is reflected in the study with almost 40 per cent of respondents expecting new sources of capital coming from pension funds in the coming months and a majority of respondents believing that institutional investors have been the most influential factor in the growth of private equity in Canada. Private equity investments by the plans have covered a wide spectrum including LP investments, co-investments with private equity funds, direct and co-sponsored buyouts, and infrastructure.

Better Governance Means Better Returns

Companies with the best corporate governance records have produced returns 18 per cent higher over a 60-month period than those with the poorest governance, says a report by the UK Association of British Insurers. The study of 654 UK FTSE All-Share companies from 2003 to 2007, using governance data from the ABI’s Institutional Voting and Information Service, also revealed that breaches of governance best practice reduces a company’s industry-adjusted return on assets by an average of one per cent a year. For example, shareholders investing in the worst offending companies, which breached guidelines in every year examined, underperformed the average industry-adjusted return on assets by three to five per cent a year.

Dark Pools Among Topics Covered

The latest in OMS/EMS, dark pools, risk, soft dollars, multi-asset, algorithmic, and DMA trading practices will be among the topics covered at the 4th Annual FPL Canadian Electronic Trading Conference. It takes place May 5 and 6 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

Lerner Keynote Speaker

Measuring workplace health will be the theme of Connex Health’s Employer Forum. Set for May 1 and 2 in Niagara on the Lake, ON, it will feature a keynote address by Dr. Debra Lerner, senior research scientist, The Health Institute, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts-New England Medical Center. Sessions will examine areas such as the role of pharmacy in managing employee health and measuring the cost of mental health in the workplace. For more information, visit

Monthly Update Of Pension Plan Commuted Value Interest Rate Assumptions For April

The interest assumptions required to calculate commuted values for an event which occurs in any month up to and including April 2008 are now available at An Excel spreadsheet on the website contains six worksheets:

Manitoba CPBI Holds Annual General Meeting

The annual general meeting of the Manitoba region chapter of CPBI will take place March 20 in Winnipeg, MB. It will feature a discussion of the results of a Defined Contribution pension plan survey. For more information, eMail Dale Davidson at


Friday, February 29, 2008

'Free Money’ Left On Table

Nearly 40 per cent of employed Canadians have access to employer-matched savings programs, but one in five are leaving this ‘free money’ on the table, says a survey by Sun Life Financial. Its data shows that depending on what type of match the employer offers, employees who don’t take advantage of these programs are foregoing anywhere from a 25 per cent to a 150 per cent return on their investment. Employees who chose not to take advantage of a match had a number of reasons for doing so including not having the money to spare and preferring to invest on their own.

HR Faces New Question

HR departments are having to deal with a question they have never faced before, says Tim Clarke, Canadian benefits consulting practice leader with Hewitt & Associates – who should be covered by drug plans and who shouldn’t. Speaking at Connex Health’s Benefits Breakfast Club session, Balancing An Affordable Drug Plan and Catastrophic Coverage, he said they are finding they can no longer provide coverage for everyone, especially those who are on expensive drug maintenance programs. He said in the U.S., many insurance companies and employers are dealing with this by “lasering” these people out of the health plan and covering the rest of the employees.

TSX Adding Parallel Trading Facility

TSX Group Inc. will set up a parallel trading facility for institutional computers which make big-value transactions with each other. TSX Photon will function alongside the new TSX Quantum central system to provide a differentiated market structure and pricing schedule optimized for high-velocity traders trading high-velocity symbols. Photon will handle big-volume, high-value trades, focused on shares in the S&P/TSX 60 index and U.S.-interlisted stocks.

Accounts Can Supplement Retirement Savings

For employers who already offer a Defined Contribution pension plan or a group RRSP, the introduction of a group Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) may seem like a logical addition to the existing savings program, says an Eckler Special Notice: Budget 2008. The TSFA proposed in the federal budget can be used to supplement retirement savings on a tax-effective basis, particularly for higher income Canadians who have reached the RRSP and pension plan savings limits. Starting in 2009, all Canadian residents who have reached age 18 will be able to contribute up to $5,000 per year to a TFSA. Contributions will be not tax-deductible, but investment income, capital gains, and any withdrawals will be tax-free. As a result, the TFSA concept is really just a mirror image of registered retirement savings plans (RRSP) which offer a tax deduction on contributions, but no tax relief on payouts. Its advantages as a group plan include the opportunity to ‘piggyback’ on existing savings plans by offering similar investment options and administrative support such as payroll deductions.

Governance Reduces Impact Of Pension Risk

Senior UK executives believe improved governance and decision-making are the best ways to reduce the impact of pensions risk on company finances, says a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Towers Perrin. It also found two-thirds of board level executives, including chief executives and chief financial officers, believe pension risks have become ‘more severe’ over the past three years. In particular, they are concerned about risks resulting from regulatory changes that could affect scheme funding, changes to mortality assumptions, and the volatility of equities. However, Challenges of managing UK pension schemes shows that respondents believe governance changes to improve decision-making are successful or very successful at reducing the impact of pension risks, rating it higher than changes to benefit design and the use of derivatives.

Executive Pay Disclosure Rules Need Improvement

Corporate directors and institutional investors disagree over whether the U.S. executive pay model is changing for the better, but both groups feel the current model has hurt corporate America's image, says a study by Watson Wyatt Worldwide. The 2008 Report on Directors' and Investors' Views on Executive Pay and Corporate Governance shows nearly two-thirds of directors think the executive pay system is improving compared with just 36 per cent of institutional investors. The two groups also diverge on whether the executive pay model has helped to improve company performance. However, most directors and institutional investors believe the executive pay model has hurt corporate America's image and they also believe the system has resulted in excessive executive pay levels.

FTSE Top Index Provider

FTSE Group has received the award for Index Provider of the Year at the 2008 Global Pensions Awards. The Global Pension Awards were judged by consultants and pension funds worldwide. FTSE was saluted for continuing to improve and expand its indices in the past year. This is the third time FTSE Group has won the award.

State Street Extends Scotiabank Relationship 

State Street Corporation has expanded its relationship with Scotiabank. It will provide custody, accounting, and fund administration for five of Scotiabank International Wealth Management’s Cayman-based mutual funds. State Street has provided custody, fund accounting, and investment management services to Scotiabank since February 2002.  With this expanded mandate to service the Cayman-based funds, it will now service approximately $4.54 billion in total assets for Scotiabank.

DB Growth Continues at CitiStreet 

CitiStreet reports a significant burst of Defined Benefit business in the U.S. This year it will implement service to six new DB customers with plans that range in size from 5,500 participants to around 50,000 participants. Five of the customers offer Defined Benefits plans open to new participants, with one customer’s plans being frozen.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tax-Free Savings Account Introduced

Starting in 2009, Canadian residents aged 18 or older will be eligible to contribute up to $5,000 annually to a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), says a Mercer Communiqué. The new savings plan was outlined in the federal budget. While contributions will not be tax-deductible, investment earnings and withdrawals will be tax-free. Withdrawals may be made at any time and for any reason. Amounts withdrawn in a year will be added to the account-holder’s contribution room for the subsequent year. In addition, unused contribution room can be carried forward indefinitely.

OTC Drugs No Longer Eligible Medical Expenses

Budget 2008 proposes that effective February 26, 2008, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs will no longer be eligible medical expenses under the Income Tax Act, even in circumstances where they are prescribed by a physician, says a Hewitt Research Advisory. Although this is being described as a "clarification," many medical plans and healthcare expense accounts include some coverage for OTC drugs or medications, either broadly or in special circumstances. Plan sponsors should seek to understand exactly what coverage in all of their benefit plans is affected by this change and ensure their claims adjudicators no longer reimburse plan members for these expenses.

