Thursday, December 13, 2007

XBRL for dummies

Today, the first meeting of the XAC, the XBRL Advisory Council to the IASCF took place in London. It was a very interesting kick-off meeting, indeed! To use an IT metaphor, I like to think of Accounting Standard Setting as constructing the Operating System that the economy works on. A principles based system such as IFRS can rely on a certain degree of fuzziness and the human factor when preparers and auditors apply the standards. But when this fuzziness actually is being translated into code, then a lot of nitty-gritty stuff appears. 

During the meeting, I first got my hands on a copy of XBRL for dummies, and since the book kindly features this blog (so, it's got to be a really good book, right?), I thought I'd return the favour!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

IZS conference documentation

IZS has made available the presentation slides from its recent annual conference about cross-border retirement provision from a Swiss perspective. It's a pity that the most interesting presentation seems to be missing: Klaus Stiefermann of a.b.a. talked about the Pensions Directive: godsend or letdown? As he was speaking from a distinctly German perspective, it will not come as much of a surprise that he tended towards the latter.

Monday, December 10, 2007

EFRP opposes legislative review

On the occasion of last month's conference last month, EFRP presented the results of a member survey about the Pensions Directive. The Federation underlines the innovative nature of the Directive and suggests that the legislative review which is planned by the EU Commission for next year is premature since the Directive has not been given enough time after implementation. There are a number of interesting comments on important "details" such as mandatory second pillar, or that there are more than 48 cases of cross-border pension plans as reported by CEIOPS earlier.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

EDHEC alternative investments days

Very commendably, EDHEC Risk has decided to make the full documentation of its recent Alternative Investment Days 2007 available to the general public. This includes the much discussed - and dearly sold - paper about passive hedge fund replication as well as a lot of other interesting stuff. 

CDI vs. LDI?

Wilshire has a fairly interesting white paper out with the title Commitment-Driven Investing (CDI): LDI as We 'C' It. The paper's rather semantic focus on commitment rather than liability is probably a consequence of its US accounting context, so we are not going to hold that against it. The thrust is certainly correct, namely that CDI, i.e. the Wilshire variety of LDI is aimed at managing the true economic funding ratio of pension plans and is therefore inherently a risk management technique. 

Confusing at best however is the frequent reference to two equally important (but partially conflicting) goals of CDI, whereas the only correct objective (from the sponsor's perspective) must be to minimise the cost of running the plan at a given level of benefit security. Also, the authors seem to be struggling - quite fashionably, one might add - with the rationale behind marking-to-market of pension liabilities. The impending revision of IAS 19 will deal with that issue.

Their conceptual conclusion, nevertheless, is an intriguing one: The commitment discount rate is set to be a random variable described by the expected inflation characteristics of the individual plan's benefit stream. This is where the authors can start their optimisation engines, hopefully without being blinded by the light of past correlation stability. 

While we feel more comfortable with the more comprehensive approach recently proposed by Waring & Siegel, the authors deserve a prize for originality as this paper is the first that I know of to include the complete lyrics of a Springsteen song.