The Trustees of the Fresenius Medical Care Group (UK) Pension Plan (the “Plan”) have drawn up this Statement of Investment Principles (the “Statement”) to comply with the requirements of the Pensions Act 1995 (the “Act”) and associated legislation including the Occupational Pension Schemes (Investment) Regulations 2005 (as amended). The Statement is intended to affirm the investment principles that govern decisions about the Plan’s investments. The Trustees’ investment responsibilities are governed by the Plan’s Trust Deed and Rules, of which this Statement takes full regard.
In preparing this Statement, the Trustees have consulted a suitably qualified person by obtaining written advice from Mercer Limited (“Mercer”). In addition, consultation has been undertaken with the Sponsoring Company (the “Sponsor”) to ascertain whether there are any material issues of which the Trustees should be aware in agreeing the Plan’s investment arrangements and, in particular on the Trustees’ objectives.
The Trustees have appointed Mercer to act as discretionary investment manager, by way of Mercer’s Dynamic De-risking Solution, to implement the Trustees’ strategy whereby the level of investment risk reduces as the Plan’s funding level improves. In this capacity, and subject to agreed restrictions, the Plan’s assets are invested in multi-client collective investment schemes (“Mercer Funds”) managed by a management company (Mercer Global Investments Management Limited (“MGIM”)). MGIM has appointed Mercer Global Investments Europe Limited (“MGIE”)) as investment manager of the Mercer Funds. In practice, MGIE delegates the discretionary investment management for the Mercer Funds to third party investment managers based in countries such as Ireland, UK and USA and those sub-investment managers will manage either a sub-fund or certain segments of a sub-fund. Mercer has expertise in identifying, selecting and combining highly rated fund managers who are best placed and resourced to manage the Plan’s assets on a day to day basis.
In considering appropriate investments for the Plan, the Trustees have obtained and considered the written advice of Mercer, whom the Trustees believe to be suitably qualified to provide such advice. The advice received and arrangements implemented are, in the Trustees’ opinion, consistent with the requirements of Section 36 of the Pensions Act 1995 (as amended).
The Trustees understand that taking some investment risk, with the support of the Sponsor, is necessary to improve the Plan’s ongoing and solvency funding positions. The Trustees recognise that equity (and other growth assets) investment will bring increased volatility to the funding position, but in the expectation of improvements in the Plan’s funding level through equity (and other growth assets) outperformance of the liabilities over the long term.
The Trustees’ primary objective is to act in the best interest of its members and ensure that the obligations to the beneficiaries of the Plan can be met. In meeting this objective, the Trustees’ further objectives are to:
The Trustees recognise this ultimately means investing in a portfolio of bonds but believe that at the current time some investment in return seeking (“growth” assets) is justified to target enhanced return expectations and thereby target funding level improvements. The Trustees recognise that this introduces investment risk and these risks are discussed below.
The objectives set out above and the risks and other factors referenced in Section 4 of this Statement are those that the Trustees determine to be financially material considerations. Non-financial considerations are discussed in Section 9.
There are various risks to which any pension scheme is exposed. The Trustees’ policy on risk management over the Plan’s anticipated lifetime is as follows:
Should there be a material change in the Plan’s circumstances, the Trustees will advise Mercer, who will review whether and to what extent the investment arrangements should be altered; in particular whether the current de-risking strategy remains appropriate.
The Trustees, with advice from the Plan’s Investment Consultant and Plan Actuary, reviewed the Plan’s investment strategy in July 2020. This review considered the Trustees’ investment objectives, their ability and willingness to take risk (the “risk budget”) and how this risk budget should be allocated and implemented (including de-risking strategies).
Following the review, the key decision was to seek a long term solution to “de-risk” the Plan’s assets relative to its liabilities over time using a dynamic trigger-based de-risking framework. The Trustees decided to engage Mercer to implement their de-risking strategy by way of its Dynamic De-risking Solution. The approach undertaken relates to the asset allocation to the Plan’s funding level (on an actuarial basis using a single discount rate of 0.5% p.a. in excess of the appropriate gilt yields i.e. “gilts + 0.5% p.a. basis”). The de-risking rule mandates the following practices:
The de-risking strategy takes account of the Plan’s initial funding level on a gilts +0.5% p.a. basis and is based on a model of the progression of the Plan’s funding level within 20 years, taking into account the expected contributions from the Sponsor as agreed at the latest triennial actuarial valuation.