Leading Hedge Fund Strategies Discussed

Popular hedge fund strategies – such as managed futures, market neutral equity, 130/30, and long/short equity – have shown to provide favourable returns during periods of market volatility. At an AIMA Canada/CFA Society luncheon, significant fund growth associated with these strategies, over the years, was revealed. In particular, managed futures were shown to truly add value during real equity market stress and turn out to be negatively correlated to equities when equities underperform. Unique challenges associated with short selling were also discussed, such as the potential for unlimited losses, short squeezes, declining marginal contribution, and the cost of covering dividends.

Retirement Savings Behaviour Varies

Plan member saving and investing behaviour varies from industry to industry, says JPMorgan Asset Management target date fund research. Sharpening Your Aim – Selecting the Best Target Date Strategy for Your Participants analyzed data in 10 industries and found there is considerable variability in participant behavior across industries. However, unless a specific industry’s variability is very different from the average of all industries, it should not affect the plan sponsor’s selection of a target date strategy. Across industries, the most effective target date designs are those that include extended and alternative assets and remain highly diversified for the entire investment horizon.

Venture Capital And Private Equity Association Supports Budget

Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association have expressed strong support for certain measures contained in the federal budget, particularly those designed to enhance Canada’s cross-border business and investment environment. The CVCA says significant barriers to cross-border investment – the onerous Section 116 and non-resident tax filing requirements – are now being eliminated. These changes will promote the growth of the Canadian venture capital and private equity markets at no cost to Canadian taxpayers. The budget also announced changes to the SR&ED investment tax credit regime that will assist venture capital backed companies to improve their competitiveness in the global economy.

Perimeter Launches Window Into Fixed Income Marketplace

Perimeter Financial Corp. has launched – an online resource providing investment professionals and investors with live fixed income price and yield information. The site can be found at and will be powered by market data from CBID – the firm’s electronic fixed income marketplace. Visitors to the site can access price and yield information updated throughout the day on a selection of active T-bills, Government of Canada, provincial, and corporate bonds. In addition, a list of previous day’s closing prices is provided on more than 3,000 bond issues.

ESG Wanted In Manager Evaluations

Institutional investors, notably in the U.S., are increasingly demanding that consultants integrate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) into their manager evaluation process for all mandate hires, says the Responsible Investor website. Pressure is also building on fund managers to outline their positions on major topical issues such as climate change and investment in companies linked with Sudan and Iran, even if they are not managing SRI mandates.

Asian Equities Growth Uninterrupted In 2007

The rest of the financial world may have been preoccupied with the global credit crisis throughout the summer and fall of 2007, but equity markets throughout Asia were in the middle of an unprecedented boom and projections for the next 12 months were optimistic, says Greenwich Associates. The amount of commissions paid by Asian institutions on Asian (ex-Japan/ex-Australia) cash equity trades surged 55 per cent to nearly $1.9 billion in 2007 from $1.2 billion in 2006, says its 2007 Asian Equity Investors Study. The growth in Asian equity markets can be attributed in part to the fact that there are simply more institutions operating in the region, particularly hedge funds.

Ciampi Vice-president At Standard Life

Vincenzo Ciampi is vice-president, external communications and public affairs, at Standard Life Assurance Co. of Canada. He will oversee the strategic communication and branding direction of Standard Life in Canada, as well as its corporate responsibility and community investment programs. He joined Standard Life in 2005 as vice-president, strategy and corporate development.

Experts Discuss Governance

Leading legal experts will discuss pension insolvency, bankruptcy, and other pertinent concerns at the pension governance session June 2 to 4 in Toronto, ON. Other sessions will look at the characteristics that make up a successful board of directors and how to prepare for and follow up after a governance audit. For more information, visit


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Increased Flexibility for Locked-in Pensions

Federal Budget 2008 proposes to increase flexibility for holders of Life Income Funds (LIFs), says a Hewitt Research Advisory. Currently, LIF holders are permitted to withdraw funds at retirement; however there are strict annual withdrawal limits. Budget proposals include allowing individuals who are 55 or older with LIF balances of less than $22,450 to wind up their LIF with the option of transferring to another non-locked in, tax-deferred savings vehicle. As well, individuals who are 55 or older would be allowed a one-time conversion option of up to 50 per cent of the balance of the LIF into a tax-deferred savings vehicle with no maximum withdrawal limit.

Strategy Now Available To Canadian Plans

JPMorgan Asset Management’s fundamental U.S. large cap 130/30 strategy is now available to pension fund investors in Canada through a Canadian-domiciled pooled fund trust. Established in July 2004 and with more than $5 billion in assets under management, the strategy is one of the largest and long-established of its kind. Utilizing active stock selection with a systematic valuation process, it invests in a diversified portfolio of U.S. large cap equities with a target average exposure of 130 per cent long and 30 per cent short.

Bhaduri Moves To AlphaMetrix

Dr. Ranjan Bhaduri is joining AlphaMetrix Alternative Investment Advisors, LLC as managing director of research. Most recently, he was vice-president of the Graystone Research group at Morgan Stanley. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, he was on the investment committee of a Canadian fund of funds. Bhaduri has been a contributor to Benefits and Pensions Monitor.

Member Inertia Examined

Overcoming Inertia to Engage Members in the Retirement Process will be one topic at the Conference Board Of Canada’s 2008 Pensions Summit: Securing the Future. Matthew A. Rotenberg, senior consultant, communications, at The Standard Life Assurance Company will explore how to design and deliver messages that get through and dissolve members’ resistance to change. The summit is set for April 28 and 29 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

European Institutions Slow To Adopt Techniques

European institutional investors and money managers are slow to adopt cutting-edge investment techniques in risk management, portfolio construction, strategic allocation, and performance measurement, says a survey by the EDHEC Risk and Asset Management Research Centre. While most respondents learned from post-2000 market crises and have taken advantage of absolute performance offerings and use value-at-risk and conditional value-at-risk, almost half assume the normality of returns, “an assumption that, in the end, makes their calculations neither relevant nor realistic,” says the survey. It also found that 42 per cent of investors don’t consider liabilities when creating asset allocation strategies and, of those that do, about half favor simple solutions such as cash-flow matching and LDI.

Supreme Court Reserves Judgment In Keays

The Supreme Court of Canada has reserved judgment in the employer's appeal in Keays v. Honda Canada, says the Hewitt Monitor. Previously, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision that an employee who was terminated after refusing to accede to the employer's directive to submit a doctor's note after every absence from work and report to a company doctor known to be skeptical about his chronic fatigue syndrome should receive 15 months severance. The Supreme Court's decision will not be available for several months at the earliest.

CPPBI Opens Hong Kong Office

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) has opened an office in Hong Kong to focus on investment opportunities in Asia. The new office reflects the organization’s strategy to diversify the portfolio globally. The Hong Kong office is its first international office. It will source private equity and real estate investment opportunities with an initial focus in North Asia including the China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan markets.

