“SATO is an interesting investment opportunity for us,” Foortse said. “The expected strong demographic favourable trend in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area underpins the demand for the rental apartments provided by SATO,” he said.For its part, Varma, which has around €38.7bn under management, has an ongoing strategy of increasing the international diversification of its real estate portfolio. A month ago, it said its decision to invest in Swedish residential property developments through the Aros Bostad III joint venture fund represented a reactivation of this strategy. Reima Rytsölä, Varma’s chief investment officer, said the sale of half of its stake in SATO to APG was “a demonstration of the success of the of SATO’s long-term strategy to become a leading rental housing company in Finland.”Varma had increased its stake in SATO in recent years, and had become the largest shareholder in the company, he said.“Even after the transaction, we remain a large shareholder in the company,” Rytsölä said.The pensions insurer said that after the transaction, its shareholding in SATO was around 22.8%, which made APG the second largest shareholder in the Finnish company.Private residential company SATO is the second largest rental housing firm in Finland, owning and renting some 24,000 residential units in Finland and St. Petersburg, Varma said.It said SATO aimed to grow its portfolio to €4.0bln by 2020. Dutch pensions asset manager APG has bought almost a quarter of Finnish housing rentals company SATO from Finnish pensions insurer Varma, as part of its drive to boost residential exposure in Europe.The parties did not say how much the transaction was worth, but SATO has a portfolio of about €2.4bn residential units, and following the deal, APG said its stake in the company would be roughly 22.8%.Robert-Jan Foortse, head of European property investments at APG, said: “APG is focused on increasing its residential exposure in Europe, particularly in key metropolitan areas that have a growing population.”The €359bn pensions asset manager had been a significant investor in the residential sector in the Netherlands for many years, he said, and had more recently made two investments in the residential sector in London.
A new project to help investors limit carbon risk in their investment portfolios aims to succeed by keeping the action investors can take simple and by getting chief executives, rather than ESG departments, to lead the action.The initiative – called Forceful Stewardship – has been launched by Preventable Surprises, a think tank headed by ESG specialist Raj Thamotheram.The plan is different from others within the area, according to a paper introducing it, as it makes action to limit climate disruption a responsibility of chief executives, CIOs and trustees and board directors of institutional investors, rather than something that can be delegated.Thamotheram said it pushes responsibility to the top of the institution’s hierarchy by showing climate change is a systemic risk affecting investment returns. He told IPE: “Because this has been dealt with as a values-led subject, it’s been possible for the climate file to be handed over to the head of ESG.“What we’re saying is that, on the contrary, this is a mainstream investment issue causing portfolio value-at-risk, and, therefore, senior executives and boards of investments firms have to take primary responsibility for addressing this risk.”He stressed that ESG staff at institutional investors were doing the best they could, but he said it was only the boards and senior executives of these organisations who could decide on investment beliefs and stewardship guidelines.Forceful Stewardship also differs from existing initiatives in that its methods could change corporate strategy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relatively quickly – within 5-10 years – Thamotheram said.He said it was as easy to understand and monitor as divestment, being based on two questions: asking companies to reveal their low-carbon business plan, and asset managers to reveal whether they have voted for companies to disclose such a plan.The initiative involves guidelines on action investors should take, such as declaring their intention to vote in favour of shareholder resolutions to help cut systemic climate risk while protecting long-term shareholder value.Thamotheram said he was hopeful the project would succeed, as, fundamentally, investment funds have to reflect the interest of their savers and members.“The paradigm change we’re taking about is the shift to fiduciary capitalism, the idea that your primary duty is your portfolio and the intergenerational equity,” he said. ”Are you robbing future generations of members to maintain the current investment returns?”John Rogers, former chief executive of the CFA Institute and a participant in the online dialogue that led to the report, said an attractive aspect of fiduciary capitalism was that it encouraged long-term thinking.“As universal owners, fiduciaries foster a deeper engagement with companies’ management teams and public policymakers on governance and strategy,” he said.Thamotheram said Preventable Surprises had published three academic papers evidencing the scale of climate risks for investors.