The de-risking triggers which form the basis of the Plan’s dynamic investment strategy are set out in a separate document – the Statement of Investment Arrangements.
Once the funding level has moved through a band, the asset allocation will not be automatically “re-risked” should the funding level deteriorate. The investment strategy will be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that the triggers set remain appropriate and amended if required.
Responsibility for monitoring the Plan’s asset allocation, and undertaking any rebalancing activity, is delegated to Mercer. Mercer reports quarterly to the Trustees on its rebalancing activities.
The Trustees on behalf of the Plan hold shares in the Mercer Funds. In its capacity as investment manager to the Mercer Funds, MGIE, and the underlying third party asset managers appointed by MGIE, within parameters stipulated in the relevant appointment documentation, have discretion in the timing of the realisation of investments and in considerations relating to the liquidity of those investments.
Cashflows, whether positive or negative, are taken into account by Mercer when it rebalances the Plan’s assets in line with the strategic allocation. Mercer is responsible for raising cash flows to meet the Plan’s requirements.
Responsibility for monitoring the Plan’s asset allocation and any rebalancing activity is undertaken by Mercer. Mercer reviews the balance between the Growth and Matching Portfolios on an ongoing basis. If at any time the balance between the Growth and Matching Portfolios is deemed to be outside an agreed tolerance range, Mercer will seek to rebalance these allocations back towards the target allocations. Although Mercer has discretion to vary the tolerance range, it is the intention that the Growth Portfolio allocation will not drift by more than 5%, in absolute terms, away from the relevant target allocation.
The ranges have been designed to ensure that unnecessary transaction costs are not incurred by frequent rebalancing.
In the event of a funding level trigger being breached, the assets will be rebalanced to bring them in line with the reduced growth portfolio weighting, under the new de-risking band, as defined in the Statement of Investment Arrangements.
Rebalancing takes place in accordance with the provisions of the discretionary investment management agreement entered into between the Trustees and Mercer, and unless specifically agreed, any assets outside of the Growth and Matching Portfolios will not be part of such rebalancing.
The Trustees believe that environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors may have a material impact on investment risk and return outcomes, and that good stewardship can create and preserve value for companies and markets as a whole. The Trustees also recognise that long-term sustainability issues, particularly climate change, present risks and opportunities that increasingly may require explicit consideration.
As noted above, the Trustees have appointed Mercer to act as discretionary investment manager in respect of the Plan’s assets and such assets are invested in a range of Mercer Funds managed by MGIE. Asset managers appointed to manage the Mercer Funds are expected to evaluate ESG factors, including climate change considerations, and exercise voting rights and stewardship obligations attached to the investments, in accordance with their own corporate governance policies and current best practice, including the UK Corporate Governance Code and UK Stewardship Code.
The Trustees consider how ESG, climate change and stewardship is integrated within Mercer’s, and MGIE’s, investment processes and those of the underlying asset managers in the monitoring process. Mercer, and MGIE, is expected to provide reporting to the Trustees on a regular basis, at least annually, on ESG integration progress, stewardship monitoring results, and climate-related metrics such as carbon foot printing for equities and/or climate scenario analysis for diversified portfolios.
Member views are not taken into account in the selection, retention and realisation of investments. However, the Trustees believe that the delegation of portfolio construction to Mercer will lead to ESG considerations that are in the best interest of the Plan as a whole.
When engaging Mercer as discretionary investment manager to implement the Trustees’ investment strategy outlined in section 5, the Trustees are concerned that, as appropriate and to the extent applicable, Mercer is incentivised to align its strategy and decisions with the profile and duration of the liabilities of the Plan, in particular, long-term liabilities.
As Mercer manages the Plan’s assets by way of investment in Mercer Funds, which are multi- client collective investment schemes, the Trustees accept that they do not have the ability to determine the risk profile and return targets of specific Mercer Funds but the Trustees expect Mercer to manage the assets in a manner that is consistent with the Trustees’ overall investment strategy as outlined in section 4. The Trustees have taken steps to satisfy themselves that Mercer has the appropriate knowledge and experience to do so and keeps Mercer’s performance under ongoing review.