Goodmans Open Series

Ned Goodman, chairman of Dynamic Mutual Funds and chief executive officer of Dundee Inc. and Dundee Wealth Management; and David Goodman, president and CEO of Dynamic Mutual Funds; will kick of Concordia’s Goodman Institute Speakers’ series. The event, held jointly by Concordia University’s Goodman Institute of Investment Management and the CFA Society, takes place March 26 in Toronto, ON. For more information, call 416-366-5755 x226 or eMail

Global Benefits Explained

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Certificate in Global Benefits Management will be held April 14 to 18 in New York, NY; May 5 to 9 in Chicago, IL; and September 15 to 19 in San Jose, CA. Areas covered include cost-effective methods for covering workers in different countries and factors that impact benefits for international assignees. For more information, visit


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Co-operators Combines With Addenda

The Co-operators Group plans to combine Co-operators Investment Counselling Limited with Addenda Capital Inc. The new entity will operate as Addenda Capital Inc. It will have almost $40 billion under management and unite Co-operators’ expertise in balanced funds, Canadian equities, U.S. equities, commercial mortgages, and fixed income with Addenda’s specialized skills in fixed income management. Offices will be in Montreal, QC; Guelph and Toronto, ON; and Regina, SK.

OMERS Reports Top Quartile Returns

OMERS’ total rate of return was 8.7 per cent in 2007, a top-quartile performance that exceeded its benchmark return of 5.6 per cent. This is the fourth consecutive year that returns have exceeded the benchmark by more than 200 basis points. Net assets grew from last year's close of $47.6 billion to $51.5 billion in 2007. This increase was due to strong performance in real estate, infrastructure, and private equity investments, but was tempered by lower returns in the more volatile public market investments.

Hedge Funds Still Pose Risk

The inclination of hedge funds to take substantial risks with increasingly large sums of money –and to leverage those bets – poses significant risks to the financial system says a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. It also says banks which are eager to do business with hedge funds are often not critical enough when assessing the risks of these strategies. These concerns recall worries about risks associated with hedge funds that have been present since 1998 when Long-Term Capital Management came close to collapsing.

Plans Start Chinese Private Equity Fund

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan will each invest $200 million in a private equity fund in China. The FountainVest fund is designed to take advantage of investment opportunities in a market expected to take off over the next five years. It will be run by Chinese managers with previous experience at global investment firms including Temasek, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and J.P. Morgan Partners LLC. The two pension funds launched a similar venture, Actera Partners, last year in Turkey.

BCE Deal Meets Foreign Restrictions

The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan's takeover of BCE Inc. will comply with foreign ownership restrictions on broadcasting assets. Jim Leech, the plan's chief executive officer, told a federal communications regulator that Teachers will hold 51.6 per cent of the non-voting shares. Its U.S. partners – Providence Equity Partners, Madison Dearborn Partners, and Merrill Lynch – will hold minority stakes in BCE. Foreign ownership in broadcasting assets is limited to 46.7 per cent. 

Marmer Moves To Hillsdale

Harry Marmer has joined Hillsdale Investment Management as executive vice-president, institutional investment services. He is also a partner. He will work directly with investors and consultants to provide investment strategies tailored to their core needs and requirements. He will also play a key role as a senior member of its management committee, having direct input into the strategic direction of the firm.

Day Speaks At CPBI Forum

Few people have done more to raise the issue of medical wait times than Dr. Brian Day. He will address the question ‘Shouldn’t Canadians have the right to choose?’ at CPBI FORUM 2008 which takes place May 12 to 14 in Toronto, ON. Recently, the Canadian Medical Association, which Day heads, published a study showing that long waits for medical care cost the Canadian economy $14.8 billion in 2007. For more information, visit

McCarter Discusses Healthcare Fraud

Jim McCarter, auditor general of Ontario, will be the featured speaker at a Canadian Healthcare Anti-fraud Association Education Series 2008 session. He will outline the role of his office in auditing both the ministry of health and long-term care programs as well as organizations in the broader public sector, with a focus on those areas where the potential risk of healthcare fraud is the greatest. It takes place April 22 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

ATMS Course Set For Halifax

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans ATMS Quality Series Course for Graduates of ATMS will take place August 10 in Halifax, NS. The ATMS Quality Series course provides supplemental education for graduates of the ATMS program to increase their expertise. For more information, visit

More Companies Focus On Health And Well-being

The overall issue of health and well-being is one of Desjardins Group's key concerns in terms of human resources. On the occasion of the launch of Québec's new Entreprise en santé (healthy business) standard, and as the largest private employer in the province, Desjardins is proud to note that more and more companies are focusing on the health and well-being of people in the workplace. Desjardins has been developing an innovative approach to overall health management since 2003. This approach aims to make employees more aware of the importance of developing healthy lifestyle habits and includes various preventive activities, such as encouraging people to maintain a healthy diet and to exercise regularly.


Monday, February 25, 2008

ABN Amro Becoming Fortis

ABN AMRO Asset Management will become Fortis Investments at the end of March. The merger would yield annual synergies of around $237.1 million. Fortis along with the Royal Bank of Scotland and Spain's Santander acquired ABN Amro last year. The Canadian office will remain open and Christine Girvan will continue as CEO, but add responsibilities for North American sales.

Boston, Toronto Merged

The Boston and Toronto investment teams of Mercer’s investment management business will be merged to create an Americas investment organization. The new organization will manage institutional assets on a North American basis.

Enrollment Systems Drive Employee Behaviour

Employers are using their benefits enrollment systems to encourage employees to adopt healthier behaviours, says a survey by Watson Wyatt Worldwide. The survey of U.S. companies found that more than half (53 per cent) have incorporated health risk assessments into their enrollment systems or will incorporate these programs by 2009. More than one-third (36 per cent) use enrollment systems to encourage employees to sign up for disease management programs or will do so by 2009.

Six Out Of 10 Have RRSP

Overall, six out of every 10 families in Canada held savings in registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) in 2005 and these plans had a median value of $25,000, says a Statistics Canada study. Perspectives on Labour and Income shows that, as expected, the prevalence of families with RRSPs and the value of the plans both increased with age. Among families in which the major income recipient was aged 25 to 44, more than one-half (56 per cent) held RRSPs, compared with 68 per cent for those in which the major income recipient was aged 45 to 54. On a broader scale, almost three-quarters of families had either RRSPs or employer-sponsored pension plans, or both. The median value of their savings was $65,800.

Harper Heads HSBC

Lorne Harper is president and chief executive officer of HSBC Securities (Canada) Inc. He joined HSBC Securities (Canada) Inc. in October 2004 as executive vice-president and national director. He was previously head of the private client division at RBC Dominion Securities. 

Focus On Workplace Of Future

The workplace of the future, which puts the safety of the worker and the work environment at the top of the agenda, will be the focus of the Industrial Accident Prevention Association’s 91st annual conference and trade show. The Health & Safety Canada 2008 Conference and Trade Show takes place April 21 to 23 in Toronto ON. Keynote speakers include Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons, CFL legend and Toronto Argonauts CEO, who will deliver a keynote address entitled Winning Against All Odds and Joel Cohen, writer and associate producer of The Simpsons, who will offer an insider’s look at the making of the world’s most beloved animated television show. For more information, visit

Gen X/Gen Y Consumers Examined

The latest LIMRA research that describes the best methods of engaging the next wave of life insurance purchasers will be one of the areas discussed at the sixth annual Life Insurance Conference. Sponsored by LIMRA, LOMA, SOA, and ACLI, it is set for April 7 to 9 in Las Vegas, NV. For more information, visit


Friday, February 22, 2008

PH&N Joins Forces with RBC

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) will acquire Phillips, Hager & North Investment Management Ltd. (PH&N). With combined assets under management in Canada exceeding $160 billion (based on RBC's and PH&N's respective year-ends), the two businesses will form one of the largest private sector asset managers in Canada. This also makes RBC one of the top five managers in the Canadian institutional market for Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution pension plans.

ABCP Costs Caisse $1.9 Billion

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec weighted average return on depositors' funds for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2007, was 5.6 per cent. It represents an added $7.9 billion to the depositors' net assets and is a first decile return within the comparative universe of Canada's major pension funds. The return includes a $1.9 billion write-down as a result of the liquidity crisis that occurred in the Canadian asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) market in August 2007. The Caisse, however, expects to recover $1.4 billion related to these assets over time. 

