Monday, 30 April 2007

Long-term investing

Looks like I may be too cynical about the ability of pension funds to develop long-term investment strategies. According to FTFM today, some pension funds are already there. Here's some text from the article:

But how easy is it for institutional investors to break this short-termist cycle and find fund managers willing to invest for the long-term? And will they be rewarded for doing so? The first hitch is that few asset management houses are geared to investing for the long term. "Finding houses has been quite hard work, it's a bit of a niche style," says Roger Urwin, global head of investment consulting at Watson Wyatt, which has been feeding a steady trickle of its clients into long-term mandates since 2003.

"There are very few people who supply the mandates that Gore is looking for," says Yusuf Samad, investment consultant at Hewitt Associates and a founder of the Marathon Club, a collaboration of trustees, executives and specialists promoting long-term investing and responsible ownership.

There is clearly a chicken and egg scenario - few asset managers will set out their stall to invest long-term unless they see a market for such wares. And pension fund trustees, probably a conservative bunch at the best of times, may prefer to play safe and follow the herd. "We live in a very measured and pressured environment," says Mr Urwin. "The trustees have to demonstrate that they are on the ball all the time and that leads to a very standard sort of mandate."

Nonetheless there has been some progress. Watson Wyatt has secured more than 40 long-term mandates for its UK clients, who are typically investing 5 to 15 per cent of their assets for five to 10 years. Crucially, all of these are still up and running.


Whatever the rationale the slow but steady emergence of longer-term investment philosophies is likely to prove an inconvenient truth for managers unwilling to play ball. "We have seen an increase in mandates," says Mr Samad. "In the last three years we have done many, many mandates with managers that take a very long-term view."

Would be interesting to see what these mandates look like.

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