Sunday, December 18, 2016

#LAPFF16 Annual Conference Friday

Last guest post from John Walker on this years Local Authority Pension Fund Forum conference

Friday morning commenced with probably the most interesting session of the Conference – a session of an LGPS Pooling Panel with representation from the eight CIV’s currently forming to get in line with Government directive on Asset Investment. Each outlined the progress of the formation of their pool with Wales the exception in that they had been granted permission to go with their internal £14.5bn total Fund partly because it is controlled not from Westminster but by the Welsh Assembly. A common ongoing problem was representation on Funds/Pools because of regular elections and changes in political control. There was a mix of elected Councillors and Officers on the Panel which gave a broad approach to the subject. The Northern Pool is probably unique in having membership representation on the Pool Management – strongly resisted in other areas.

 Joint selection of Fund Managers is well under way with regular Pool Management meetings and reports back to local Pension Committees. The majority of Pools have Internal Management in place. Not all Funds have Investment sub-committees but those who do will have an important role to play. Trade Union/Membership representation on ISC’s , Pension Boards and Committees is regarded as very important on behalf of stakeholders, adding important knowledge and experience. Operator accountability is being considered with reports back to Committees likely to be arranged together with a possible annual meeting with all stakeholders and members. The session concluded with a tribute to the work of Council Officers who were driving the changes and implementation.

The penultimate session of the Conference was a real Show Stopper with Bill Browder the author of a book entitled ‘Red Notice’ outlining his experiences in a presentation entitled Corporate Governance in Putin’s Russia. It was an extremely powerful life story of one man’s fight against Communism involving kidnap, torture and imprisonment. It was food for thought regarding investment behind the Iron Curtain.

The final session entitled The Role of Shareholders in Effecting Change features the Chairman of Glencore Asset Management and a member of the Carbon Tracker lobby group and featured the ongoing campaign to effect Carbon Management. There was a brief reference to the previous topic relating to Risk Management and the 2016 Paris Agreement signed up to by all 195 Countries (including Russia). Emission Management and revised investment options were outlined but with the world consumption of fossil fuels still around 75% of the total there is a long way to go. Revised Power Station development could contribute to a lower carbon count but internationally is was a slow process with South East Asia the main problem area. The development of electric vehicles could be an important contributory factor with full fleet electrification a possibility. Solar and Wind Power are still the cheapest options but technology is at present unable to deliver this at a significant level.

John Walker

Cambridgeshire Pension Fund Committee Membership Representative

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