Prospects For Property Look Good

Although volatility continues to be a risk, Nancy Holland, global head of property for ABN Amro, expects global market property market returns to be in the high single digits in 2008. Speaking at an ABN AMRO Asset Management – Canada information breakfast meeting on The Lay of the Land – Outlook for Global Property in 2008 and Beyond, she said fundamentals in the direct property markets remain healthy on the back of fair demand for space combined with tight rates. Most markets, she said, show a continuing fall of vacancy rates and continuing rental growth. As well, structural trends, such as the increasing allocations to property and, more particularly, to REITs, remain intact.

Mercer Makes Appointments

Marcel Larochelle has been appointed to a newly-created position of head of the Americas for Mercer’s investment management business. Larochelle will oversee business in both the U.S. and Canada and will join its Americas operating committee. He was previously business leader for investment management in Canada. Denis Larose, previously chief investment officer for investment management in Canada, will assume the additional duties of overseeing the investments team in the U.S. Dominic Vallée joins the business as an institutional sales director for the eastern market in Canada.

Retirement Planning Tougher For Mixed Families

Planning for retirement is tougher and more complicated for middle-aged Americans who are single or married with children from previous relationships than it is for those with ‘traditional’ families, says the MetLife Mature Market Institute's Family Matters study. It found 40- to 65-year-olds with non-traditional families face more challenges with regard to saving and investing and are less likely than others to have a distinct retirement vision.  They are more unlikely to have specific income vehicles such as 401(k)s, pension plans, and annuities.

Ethical Funds Leads SRI

The Ethical Funds Company is once again the top performing socially responsible mutual fund company in Canada, says the sixth annual Responsible Investment Fund Ranking from Corporate Knights. The survey ranks funds on their social, environmental, and financial performance and awarded its highest ranking to seven funds from Ethical. They are its Monthly Income Fund, International Equity Fund, Special Equity Fund, Growth Fund, Canadian Index Fund, Income Fund, and Canadian Dividend Fund. The Social Investment Organization says socially responsible investment assets in Canada now stand at more than $500 billion, up nearly seven-fold from $65.5 billion in 2004.

IAM Closes Real Estate Fund

Integrated Asset Management Corp. (IAM) and its real estate team, Greiner-Pacaud Management Associates (GPM), have announced the first close of GPM (11) with total commitments of $96 million. Investors include pension funds. A second close is anticipated towards the end of March, with a target total capital raise of $150 million. These closed-end, discretionary real estate funds will acquire, develop, and manage primarily industrial properties in the greater areas of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

U.S. Recession Unlikely

While U.S. economic growth will be slow into at least the third quarter of this year, a recession is unlikely. Plus, even if the U.S. economy does go into recession, it will not have a serious impact on the global economy as in the past, says Avery Shenfeld, managing director and senior economist, CIBC World Markets. Speaking at a CIBC Mellon luncheon, he said several factors point to a slowdown and not a recession. He said U.S. payroll trends are on the line between slowdown and recession, however, factory orders are increasing and business inventory is not building up. Typically, a recession is more likely when inventories build up forcing factories to cut production. However, he expects the U.S. fed may keep interest rates low into 2009 to allow the economy to repair itself.

Cost Containment Top Pension Concern

Canadian employers who sponsor Defined Benefit pension plans have put cost containment at the top of their ‘to do’ agenda, says a survey of Canadian pension plans by Buck Consultants. The study, Moving Forward – An Overview of Defined Benefit Plans in Canada, found that 43 per cent of plan sponsors identified cost containment as the most important issue they now face. This is a significant change from the prior Buck survey, conducted in 2003, in which employee understanding of pensions was the top concern.

AGF Reviews Products

AGF Asset Management is reviewing the products it offers to institutional investors. Speaking at its AGF: A Solid Platform for Growth session, Rob Badun, president of the group, said when the review is complete, he expects they will end up with 10 to 15 products. As well, he said they are in the process of assembling an experienced sales force to take on new markets.

Hedge Funds As Recession Strategy

How hedge fund strategies can be used to immunize portfolios from a market downturn will be the discussion at a panel presentation jointly sponsored by AIMA Canada and the Toronto CFA Society. Roland Austrup, president and CEO, Integrated Asset Management; Chris Guthrie, president and CEO, Hillsdale Investment Management; Chris Holt, founder and editor,; and Colin Stewart, director, JC Clark; will discuss hedge fund strategies such as managed futures and equity market neutral. It takes place February 27 at noon in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

Care Programs Reduce Presenteeism

Presenteeism levels of working caregivers improved over time when they used a geriatric care management (GCM) program, says a study by LifeCare, Inc., a provider of comprehensive specialty care services. Its Corporate Eldercare Programs: Their Impact, Effectiveness and the Implications for Employers also found that 70 per cent of caregiving employees report taking time off from work to attend to caregiving responsibilities. While it would be impossible for employers to eliminate the need for caregiving employees to take some time off from work on occasion, better communication between caregivers and their supervisors would help to minimize impacts and allow for better advance planning.

ITG Adds POSIT Alert

ITG has added POSIT Alert to its suite of crossing products in Europe. POSIT Alert is a new indications-based facility that seeks out crossing opportunities among participating clients, thereby increasing trading opportunities for clients. Traders participating in POSIT Alert select the stocks they want to have available for crossing. It then searches for trading opportunities with other clients that have opted to participate. When the system identifies a match, a pop-up message alerts the trader, who can decide whether to trade and in what quantity. The trade crosses at the midpoint price of the underlying market price and there is no negotiation.

Jaworski Speaks At EAPAT

Barbara Jaworski will introduce the Employee Assistance Program Association of Toronto to an innovative business model to help organizations become employers of choice by focusing on the over-50 talent pool. Jaworski is president of the Workplace Institute, a Canadian centre of excellence for research and education concerning mature workers and intergenerational matters, and author of KAA-Boom! How to Engage the 50-Plus Worker and Beat the Workforce Crisis. It takes place March 20 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Door Open For Private Care

Quebec physicians will be allowed to have public and private practices under strict conditions, including no shortage of doctors. That was one of the proposals in the Getting Our Money's Worth task force report on the province's healthcare system. It also suggests allowing private insurance companies to cover services currently covered under the public health program. While the government seems willing to accept these suggestions, it has rejected proposals to increase the sales tax and introduce a tax deductible to help finance the healthcare system.

Boomers Keeping Lifestyle

Over two-thirds of working Canadian baby boomers have no plans to downsize their lifestyles in retirement, says the 2007/2008 Fidelity Canadian Retirement Survey. The majority of working Canadian baby boomers plan to maintain or even increase their standard of living in retirement. Conversely, 47 per cent of Canadian retirees surveyed indicated that they continued to live like they did before retirement, while an additional 42 per cent downsized their standard of living after retiring.

Baker & McKenzie Representing Alliance

Baker & McKenzie LLP will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada in the controversial case of Keays versus Honda Canada. George Avraam and Mark Mendl will represent, pro bono, the Alliance of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, one of two interveners in this case on behalf of Honda Canada and Canadian employers. The case concerns the interplay of an employer's duty to accommodate a disability in the workplace under provincial human rights legislation, on one hand, and common law claims for wrongful dismissal, on the other. One of the principal issues before the Supreme Court is whether the common law courts do, in fact, have the jurisdiction to deal with human rights issues including the duty to accommodate.