Speaking at a joint conference with the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, Hill said: “We need to think about how we can encourage a more developed private pensions market across Europe.”His comments were made in the context of an update on the Commission’s CMU project, with the Commission today publishing its first CMU status report, as well as a 2016 edition of its Economic and Financial Stability and Integration Review (EFSIR).A European private pensions market can help to address the retirement challenges associated with Europe’s ageing population but it also has a role to play in developing capital markets, Hill said.“The bigger the private pensions sector, the deeper the capital markets,” he added.In its 2016 stability and integration review (EFSIR), the Commission analysed how private pension funds and public pension reserve funds could contribute to the objectives of the CMU, saying the results suggest that developing private pension saving may be a “promising avenue to explore”.Hill reiterated comments made by others at the Commission that a European personal pension market would complement rather than replace state and occupational pensions.The point was made last month by Jung-Duk Lichtenberger, from the Directorate-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (FISMA), who said the Commission was aiming to have “an informed view” by the end of the year on whether to continue developing a pan-European personal pension product (PEPP).Hill, meanwhile, today highlighted the contributions pension funds can make to the wider economy – by supporting long-term investments in infrastructure, for example. But he said only a few European Union countries had large private pension markets, such as Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands.Building up a European market for personal pensions could provide “the economies of scale we need to reduce cost and increase choice for savers who are putting money aside for their retirement”, Hill was set to tell delegates in Frankfurt.The consultation, which is under preparation, is intended to identify what steps can be taken to develop a European private pensions market and to identify the barriers that need to be overcome.According to the Commission’s CMU status report, its staff “will examine national experiences across the EU to identify the conditions for these markets to flourish, including the issues of consumer protection and transparency”.The Commission will take into account advice coming from the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), expected to report next month on the outcome of a consultation on the development of an EU single market for personal pension products.In February, EIOPA said a complementary second regime for pan-European personal pension products (PEPPs) would be the best way forward rather than harmonising existing directives.,WebsitesWe are not responsible for the content of external sitesLink to Economic and Financial Stability and Integration Review (EFSIR)Link to CMU Status Report The European Commission is throwing its weight behind the development of a European personal pensions market, with commissioner Jonathan Hill saying it was one of the areas it was prioritising as part of its capital markets union (CMU) work this year.Hill, the commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said the commission would “shortly kick off work on laying the foundations for a stronger European personal pensions market”.In a report, the commission said it would launch a consultation, before the summer, “as the first step in evaluating the case for a policy framework to establish a voluntary market for European personal pensions”.It is also planning to carry out a study on the fiscal and regulatory approaches that support the development of personal pensions.
Seven UK consultancies have been appointed to a wide-ranging actuarial and governance framework agreement backed by seven English local government pension schemes (LGPS).The framework agreement, part of the National LGPS Framework project being run by Norfolk County Council, in March sought to appoint companies to advise on actuarial, governance and benefit matters, as well as consult on so-called special projects – a likely reference to work affiliated with the creation of local authority asset pools.The four-year contract, estimated to be worth up to £350m (€441m) if all LGPS availed themselves of the services of those shortlisted, saw all four applicants for the actuarial services win a space within the framework.As a result, Aon Hewitt, Barnett Waddingham, Hymans Robertson and Mercer can all be chosen for actuarial services without a fund’s administering authority having to conduct a formal tender. The same four consultancies were also shortlisted for the benefits consultancy services lot, while KPMG joined the existing list of firms for the governance consultancy services lot – out of a total seven applicants.The final lot, for supply of specialist services, saw 10 firms apply for inclusion but only seven shortlisted.In addition to the five firms already included in the three above lots, Equiniti and PwC can now also be awarded contracts by UK LGPS funds without a formal competitive tender.The framework is the latest in a number of ones tendered by Norfolk County Council in an effort to reduce the cost of procurement of the LGPS sector.The council last year announced that Nigel Keogh, formerly a pensions technical manager at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, would join to oversee the procurement exercises on a permanent basis.