Should Mercer fail to align its investment strategies and decisions with the Trustees’ policies, it is open to the Trustees to disinvest some or all of the assets invested managed by Mercer, to seek to renegotiate commercial terms or to terminate Mercer’s appointment.
To evaluate performance, the Trustees receive, and consider, investment performance reports produced on a quarterly basis, which presents performance information and commentary in respect of the Plan’s funding level and the Mercer Funds in which the Trustees are invested. Such reports have information covering fund performance for the previous three months, one year, three years and since inception. The Trustees review the absolute performance and relative performance against a portfolio’s and underlying investment manager’s benchmark (over the relevant time period) on a net of fees basis. The Trustees’ focus is on the medium to long-term financial and non-financial performance of Mercer and the Mercer Funds.
Neither Mercer or MGIE make investment decisions based on their assessment about the performance of an issuer of debt or equity. Instead, assessments of the medium to long-term financial and non-financial performance of an issuer are made by the underlying third party asset managers appointed by MGIE to manage assets within the Mercer Funds. Those managers are in a position to engage directly with such issuers in order to improve their performance in the medium to long term. The Trustees are, however, able to consider Mercer’s and MGIE’s assessment of how each underlying third party asset manager embeds ESG into their investment process and how the manager’s responsible investment philosophy aligns with the Trustees’ own responsible investment policy. This includes the asset managers’ policies on voting and engagement.
Section 9 provides further details of the steps taken, and information available, to review the decisions made by managers, including voting history and the engagement activities of managers to identify decisions that appear out of line with a Mercer Fund’s investment objectives or the objectives/policies of the Plan.
The asset managers are incentivised as they will be aware that their continued appointment by MGIE will be based on their success in meeting MGIE’s expectations. If MGIE is dissatisfied then it will, where appropriate, seek to replace the manager.
The Trustees are long term investors and are not looking to change their investment arrangements on an unduly frequent basis. However, the Trustees do keep those arrangements under review, including the continued engagement of Mercer using, among other things, the reporting described above.
The Trustees monitor, and evaluate, the fees it pays for asset management services on an ongoing basis taking into account the progress made in achieving its investment strategy objectives as outlined in section 5. Mercer’s, and MGIE’s, fees are based on a percentage of the value of the Plan’s assets under management which covers the design and annual review of the de-risking strategy, and investment management of the assets. In addition, the underlying third party asset managers of the Mercer Funds also charge fees based on a percentage of the value of the assets under management. In some instances, some of the underlying managers may also be entitled to charge fees based on their performance.
MGIE reviews the fees payable to third party asset managers managing assets invested in the Mercer Funds on a regular basis with any negotiated fee savings passed directly to the Plan. Mercer’s, MGIE’s, and the third party asset managers’, fees are outlined in a quarterly investment strategy report prepared for the Trustees, excluding performance-related fees and other expenses involved in the Mercer Funds not directly related with the management fee.
Details of all costs and expenses are included in the Mercer Fund’s Supplements, the Report & Accounts and within the Plan’s annualised, MiFID II compliant Personalised Cost & Charges statement. The Plan’s Personalised Cost & Charges statement also include details of the transaction costs associated with investment in the Mercer Funds.
The Trustees do not have an explicit targeted portfolio turnover range, given the de-risking mandate, but rebalancing ranges have been designed to avoid unnecessary transaction costs being incurred by unduly frequent rebalancing. Performance is reviewed net of portfolio turnover costs, with the review of portfolio turnover of the underlying investment managers undertaken by MGIE.
The Trustees are responsible for the investment of any Additional Voluntary Contributions paid by members or other additional assets. The Trustees review the investment performance of the chosen providers as appropriate and take advice as to the providers’ continued suitability.
The Trustees have made available to members various funds with Prudential Assurance Company Limited for this purpose.
The Trustees will review this Statement at least once every three years and without delay after any significant change in investment policy. Any change to this Statement will only be made after having obtained and considered the written advice of someone who the Trustees reasonably believes to be qualified by their ability in and practical experience of financial matters and to have the appropriate knowledge and experience of the management of pension scheme investments.
Steve Mahoney and Chris Harris for and on behalf of the Fresenius Medical Care Group (UK) Pension Plan