CPPIB Adds Directors

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) has added two new directors to its ranks. They are Michael Goldberg and Pierre Choquette, both of Vancouver, BC. Choquette is currently chairman of Methanex Corp. and served as the company’s chairman and CEO from 2003 to 2004. Goldeberg is the former chief academic officer of Universitas 21 Global, an international network of 20 universities.

Accounting Standards Transition Examined

The transition to the new accounting standards will be the focus of a professional training course March 5 and 6 in Toronto, ON. The transition of the Canadian Accounting Standards to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in 2011 will have an impact on the way enterprises disclose their financial information to their stakeholders. Sessions will include an examination of the main differences between the actual international accounting standards and the new standards. For more information, call 800-861-6618.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Canadians Fail To Factor In Healthcare

Few working Canadians have factored the need to pay for certain aspects of their healthcare into their retirement savings, says a Sun Life Financial survey. It reveals that only nine per cent of working Canadians have accounted for healthcare expenses in their retirement savings and 80 per cent of Canadians expect that their provincial healthcare program will provide them with health benefits in retirement. Canadians appear to know that they need to put aside money for healthcare spending in retirement, but have not taken steps to address the reality.

Trend Puts Retirement Financial Health At Risk

The continuing trends away from Defined Benefit pension to Defined Contribution programs are putting workers’ long-term financial health through their retirement at risk, says a Conference Board report. ‘Can Continuing Changes in Pension Management Provide a Secure Retirement?’ indicates that the risk comes from outliving employees' retirement income and from what the research group says are inappropriate asset allocation decisions where workers are putting too much of their assets into the equities market. It says employees are facing new responsibilities for managing retirement assets, distribution options, and the payout period, and many are unable to manage the process effectively.

Employees Consider Phased Retirement

Nearly a third of respondents to Ernst & Young’s ‘2007 Aging U.S. Workforce Survey’ say they are considering phased retirement programs. However, this raises a host of HR and benefits issues with solutions that researchers admitted are still unclear. They say allowing a more gradual transition between an employee's active worklife and a more traditional retirement does not "come with black letter instructions regarding what is and is not allowed from a tax and regulatory perspective."

Few Address Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is the most frequently cited reason U.S. employees consider leaving their jobs. While employers acknowledge that stress is affecting business performance, few are taking steps to address it, says Watson Wyatt Worldwide. Its ‘2007/2008 Staying@Work’ survey found that nearly half of U.S. employers (48 per cent) say stress caused by working long hours is affecting business performance. However, only five per cent are addressing this concern.

Pension Agency Divides Assets Evenly

The U.S. agency that protects retirement income of nearly 44 million workers has decided to split its $55 billion in assets evenly between fixed income investments and stocks. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. says the new strategy will offer lower risk through broader diversification. Previously, the agency had 28 per cent of its assets in stocks. Its deficit at the end of last year was $14 billion.

Kim Joins Firm

Henry Kim is partner and chief financial officer at Cranston, Gaskin, O'Reilly & Vernon, Investment Counsel. Most recently he was director – investment finance for the CPP Investment Board. Prior to joining the board, he was with OMERS and Deloitte & Touche LLP.

Update On Legislation Provided

Insight on what direction Canada’s parliament is heading in will be provided at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Ottawa Legislative Update. Among the topics tackled will be addressing key strategies relating to Canadian healthcare and examining current and proposed legislation and its affect on plans. It takes place May 15 and 16 in Ottawa, ON. For more information, visit


Friday, February 15, 2008

Growth Managers Lead Way

Active international equity managers outperformed their benchmarks in 2007 with growth managers leading, says InterSec’s EAFE Plus universe. The median active international equity portfolio in returned 12 per cent in 2007, outperforming the MSCI EAFE Index return of 11.2 per cent. In a year marred by market turmoil, growth products flourished. The median portfolio in the international growth universe returned 18.1 per cent in 2007, compared to 10.1 per cent for the median value portfolio. 

More Employers Using Communication Vehicles

The number of U.S. employers who used communication vehicles – such as printed materials, special mailings, and employee meetings – to increase enrollment in benefits programs in 2007 had nearly doubled since 2003. However, Watson Wyatt's 2007/2008 Communication ROI study found that only about half (53 per cent) had done so, compared with 25 per cent four years earlier. The study also found that employers are increasing their communication efforts in some areas, but lessening their focus in others.  For example, the number of employers offering personalized total reward statements has increased by 13 percentage points, but the share of companies offering educational material to ease the financial transition of workers nearing retirement has decreased by 11 percentage points – from 58 per cent to 47 per cent.

Funds Needed To Match Advice

Asset allocation funds that equate to lifetime financial advice need to be created, says an Ibbotson Associates paper. It argues that target-date and target-maturity funds should evolve throughout an investor's lifetime. It contends a portfolio's glide path should continue to create some capital during retirement since an investor’s retirement income liability becomes more relevant as he or she approaches retirement. Retirement expenses form the retiree’s retirement liability and determination of a glide path should apply liability-driven investing to individuals.

Eaton CIO At Seamark

Angela Eaton is chief investment officer Seamark Asset Management Ltd. She previously served as its head of equities and will retain those responsibilities in her new role. She takes over from Tom MacLaren, who will retire from Seamark in August. Brent Barrie has assumed the chief operating officer title while Donald Wishart continues in his roles as chief financial officer and a member of the executive portfolio team. Richard Fewell has taken on the responsibilities of chief portfolio manager.

Bak Promoted

Lori Bak is now vice-president, marketing, for Sun Life Financial’s overall Canadian operations. In her new role, she will work with group retirement services and all other business areas in Sun Life Financial Canada providing strategic direction on marketing initiatives. She had been vice-president, client relationships and marketing, for the group retirement services division.

French Session Set

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ French Investment Institute is set for May 29 in Montreal, QC. It features presentation on investment topics affecting pension funds, offered completely in French. For more information, visit


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Risk-averse Strategies On The Rise

Institutional investors and asset allocators around the world have been significantly boosting their holdings of cash, shortening their time horizons, and increasingly adopting risk-averse investment strategies, says a Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. survey of global fund managers. It says they are the most risk averse they have been in the last seven years. Almost a third of respondents have taken out protection against another sharp fall in stocks over the next three months and close to half are overweight cash, up from 42 per cent in January and 35 per cent last November.  

CPPIB Wants Disclosure On Carbon

The CPP Investment Board (CPPIB) is encouraging Canada's largest companies to disclose more information on the business risks and opportunities they face as a result of climate change by responding to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) questionnaire. The board is one of 385 institutional investors from around the world who are supporting the project. The questionnaire was mailed February 1 to more than 3,000 companies worldwide, including the 200 largest public companies in Canada. The questionnaire asks companies to measure and disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and report on their strategy for dealing with risks and opportunities associated with climate change.

MX Shareholders Overwhelmingly Support Merger

Shareholders of the Montréal Exchange Inc. (MX) have overwhelmingly endorsed the merger with TSX Group Inc. to create TMX Group Inc. The shareholders approved it by 99.6 per cent, well beyond the 66⅔ per cent needed. Under the deal, the MX will continue to be the Canadian national exchange for all derivatives trading and related products.

Information Filing Changes

There is a change in the Annual Information Return filing for Ontario registered pension plans effective for 2008 reporting, says an Avalon Actuarial Newsletter. This affects both Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution plans. Previously, filing fees were paid in conjunction with filing the Annual Information Return for the year. Starting this year, fees must now be paid much earlier. For most plans, 2008 fees will be due in March. In addition, the fee calculation method is changing.