“If in the fullness of time that resource has spare capacity and is performing well, then there is a possibility it will be made available for other investors. It is something to strive for in the long term.”The eight* participating LGPS will be pooling £32.6bn (€38.5bn) of assets, some 41% of which is – as at the end of March 2021 – expected to be held outside of the Authorised Contractual Scheme (ACS), the collective investment vehicle that will be set up to hold the pension funds’ listed equity and bond holdings.The pool is still deciding on the mechanism by which it will provide funds with access to alternative asset classes, some of which could end up also being managed within the ACS if this is possible.More direct property The assets that are not in the ACS, but could end up in there, include indirect property investments, which the pool aims to scale back over time to grow direct property assets.As a pool, LGPS Central has some £2bn of property holdings, including direct and pooled funds.The switch to direct from indirect will be achieved partly as a result of closed-end funds held by a number of the pool members coming to the natural end of their lifetime, with the money returned to be invested into direct property.Pratt said: “It’s more likely to be a natural wastage-type development and taking advantage of market liquidity as and when that exists within open-ended pooled property funds.”The switch from indirect to direct property investment is expected to contribute to cost savings, which have been estimated to reach £29m per annum as at 31 March 2033, 15 years after the date the pool goes live, in April 2018.As concerns infrastructure, the pool has a target asset allocation of 3.8% as at 31 December 2015, but is aiming to grow this to at least 5%, “but up to 6% or 7% estimated”, depending on each of the participating pension fund’s investment strategy.This is according to the pool’s recent submission to the UK government, which states that a number of the participating funds already have plans to review and increase their allocations.“Two Funds have no current allocation but are starting to assess the potential strategic value of the asset class,” it said.“The target allocation is based on data gathered from each Fund regarding their potential appetite for infrastructure.”*Pension schemes for Cheshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands Pension Fund (including West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority) and Worcestershire The Central asset pool that eight UK local government pension schemes (LGPS) are forming has a long-term aim to offer investment-management services to third-party investors, such as charities.Creating a “regional centre of excellence for investments management, able (in the long term) to offer services to other pension funds, charities and endowments” is one of the pool’s seven stated objectives.However, Colin Pratt, investment manager at Leicestershire County Council, the administering authority for the Leicestershire Pension Fund, emphasised that this was not a priority for the pool but rather a potential long-term development.“The pool will start with an internal investment-management resource, and there is no doubt that, for a minimum of the first five years, the pool’s ambition is purely and simply to manage the assets belonging to the pool participants and nothing over and beyond that,” he said.
Denmark’s Financial Supervisory Authority (Finanstilsynet) wants a “broad debate” in the country over risks in the new breed of pensions that are run on a market-rate basis, effectively shifting risk to consumers.Jesper Berg, director at Finanstilsynet, said: “The Danish pension system has undergone an enormous change in the course of just a few years, with the transition from the traditional guaranteed products to market-rate products.”The development was being driven by the desire to give customers higher expected pension benefits, he said.“But it has also meant that the customers themselves shoulder the risk of whether there will enough money for the years as a pensioner,” Berg said. “We need to have a broad and informed debate about it.” The traditional average-rate pension products offered in the past – and to a lesser extent today – by Danish pension providers may or may not carry a yield guarantee. All involve an element of smoothing investment returns by effectively holding some investment returns back in good years and adding it to customers’ accounts in years when investment performance is weak or negative.Market-rate pension products link the annual investment return directly to the performance of the underlying investments and do not carry yield guarantees, similar to defined contribution arrangements in countries such as the UK.Finanstilsynet said it wanted to discuss whether consumer protection in the sector was adequate.“Today, regulation and oversight of pension companies is more directed towards the traditional, guaranteed products,” the regulator said. Companies could therefore make riskier investments on behalf of customers in market-rate products.Berg said the proportion of higher-risk investments was greater in market-rate products than it was in traditional products.“At the same time, there is a very big difference in how the individual companies define what is low, medium or high risk,” he said.The supervisor has published a new discussion paper on the topic which it plans to present at a conference in Copenhagen on 9 March.It is inviting responses to the paper by 19 April.
Institutional investors could share in an £85m (€93m) settlement from UK supermarket Tesco, relating to an accounting error that led to “inflated” prices for its stocks and bonds in 2014.It is the first time the UK regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has used its powers to force a listed company to pay compensation to investors.In addition, Tesco faces a fine of £129m from the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The SFO will present its case for a “deferred prosecution agreement” on 10 April at the Crown Court in London. If successful, Tesco will pay the fine but will not face prosecution.The actions relate to a trading update issued by the FTSE 100-listed supermarket chain on 29 August 2014, in which it claimed to have made a £1.1bn trading profit in the previous six months. However, on 22 September 2014 the company issued a further update admitting that it had overstated profits by £250m.The FCA said the August update gave “a false or misleading impression” about the value of Tesco shares and bonds.“As a result of the false or misleading information within the 29 August 2014 announcement, the market price for Tesco shares and bonds was inflated,” the FCA said in an announcement this morning.“This continued until Tesco issued a corrective statement on 22 September 2014. Purchasers of shares and bonds between these dates paid a higher price than they would have paid had the false impression not been created.”The compensation fund will only be open to investors who purchased shares or bonds between 29 August and 22 September 2014. The FCA indicated that there were “about 10,000 retail and institutional eligible investors” who made purchases during the period and so could claim for compensation.Last year a group of 112 institutional investors – including several UK and European pension funds – filed a lawsuit against Tesco claiming losses of roughly £150m.Investors backing the lawsuit included Alecta, the BT Pension Scheme, Stichting Shell Pensioenfonds, Unipension Invest, Church Commissioners for England, and BAE Systems’ pension plan.A spokesperson for Stewarts Law, which is representing the investors in the compensation claim against Tesco plc, declined to comment, citing “ongoing civil and criminal proceedings”.The redress scheme will launch by the end of August 2017, the FCA said. More information is available from KPMG’s dedicated webpage. KPMG is administering the scheme.
