Sunday, May 20, 2007

Corporate Finance meets pension management

"Pensions are being transformed from off-balance sheet operations with results smoothed over many years, to large consolidated business units with high potential short-term volatility, bringing them to center-stage for executive managers."

Earlier in the year, JP Morgan has come up with a white paper that is very much in line with our thinking: Corporate Finance meets Pension Management: A new era for pension leaders. The paper is obviously targeted to the US market struggling with implementing the Pension Protection Act of 2006 and US GAAP SFAS 158, but as accounting (and regulation) follows economics in Europe, too, Europeans are well advised to consider this a sneak peek preview of their own not too distant future.

JP Morgan established a set of three strategic pension metrics, namely shareholder equity at risk, corporate cash flow at risk and earnings at risk. These metrics measure the impact of pensions on the respective variable of the sponsoring corporation. Putting the metrics into action will lead to important changes in the pension plans' risk exposure: JPM expects a shift from the currently too high equity exposure into an allocation of 25%-35% in non-traditional assets. As the paper originates from JPM's asset management arm, I have a feeling that the wish may have been father to the thought ...

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