T. Rowe Price Launches Floating Strategy

T. Rowe Price has expanded its institutional investment offerings by launching the Floating Rate Bank Loan Strategy. It seeks high current income with lower interest rate risk by investing at least 80 per cent of the portfolio in floating rate securities, with a significant portion allocated to a sub-asset class known as ‘leveraged loans.’ The strategy aims to utilize its expertise in the high yield market with its experience investing in leveraged loans for its high yield accounts.

Private Equity Buyouts Set Record

The total value of announced buyouts of Canadian companies by private equity firms amounted to $65.5 billion, an historic high and a dramatic increase from prior years, says Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA). This total includes the pending $46.8 billion transaction to acquire BCE Inc. However, even without that investment, total private equity buyouts amounted to $18.7 billion last year, more than double the previous record of $8.2 billion recorded in 2006. A total of 181 Canadian buyouts were reported in 2007, up dramatically from the previous record of 105 transactions reported in 2006.

Benefits Gaining In Popularity

Successfully wooing job candidates takes more than salary alone, says a survey by Robert Half International. While 31 per cent of chief financial officers said offering higher compensation than competitors is the most effective incentive for attracting accounting professionals, 20 per cent felt the benefits package had the greatest influence, up from one per cent five years ago. The findings also suggest traditional incentives are a higher priority today. While the popularity of benefits surged, the number of financial executives who feel telecommuting and flexible work schedules are the top draw fell eight points, from 28 per cent in 2003 to 20 per cent in 2008, on par with benefit packages.

Great-West Adds UK Payout Annuities

Great-West Lifeco Inc.’s Irish reinsurance subsidiary, Canada Life International Re Limited, has assumed, by way of indemnity reinsurance, a large block of UK payout annuities from Standard Life Assurance Limited. The reinsurance transaction will increase policyholder liabilities by approximately $13 billion, with a corresponding increase in assets.

Genus Using RBC Dexia

RBC Dexia Investor Services has been selected by Genus Capital Management to provide a full range of investor services including global custody, fund valuations, shareholder services (transfer agency), and investment finance for the company's $1.6 billion investment portfolio. Wayne Wachell, CEO and chief investment officer of Genus, says "RBC Dexia provides us with 'one stop' access to a complete suite of investor services. In addition, there is a high level of alignment between our companies in the areas of client service, technology, and corporate culture.”

Ottawa Chapter Has Ski Day

The CPBI Ottawa Chapter will hold its First Annual Charity Ski Day February 29. In support of Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada, participants can enjoy a day of skiing or snowboarding including lessons, lunch, and a team activity. It takes place at Mont Cascades. For more information, call 905-823-7347 or eMail


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Retirement Planning ‘Wait And See’

While the vast majority (87 per cent) of adult Canadians hold RSPs, few (14 per cent) have a retirement plan outlining their financial goals and how they plan to achieve them. As well, less than one-third (31 per cent) have ever tried to calculate how much they will need to retire comfortably, says the 2008 TD Waterhouse RSP Investor Poll. Consistent with this lack of preparedness, Canadians’ level of confidence that they will be able to retire comfortably has significantly declined, with 73 per cent of poll respondents saying they are at least “somewhat confident” versus 84 per cent who said that a year earlier. Although those closer to retirement – aged 50 to 69 – are more likely than their younger counterparts to have a written retirement plan, it’s still a relatively low number who do at 18 per cent.

Caisse Backs Exchange Merger

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is asking Quebec’s securities regulator to look into the continuity of operations in Montreal and the governance structure of the new TMX group. Following the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Montreal Exchange (MX) merger announcement, the Caisse stated that while it found the proposal interesting, it had a number of concerns. After examining the documents made public since then and after obtaining additional information, the Caisse has concluded that this project offers advantages for all the parties and, therefore, generally stands behind its initial endorsement. The Caisse has a stake of about eight per cent in the MX.

Venture Capital Investment Up

Venture capital investment across Canada in 2007 amounted to $2.1 billion, an increase of 21 per cent from the $1.7 billion invested in 2006, says a statistical report by the Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) and research partner Thomson Financial. The increase in investment levels across the market as a whole has been driven by significant growth in investment activity by U.S. venture capital firms investing in Canadian companies, who now represent 41 per cent of all investment dollars across Canada. However, Rick Nathan, president of the CVCA and managing director of Kensington Capital Partners Ltd., says “the fund-raising trend for Canadian venture capital firms is a serious concern as a shortage of domestic capital may continue to drive the growth of our most innovative emerging companies away from home and into the U.S. where venture capital is more readily available.”

Hospital Helps Employees Be Well

This Valentine’s Day, Atlantic Health Sciences Corporation in Saint John, NB, will give its 5,000 employees the chance to find out just how healthy they are and how best to stay healthy. The hospital will become the first regional health authority in Canada to launch a unique employee wellness tool. It’s an extension of the regional health authority’s ongoing commitment to wellness and healthy lifestyles, this time encouraging its physicians and staff to focus on wellness. At its sixth Feeling Good Wellness Expo, staff and physicians will be able to log their daily activity and earn points for time spent. The results will pave the way for ongoing corporate challenges such as Beat the Boss where employees raise their activity level to earn more points than the CEO.

Morningstar Taming The Market Cycles

Taming the Market Cycles will be the theme of the 6th annual Morningstar Investment Conference. The one-day seminar-style conference will feature presentations by seven industry leaders and panel discussions providing informative and insightful views on managing investor expectations and selecting market-resilient investments. Attendees will also hear the results of Morningstar's 2008 Money Manager Survey. It takes place June 11 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

Herald Appoints CIBC Mellon

CIBC Mellon Global Securities Services has been appointed to act as asset servicing provider for the company's pension fund by the Halifax Herald Limited, one of Canada's oldest and largest independent newspapers. Mary Lou Croft, executive vice-president of the Herald, says it is “committed to Nova Scotia's progress, development, and service of its people. In CIBC Mellon, we found a partner who aligns with our philosophy of providing excellent service to clients with in-depth knowledge and experience."


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Former HR Head In Contempt

The former head of the RCMP's human resources division has been found “in contempt of Parliament” by a House committee, according to a report in the Globe and Mail newspaper. The committee has apparently determined that Deputy Commissioner Barbara George, who was head of the HR division, was not truthful when she testified two years ago about the removal of RCMP Staff Sergeant Mike Frizzell from the force's investigation into abuses of the pension fund. To become a finding of contempt of Parliament, the report must be adopted by a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.

GIPS Debate Promised

The 7th Annual Symposium on Performance Measurement and Attribution Analysis will offer everything from a back-to-basics refresher course to the GIPS debate. Set for March 31 to April 1 in South Beach Miami, FL, it focuses on the key aspects of performance measurement and attribution. For more information, visit

Canadian Benefits Practices Explained

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ ‘Concepts and Practices of Canadian Benefits for Canadian and U.S. Corporations’ offers a primer for those new to Canadian benefits. Taking place July14 to 16 in Toronto, ON, it will examine areas such as government-funded healthcare plans and private pension and other retirement arrangements. For more information, visit


Monday, February 11, 2008

Dollar Hurts Fund Returns

The soaring Canadian dollar hurt some pension funds last year, says data from Morneau Sobeco. Pension funds posted a median return of 2.1 per cent in 2007, down significantly as a result of the rise of the Canadian dollar, compared with two-year annualized returns of 7.2 per cent and five-year annualized returns of 10.2 per cent. With many pension funds increasing their holdings outside of Canada since the removal of the foreign content limits in 2005, pension holdings have become increasingly vulnerable to currency risks. Funds must record their foreign profits on their financial statements in Canadian dollars, so a stronger dollar cuts into the returns. Last year, the Canadian dollar climbed 17 per cent against the U.S. dollar, and also soared compared with most other global currencies.