Pension funds should start to take seriously recent data on UK life expectancy, which suggests that longevity is not improving as strongly as previously thought, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).Analysis from the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) has indicated that standardised mortality rates improved by 2.6% a year on average between 2000 and 2011, but since then “have been close to zero”.Raj Mody, PwC’s global head of pensions, said: “Any given pension fund will have to think about how the national data affects their situation specifically – that will depend on the composition of their membership relative to the UK population generally. However, £310bn [€367bn] could be shaved off pension deficits if the latest life expectancy trends are assumed to continue and allowances for previous long-term improvements are removed.“That then puts a fuller funding situation within reach for many pension funds, without relying on excessive cash contributions to repair deficits in the short term. For example, if assets grew by an extra 1% a year than otherwise assumed when working out deficits in the first place, that on average would cover pension liabilities without the need for company cash contributions.”However, he emphasised that the effects would vary depending on each pension fund’s circumstances, and may not become clear for many years.FTSE 100 pension schemes face tough summerTrustee boards of one third of FTSE 100 company pension schemes will face a tough summer of negotiations with sponsors this year, consultancy firm JLT Employee Benefits has warned.This is because they will likely require higher employer contributions to fill funding shortfalls following latest triennial valuations. Schemes likely to be in this group include BAE Systems, BT, GlaxoSmithKline, Lloyds Banking Group, Standard Life, and Tesco, the consultant said.Company directors “will be stuck between a rock and a hard place”, JLT said, as they attempt to balance the interests of the scheme and the company. Uncertainty related to Brexit and the imminent UK general election was likely to have exacerbated the problem through volatility in financial markets.Charles Cowling, director at JLT Employee Benefits, warned the period could lead to more scheme closures due to spiralling costs – Royal Mail is currently in talks over the future of its pension provision – and could also hurt shareholders. Seven FTSE 100 schemes were paying more in pension scheme contributions than in dividends, he said.Brunel LGPS pool launches search for custodian and administratorThe £25bn local government pension scheme project for south-west pension funds – Brunel Pensions Partnership – is searching for a custodian and administrator as it builds its asset pooling offering.The custodian part of the tender is for 10 separate contracts, one for each member of the Brunel Pensions Partnership. The administration contract will cover the entire Brunel project. However, the tender notice said all contracts would be awarded to one successful bidder.Brunel is inviting bids until 5 June. The tender details are available here.Monsanto offloads £100m of liabilitiesScottish Widows has backed a £100m buy-in transaction with the UK pension fund of agriculture firm Monsanto, part of the pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer.In a statement announcing the deal, Scottish Widows said the pension scheme had retained exposure to deflation risk, meaning it would pick up any shortfall incurred by the insurer if the UK enters a deflationary environment. The scheme could offload this risk in the future subject to conditions being met, Scottish Widows said.Emma Watkins, director of bulk annuities at Scottish Widows, said the Monsanto Pension Plan “has been innovative in its approach to inflation protection, leading the way for other schemes to secure different benefits with insurers than those that they are obligated to pay to members”.Matt Wiberg, specialist bulk annuity adviser at Willis Towers Watson, who worked on the deal, said: “The features of this transaction demonstrate the flexibility of the bulk annuity market as it continues to evolve to meet pension funds’ needs.”
