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February 9, 2021


Two-thirds of asset owners in North America and Europe still have no process in place to independently monitor whether they are getting fair FX rates from their global custody banks, says a survey by FX Transparency (FXT). This critical piece of information is startling, considering the numerous lawsuits and scandals involving custody banks’ FX practices, says Joe Conlan, its head of business development. “We believe many pensions and endowments assume that when they hire an external manager, the external manager is going to be the fiduciary for all the FX trading related to that mandate,” he says. “But most of the time, that just isn’t the case.” FXT data and research shows 98 per cent of external asset managers do not trade restricted currencies for onshore delivery. Instead, they leave that responsibility with the asset owner’s custodian. “Therefore, any pension that invests in emerging markets is making a bad assumption if they think they have outsourced their fiduciary duties in FX entirely to the external manager,” says Conlan. In addition, because custody banks act as the principal counterparty to these unchecked trades, they are financially motivated to set the highest acceptable rate ‒ to achieve maximum profit ‒ which is to the detriment of the pensioners. This trend has, in part, led to record FX trading profits for these banks in 2020.

February 9, 2021


The COVID-19 pandemic, volatile economic implications, and protests against racial injustice are accelerating changes in the ways organizations in Canada are working and investing in their employees, says the Canadian edition of Mercer’s ‘2021 Global Talent Trends Study.’ It found Canadian business leaders have shifted expectations to take a more expansive view of an organization’s responsibility to communities as a whole, extending success metrics beyond shareholder returns and placing individual and societal well-being at its core. Empathizing and delivering on the needs of a broader range of stakeholders was a key trend that emerged in 2020 and is likely to persist. Many Canadian employers stepped up in 2020 to protect jobs and pay during business closures, support caregivers, and provide sick leave. As a result, two in five Canadian companies today say managing inclusively and with empathy has become more critical for future resilience. Daniel Imbeault, a partner in talent strategy at Mercer Canada, says “in 2021, getting beyond the surface level on sustainability as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion will be crucial to attracting talent and investors. It will also be vital for growth. Organizations that integrate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics into the CEO’s agenda are more likely to report high revenue growth.”

February 9, 2021


Accumulating evidence suggests artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) work when it’s offered over the Internet, says Charmaine Alexander, senior advisor in disability management at Desjardins Insurance in a Telus Health ‘Benefits Hub.’ She cites research that found 60 per cent of employees don’t use the mental health resources their employer offers. For benefits plans, getting people the help they need is essential as well, with mental health representing about 30 per cent of long-term disability (LTD) claims, but about 70 per cent of LTD costs – and those numbers, as Alexander points out, are from two years ago, before the arrival of COVID-19. In this challenging environment, AI is proving its worth analyzing spoken language, body language, and mobile data to make psychiatric diagnoses, Alexander said, though it requires a tremendous amount of data from sessions with therapists to build a working model. Meanwhile, VR is already being used to provide exposure therapy to patients with anxiety and phobias, enabling patients to experience a situation that makes them nervous in a safe environment such as a doctor’s office. And internet CBT is also proving to be effective for treating anxiety, resulting in 80 per cent of one study’s respondents reporting that they were able to work more efficiently after treatment, Alexander says.

February 9, 2021


Alquity is launching its first global impact fund – a next generation product which is both global in scope and re-enforces the bridge the company has developed linking listed equities and impact. The fund harnesses companies’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics, as well as their contribution to the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The portfolio prioritizes companies from around the world which are committed to producing high quality products and services that have a positive sustainability, societal, and environmental impact. There is a particular focus on decarbonization within the screening process, with the increasing global impetus towards net zero.

February 9, 2021


Despite turmoil caused by the global pandemic, the infrastructure asset class proved resilient, says Preqin. Unlisted infrastructure funds raised a total of $100 billion in 2020 across 101 funds. AuM (assets under management) increased 3.5 per cent on 2019 to reach $655 billion as of June 2020, with dry powder in value-added and infrastructure debt strategies growing 30 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively. The importance of both strategies is clearly evident, as infrastructure debt accounted for 28 per cent of fund closings in 2020, while 36 per cent of investors believe value added offers the best opportunities in the next 12 months. With a one-year return of 4.6 per cent, only private equity and venture capital investments delivered stronger returns. Investors also appear happy with their infrastructure allocations; more than half plan to increase commitments to the asset class in the next 12 months.

February 9, 2021


‘The MEPP Story – Employer and Plan Member Perspective and What We Can All Learn’ will be the focus of an ACPM Roundtable on March 18. Derrick Johnstone, chief executive officer of the IWA ‒ Forest Industry Pension Plan, and Terry Taylor, general manager at TRIO, will address the challenges that must be addressed to prevent unexpected surprises for plan members and sponsors. Information is at,-2021).aspx

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