Acuity Buys Green Power

Acuity Investment Management Inc. is now purchasing power for its office in Toronto, ON, from Bullfrog Power, a Canadian provider of 100 per cent green electricity. “Acuity is proud to be a pioneer in the field of sustainable investing, allowing investors to meet their financial objectives while staying true to their own social and environmental values. But it’s important that we also demonstrate similar values in our own operations," says Ian Ihnatowycz, president and CEO. "Purchasing green power from Bullfrog is one of the ways Acuity is reducing our own environmental footprint and contributing to a cleaner, healthier environment."

Bethune Becomes Partner

Bethune Whiston has been made a partner in the Toronto retirement consulting practice at Morneau Sobeco. She joined the firm in 1991 and now manages its Toronto pension legal team. She is also its national specialist in pension governance.

Employee Health Impacts Bottom-line

How attitudes and behaviours affect an organization and employee health and well-being will be one of the areas covered at HRPAO Professional Development Programs’ ‘Bottom-line Results in Health and Safety: Build a Positive Health and Safety Culture.’ The session will examine how taking a holistic, behavioural approach can affect bottom-line results. It takes place May 26 and 27 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

Economies Separating

Doom and gloom predictions for the Canadian economy were alleviated Friday with positive results from two indicators. Concerns are that the worsening U.S. economy will impact Canada’s. However, the two indicators – job creation and housing starts – have provided more evidence that the two economies may be moving apart. Statistics Canada reported that Canada's jobless rate fell to a 33-year low at 5.8 per cent in January as the economy created 46,400 new jobs, all in the private sector. Meanwhile, the Canadian Mortgage and House Corp. reported that housing starts rebounded more than 20 per cent from December's dip, to 222,700 units in January. In the U.S., the housing sector is in freefall and the economy lost 17,000 in January.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Funded Status Of U.S. Plans Slips

The funded status of the ‘typical’ U.S. pension plan dropped 3.3 percentage points on a ‘reporting basis’ in January, says BNY Mellon Asset Management. The decline was attributed to a drop in global equity markets. ‘Reporting basis’ tracks new funding rules adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department and financial reporting guidelines implemented in 2007 by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).   

Sovereign Funds Threat To U.S.

Sovereign wealth funds could undermine the integrity of U.S. financial markets through insider trading or other market abuses, says the director of the SEC’s enforcement division. Linda Chatman Thomsen told a hearing by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission that they have sufficient asset size to give them power in U.S. financial markets. However, since they are controlled by governments, they have access to information that is not available to other investors which could be used to engage in illegal insider trading. The magnitude of any such conduct could be quite large given the assets these funds have at their disposal, she said.  

Early Intervention Examined

Wading into the early stages of a potential disability claim can be complicated. However, intervention at an early stage can be critical. Manitoba CPBI Council’s Managing the Early Stage Disability Claim breakfast seminar will look at identifying the warning signs that an employee may become disabled in the near future and the rights and roles of the employer and employee. Speakers are Kim Keating, of the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba; J. J. Burnell, of Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson; and Adrian Ebrahimi, of Standard Life. It takes place February 21 in Winnipeg, MB. For more information, contact


Thursday, February 7, 2008

CPP Fund Totals $119.4 Billion

The CPP Fund had assets of $119.4 billion for the third quarter ended December 31, 2007, compared to $121.3 billion at the end of the previous quarter. Given the challenging market conditions that prevailed during the quarter, investment performance was marginally negative, with a return of negative 0.14 per cent. Consistent with the seasonal timing of cash flows to and from the CPP, the quarter also saw an outflow of $1.7 billion for CPP benefits.

Hillsdale Adds Jaffer

Dr. Taha Jaffer has joined Hillsdale Investment Management as director of research. He will lead the firm in areas including global risk management as well as provide further advancements in strategy optimization and portfolio construction. Prior to joining Hillsdale, he spent five years at Northwater Capital Management serving as vice-president, research and hedge fund investments.

Medical Cost Worldwide To Accelerate

Medical cost increases for employers throughout the world are expected to accelerate over the next five years, says a poll of insurance companies by Watson Wyatt Worldwide. The poll also found that, in a vast majority of countries, medical cost increases are outpacing the general rate of inflation. In Canada, costs are expected to increase 12 per cent this year.

Teachers’ Promotes Two

Michael Wissell is vice-president, tactical asset allocation, and Wayne Kozun is senior vice-president, public equities, at the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (Teachers'). Wissell joined Teachers' in 2002 from TD Securities. Since joining Teachers' in 1995, Kozun has held progressively more senior positions, most recently as vice-president, tactical asset allocation.

OMERS Added To Alternative Conference

Paul Renaud, president and CEO of OMERS Private Capital, is the luncheon keynote speaker at Mindpath’s 2nd Annual Alternative Investments and Absolute Return Strategies for Institutional Investors. Renaud will speak on the OPC business model and investment strategies. It takes place March 4 in Toronto, ON. For more information,  contact Dan Jerred at 416-929-MIND (6463) (Toll Free: 1-877-929-6463) or via eMail at

Workplace Accommodation Strategies Presented

Workplace accommodation will be the subject of an HRPAO Professional Development Program May 15 in Toronto. Attendees will be introduced to a broad range of accommodation strategies and tools to help accurately assess whether a medical condition is, or is not, the underlying cause of an employee’s poor performance. For more information, visit


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Markets Face Further Decline

North American stock markets face further declines this spring with the prospect of significant writedowns by North American banks and weakness in the U.S. economy, says CIBC World Markets’ Canadian Portfolio Strategy Outlook report. World-wide writedowns on U.S. subprime mortgage assets are likely to peak in the US$265 billion range over the next year. With a visibly struggling U.S. economy, this could be a catalyst for another five per cent market correction. However, continuing strength in overseas economies and the prospect of triple-digit oil prices over the next 12 months “should set the stage for a powerful second-half rally in the market that will see the TSX end the year at 14,500,” says Jeff Rubin, chief strategist and chief economist at CIBC World Markets.

Canadians Unaware Of Retirement Needs

As many Canadians believe they need $25,000 or less for retirement as those who say they'll need between $1 and $5 million, says a survey by Sun Life Financial. The wide range in estimates of retirement savings needs is backed up by the fact that 43 per cent of Canadians said they didn't know how much they needed to save for retirement. A little more than half of working Canadians expect to be retired for at least 20 years, yet the survey revealed that nearly nine million working Canadians don't know how many years they'll need their retirement savings to last.

State Street Actions Defended

State Street Bank and Trust Company has obtained a complete defence judgment against a class of participants in the W.R. Grace & Co. 401 (k) plan, says Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, the firm acting for State Street. The plaintiffs had claimed damages of more than $150 million alleging that State Street breached fiduciary duties by selling a stock out of the plan only to see the stock price rise sharply after the sale. This ‘improper sale’ theory was one of the first of its kind brought under ERISA. The win not only vindicates State Street's actions in this instance, but also validates State Street's independent fiduciary procedures by establishing that they meet ERISA's prudent process requirement.

BCE Deal In Danger

The credit writedown crisis facing North American banks could kill the Ontario Teachers’ pension plan acquisition of BCE, says Troy Crandall, telecom analyst at MacDougall, MacDougall, MacTier. Speaking on BNN’s After Hours, he says the deal may falter because the banks financing it may back out as a result of the credit writedowns they currently face. To back out, they would have to pay a $1 billion break-up fee. He also says that the decision may depend on their assessment of the base value of BCE. Teachers’ and its partners are paying $42 per share. However, recent declines in the sector probably put its base value now at $26. So, the current share price of around $34 means the market thinks there is a 50/50 chance of the deal going through.