GPFN is the smaller of Norway’s two sovereign wealth funds, which invest the country’s vast revenues from petroleum activities built up over the last few decades. The larger fund is the NOK8.2trn (€865bn) Government Pension Fund Global, which invests outside the Nordic region, while the GPFN invests in Norway and other Nordic countries and has NOK234bn of assets.AFM – Diana van Everdingen is to depart as member of the supervisory board (RvT) of Dutch communication watchdog Authority Financial Markets (AFM) as of 1 November, after completing two four-year terms. During this period, she has been deputy chair as well as vice chair of the supervisor. The AFM said Van Everdingen had contributed in particular through her expertise on legal matters, corporate governance and capital markets.Eumedion – Wouter van Eechoud has been appointed to the board of Eumedion, the corporate governance and sustainability platform for institutional investors. Van Eechoud is director of the €5bn Dutch pension fund of IBM. Prior to this, he was supervisor for pension funds at regulator De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB). At Eumedion, Van Eechoud succeeds Erik Breen of Triodos Investment Management. Marcel Andringa, executive trustee at the €46bn metal scheme PME, has been named as Eumedion’s treasurer on the executive board. Eumedion has 60 members who represent €5trn of assets.Church of England – Gareth Mostyn has been appointed as chief finance and operations officer for the National Church Institutions of the Church of England. The role encompasses the Church Commissioners – responsible for running a £6.7bn investment fund – and the Church of England Pensions Board. He is currently executive head of strategy and corporate affairs at De Beers, a diamond mining company, and will take up his new role in early 2018.Aon Austria – Helmut Geil has rejoined the consultancy group after a short stint away. From the beginning of this month he is managing director of Aon Austria, and a member of the management board of Aon Holdings Austria. He joined Aon in 2001, moving up to eventually become chief executive of Aon’s reinsurance intermediary in Austria, Aon Benfield Rückversicherungsmakler. He left Aon in August this year to join the board of muki, an Austrian insurer.Neuberger Berman – The US firm has appointed Jamie Wong as head of consultant relations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). She was previously at Janus where she was head of UK and European institutional sales, and has also worked at Lazard Asset Management. In addition, Robert Payne has joined from UBS to oversee Neuberger Berman’s work with insurers. At UBS Payne worked on customised strategies for insurers and pension funds in the UK and the Netherlands.NN Investment Partners – The asset manager’s German unit has appointed Christian Gohlke to the newly created role of director of institutional sales, with responsibility for specialist fixed income, in particular alternative credit and private debt. Gohlke joins from Citigroup Global Markets, where he has worked since 2010. Most recently he was director of fixed income sales, with responsiblity for structured credit sales for asset managers, insurers and banks.Allianz Global Investors – The investment management group has appointed Jason Allan as director of institutional business development for the UK. He joins from State Street where he was UK head of pension funds. Allianz has also hired Amundi’s deputy CEO Leon Douch to lead its asset management service for UK insurers. Margaret Frost, head of UK institutional at Allianz Global Investors, said the hires were part of the firm’s “ambitious plans” for its UK business.Robeco – The Dutch asset manager has hired Paul Jeffries as executive director for business development. He joins from AQR Capital Management, where he held a similar role. He joined AQR in 2013 from hedge fund manager Permal and has also worked as an investment manager at RPMI Railpen, the UK’s industry pension fund for the railway sector. Jeffries will oversee relationships with Robeco’s existing and new investor and consultant clients in the UK and Ireland.ARC Pensions Law – Senior associate Anna Copestake has been made partner at the UK specialist pension law firm. ARC was founded in June 2015 and now has eight partners. Copestake is the firm’s first internal partner promotion and means almost 90% of the partners are female. Copestake joined ARC from Sackers in 2016, where she was a senior associate. She chairs the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association’s legal panel and is a member of the Security of Assets Working Party and the investment committee of the Association of Pension Lawyers.APG – Harmen Geers has left as senior spokesman of APG, the €456bn asset manager of the large Dutch civil service scheme ABP. Geers, who said he was taking a sabbatical, has been in his role since 2010.State Street Corporation – The financial services giant has appointed Michelle Grundmann as head of global services for continental and southern Europe. She will join the group’s Frankfurt office in February. Most recently, Grundmann was head of investor services at JP Morgan, covering Germany, Austria and Switzerland. She has also worked at BNY Mellon, Chase Manhattan Bank, Merrill Lynch Investment Management and Bankers Trust Company of New York.Mirabaud Asset Management – The Swiss asset manager has launched an emerging market debt fund for new hire Daniel Moreno. He joins as a senior portfolio manager from Rubrics Asset Management, a London-based fixed income boutique.Aegon Asset Management – The investment manager has opened a new office in Germany. Sven Becker will lead the business in Frankfurt. Aegon and its subsidiaries TKP Investments and Kames Capital will operate under the brand Aegon Asset Management Pan Europe BV.OppenheimerFunds – The US asset manager has opened a new office in London as its headquarters for EMEA. The office is led by Doug Stewart, head of EMEA. The company has also hired Dicken Watson as chief operating officer for EMEA, also based in London. He was previously director of compliance and senior counsel at Affiliated Managers Group. GPFN, Folketrygdfondet, AFM, Eumedion, Church of England, Aon, Neuberger Berman, NN Investment Partners, Allianz Global Investors, Robeco, ARC Pensions Law, APG, State Street, Mirabaud Asset Management, Aegon Asset Management, OppenheimerFundsGovernment Pension Fund Norway (GPFN) – Olaug Svarva is to leave the domestically-invested arm of Norway’s oil fund in February after 12 years at its helm. Svarva, who is one year away from receiving an early-retirement pension from the fund, told Folketrygdfondet – GPFN’s management group – that she wanted to resign in order to look for new opportunities.Svarva said: “I have had a fantastic time as leader of Folketrygdfondet. Now, however, I want to seek new opportunities and contribute to the development of Norwegian business in other ways.”She will continue as chief executive of GPFN until 1 February, at which point deputy chief executive Lars Tronsgaard will take over her role until a successor is in place, said Folketrygdfondet.
The survey found that international investors were increasingly comfortable with domestic Chinese managers for exposure to the country: almost a quarter of European LPs said they were now more likely to choose domestic Chinese GPs than they were three years ago.The proportion of LPs committing to China-specific private equity funds was due to hold steady, responses indicated.The barometer was based the plans and opinions of 110 private equity investors based in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. Pension plans made up 38% of the respondents. Banks and asset managers were the next biggest group. Source: Coller Capital Private Equity Barometer, winter 2017‘$1trn in systematic strategies’ Investors have an estimated $1trn (€844bn) of assets allocated to systematic factor strategies, double the amount in 2014, according to a new survey report.For MJ Hudson Allenbridge, which carried the survey and produced the report, systematic strategies include long-only smart beta and long-short alternative beta strategies.The latter represented the majority of assets in strategies offered by investment banks. The consultancy’s review, an update on a survey carried out in 2014, encompassed offerings of both asset managers and investment banks.Pension funds were the largest source of assets for each group, with asset managers having become the second largest client group for investment banks. The consultancy said asset managers’ fees had remained “reasonably constant” since its 2014 survey, but that average investment bank strategy fees had dropped by 10-15 basis points.Participants – 21 asset managers and 11 investment banks – identified future performance of systematic strategies as their biggest concern, said MJ Hudson Allenbridge.Many respondents noted the wide dispersion of realised strategy returns, as well as investor expectations towards the strategies.Other concerns included possible crowding and front-running of transparent factor strategies.There was a broad consensus that the industry still lacked a coherent, common terminology, and that investors’ challenges in evaluating strategies were accentuated by the lack of recognised performance benchmarks.The full report can be found here. French partnership, new funds In other news, La Financière de l’Echiquier and Primonial have agreed to join forces in a move that would create a €10bn-plus retail and institutional asset manager in France.Under the agreement, €8bn La Financière de l’Echiquier is to acquire the asset management activities of Primonial, AltaRocca Asset Management and Stamina Asset Management, all of which currently operate under the Primonial Investment Managers brand name. Primonial is to acquire a 40% stake in La Financière de l’Echiquier.Completion would see La Financière de l’Echiquier managing more than €10bn in assets, strengthening its position as a key player among the top five independent asset management companies in France.Separately, recent asset manager fund launches include Parvest Disruptive Technology, a BNP Paribas Asset Management fund investing in companies that are leaders in or beneficiaries of transformational technology, and a “shadow activist” fund from Skagen.The Scandinavian asset manager’s fund invests in the equity of companies subject to activist campaigns. Skagen is due to be bought by Storebrand, one of Norway’s largest pension providers, under a recently announced agreement. Competition for private equity assets between investors and managers has peaked, according to the latest bi-annual global private equity survey by Coller Capital.The proportion of asset owners making private equity co-investments has nearly doubled in the last decade, but the proportion making investments without a general partner (GP) as sponsor has not changed much in recent years, according to the survey report.An investor preference for specialists was becoming stronger, with a quarter of limited partners (LPs) planning to shift the balance of their private equity commitments further towards single-product specialists.Coller Capital also reported that 82% of LPs expected to achieve annual net returns of more than 11% across their private equity portfolios over the next three to five years; 17% were forecasting returns of over 16%.