Benefit Costs Explained

‘Why Are You Paying Too Much For Your Employee Benefits? The Advanced Tools of the Benefits Industry’ will be the topic of an HRPAO Professional Development Program. The seminar lifts the veil on how these are actually constructed. It takes place May 8. For more information, visit

International Foundation Returns To Ottawa

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Canadian Public Sector Pensions and Benefits Conference will take place May 13 and 14 in Ottawa, ON. This two-day institute will provide information on the latest issues affecting benefit plans. For more information, visit

ING Reappoints BNY Mellon

BNY Mellon Asset Servicing has been reappointed by ING Funds as global custodian for approximately $117 billion in assets. In continuing a five-year partnership, BNY Mellon also will provide fund accounting, securities lending, risk reporting, foreign exchange, and shareholder servicing to the ING Funds.

Sharp Serving Canada

Danny Sharp is joining the sales and marketing team at Wellington Management. He will add responsibilities for business development efforts in Western Canada to his current responsibilities for the Midwest region of the U.S.

CanDeal Releases New Client Viewer

CanDeal, a global online marketplace for Canadian dollar debt securities, has released its New Client Viewer. It enhances the ability to create a personalized and more efficient dealing environment. This viewer maintains all of the functionality of previous versions and adds new features including ‘myBESTX,’ which provides a real-time, quantified measure of the value created by the CanDeal Request for Quote auction process.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Healthy Cost More

Preventing obesity and smoking doesn't save money, says a study published online in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal. The study found that since healthy people live longer, they end up costing the healthcare system more. On average, healthy people live 84 years and end up costing the healthcare system about $417,000 from age 20 on. Smokers live about 77 years and cost $326,000 while obese people live about 80 years and cost $371,000.

Orientation For New Committee Members

Québec's Régie des rentes (RRQ) will hold an orientation course for new pension committee members, says the Hewitt Monitor. It will be offered in Québec City on February 13 and in Montreal for sessions February 21 and March 5. The course will help participants understand the role and responsibilities of pension committee members and familiarize them with the administration of pension plans.

Course Explains Retaining Older Workers

HRPAO Professional Development Programs will offer a course on best practices and policies for retaining and recruiting older workers. It will look at understanding their needs and expectations and identify post-retirement trends and how they translate into HR opportunities. It takes place May 7 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

Investment Institute Held In Hawaii

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Canadian Investment Institute will be held November 16 to 19 in Lahaina, HI. The program will examine investment and legislative issues confronting Canadian pension and health and welfare funds. For more information, visit


Monday, February 4, 2008

Leave to Appeal Refused In IPP Cases

The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to entertain an appeal of a decision to revoke the registration of two IPPs, says the Hewitt Monitor. With this decision, the CRA is now cleared to revoke the pension plans for presidents of Jordan Financial Limited and 1346687 Ontario Inc. The Federal Court of Appeal had previously agreed with a ministerial determination that in each case the primary purpose of the IPP was not to provide lifetime retirement benefits in respect of service as employees of each sponsoring corporation. Instead, it ruled they were being used to facilitate the otherwise unavailable tax sheltered transfer of funds from their original employers' pension plans.

Morgan, Miedzinski Executive Vice-presidents

Clive Morgan and Bernice Miedzinski have been named executive vice-presidents of institutional relationship management at Man Investments Canada Corp. Morgan was previously president of York Investment Strategies, which he co-founded in 2000. Miedzinski was managing director of York and has worked in the financial services industry since 1983 in a variety of corporate treasury, proprietary trading, sales, and investment consulting roles.

Key Issues Of Communications Addressed

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Benefit Communication and Technology Clinic will addresses the key issues involved in communicating with participants. Sessions will include understanding how the changing retirement and health care landscape impacts communications programs and the changing role of technology in communicating employee benefits. It takes place March 10 and 11 in Miami Beach, FL. For more information, visit

Valuation Concepts Examined

The principles, concepts, and issues related to the valuation of companies from time of initial investment (at various stages) through to time of exit will be examined at the Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association’s The Art & Science Of Valuation At Different Stages Of Company Development. This session will feature anecdotal accounts and examples of the various valuation methods employed by angel, venture capital, private equity, and strategic investors/acquirers. It takes place February 19 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

HRPAO Offers Compensation 101

Compensation strategy and philosophy as part of a total rewards framework will be among the topics covered at HRPAO Professional Development Programs’ Compensation 101. Areas covered include how to conduct job analysis, evaluations, and salary surveys; creating a pay structure; and linking pay to performance management. It takes place May 6 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit


Friday, February 1, 2008

SCC Grants Leave To Appeal Kerry

The Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave to appeal the Kerry (Canada) Inc. v. DCA Employees Pension Committee (Kerry) decision, says a Blakes Bulletin on Pension & Employee Benefits. The case deals with a host of issues including payment of plan expenses and Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution holidays. In June 2007, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that after a plan conversion, it is permissible to use surplus assets in the DB part of a pension plan to pay current service costs in respect of the DC part of the plan. The court also dealt with the issue of pension plan expenses and held that where a pension plan is silent, even if there is exclusive benefit language in the pension plan or trust agreement, an amendment to the plan to pay third-party expenses from the trust fund will generally not be a violation of an amendment clause nor will it be seen as revocation of the trust. The plaintiffs have appealed the entire decision and allege that the court erred.

Plan Participation Increases With Age

Employees are more likely to join a retirement plan participant increases as they get older, says the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). Just over 60 per cent of U.S. workers ages 54 to 64 were participants in 2006, compared with just over 29 per cent for those ages 21 to 24. Forty-five per cent of all workers age 25 to 34 participated in 2006, as did 54 per cent of workers age 35 to 44, and just under 60 per cent of workers age 45 to 54. This was true in both the public and private sectors, though the fraction of public sector workers participating was significantly higher. For example, EBRI found in the 45 to 54 age group, just over 78 per cent of public sector workers participated in 2006, versus 48 per cent of workers in the private sector.

Plan Members Protected At Wind-up

The province of Nova Scotia has amended its Pension Benefits Act to ensure all pension plans are fully funded when a company winds up its pension plan. Because of these changes, plan members receive further protection when a pension plan that is not fully funded is would up. The amendment is retroactive to May 1, 2007, to accommodate the pension plan members covered under the Trenton Works pension plan. There will be regulations brought forward shortly which will specify the period under which employers can pay the funding shortfall. The regulations will be similar to those of other jurisdictions where an employer can choose to pay the shortfall up to five years following the wind up. To view the changes, visit and refer to Bill No. 4.

LDI Benchmarking Available

Northern Trust has added Liability Benchmarking to its Investment Risk & Analytical Services product offering for custody clients on a global basis. The customized benchmarks allow plan sponsors to more accurately gauge the performance of a liability-driven investment (LDI) program by measuring a plan’s assets against the fair market value of its obligations over a period of time.

Commuted Value Interest Rate Assumptions For March

The interest assumptions required to calculate commuted values for an event which occurs in any month up to and including March 2008 are now available at An Excel spreadsheet on the website contains six worksheets:

Halifax Hosts Trustee Courses

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Foundations for Trustees courses will be offered this August in Halifax, NS. The Foundations for Trustees courses are designed to inform trustees of their responsibilities and provide a knowledge base on which to build. Foundations for Trustees 1 takes place August 9 and 10. Foundations for Trustees 2 – Group Benefits will be offered August 10 with Foundations for Trustees 2 – Pensions, set for August 9. For more information,

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