Agenda and minutes

Pensions Committee
Wednesday, 5th September, 2018 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room 3 - Civic Centre, St Peter's Square, Wolverhampton WV1 1SH

Contact: Dereck Francis  Tel:01902 555835 or Email: dereck.francis@wolverhampton.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence (if any)

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillor Steve Clark (Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council), Councillor John Mutton (Coventry City Council): Paul Sweet (City of Wolverhampton Council) and Mr Martin Clift (GMB Trade Union representative).

 

The Chair welcomed Councillor Angela Underhill onto the Pensions Committee and Councillor Mohammad Afzal back onto the Committee. The Chair also reported that owing to pending changes to his employment Alan Phillips (GMB Trade Union observer representative) had decided to resign from the Committee.  The Chair placed on record his thanks to Alan Phillips for his contributions to the work of the Committee and the Fund and asked that a letter of thanks on behalf of the Committee be sent to him.

2.

Notification of substitute members

Minutes:

No notification of substitutes were received for the meeting.

3.

Declarations of interests (if any)

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interests.

4.

Minutes of the previous meeting - 20 June 2018 pdf icon PDF 123 KB

[For approval]

Minutes:

Resolved:

  1. That minute 13 (Statement of Accounts 2017-2018) be corrected by the substitution of the name ‘Jill Sanderson’ for ‘Angela Sanderson’.

 

2.    That subject to 1 above, the minutes of the meeting held on 20 June 2018 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

5.

Matters arising

[To consider any matters arising from the minutes of the previous meetings]

Minutes:

With reference to minute 5 Malcom Cantello (Unison) asked whether there was any update on the appointment of the Fund’s Custodian.  Rachel Brothwood, Director of Pensions advised that there were no further developments with the review at this stage, confirming there was no set or pressing deadline for this to be completed.

6.

GMB Nomination to Pensions Committee pdf icon PDF 55 KB

[To approve the nomination of Janice Wadrup to join the Pensions Committee]

Minutes:

The item was withdrawn from consideration.

7.

Annual Report and Accounts 2017/2018 pdf icon PDF 71 KB

[To seek approval of the audited annual report for the year ending 31 March 2018 and its publication on the Fund’s website]

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jill Davys, Assistant Director – Investments and Finance presented for approval and publication on the Fund’s website, the audited annual report and accounts for the year ending 31 March 2018.  A full copy of the Annual Report and Statement of Accounts had been emailed to members of the Committee prior to the meeting.  The Assistant Director invited members of the Committee to contact her within the next 15 days if they had any specific comments on the report.  She also reported that some adjustments had been made to the accounts including how contributions are presented, on completion of the audit.  A follow up Annual Audit Letter had been received from the Fund’s external auditors, Grant Thornton. They had given an unqualified opinion on the Funds accounts.  The Assistant Director informed the Committee that the Fund was confident that the items highlighted during the external audit would be fully addressed.  The Integrated Transport Authority Annual Statement of Accounts went through the audit process with minor amendments.

 

The Chair informed the Committee that he had signed the Management Representations letter to Grant Thornton in July 2018.  He reported that the accounts were in good order for a large organisation that had gone through a challenging year.  He placed on record his thanks to the Fund’s officers for their hard work during the year and for the smooth transition of employees and assets to LGPS Central Ltd.  

 

Resolved:

1.    That the Annual Report for the year ending 31 March 2018 and its publication on the Fund’s website following completion of the external audit be approved.

 

2.    That Grant Thornton’s Audit Findings Reports for West Midlands Pension Fund (WMPF) and West Midlands ITA Pension Fund (ITA) be noted.

 

3.    That it be noted that the Management Representations letter to Grant Thornton was signed on 31 July 2018 by the Chair and the Director of Pensions on behalf of the Fund.

8.

Budget Monitoring 2018/2019 and Quarterly Accounts June 2018 pdf icon PDF 74 KB

[To provide an update on the forecast outturn for the year against operating budgets and quarterly accounts as at the end of June 2018]

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jill Davys, Assistant Director – Investments and Finance presented the update report on the forecast outturn for the year against the Fund’s operating budgets and quarterly accounts as at the end of June 2018.

 

The Chair noted from the report that whilst it was early in the year, the cost-per-member was forecast to be lower than budgeted for in 2018/2019.  Councillor Angela Sandison commented that she would expect the cost-per-member to reduce as the organisation grows.  The Chair commented that ordinarily that would be the case. However, against the background of the increased expenditure the Fund incurred with the introduction of investment pooling and the setting up of LGPS Central Ltd, and to address other new demands placed on Funds, the cost-per-member would likely increase.  In the long term the set-up costs would be recouped.  That said, on the measure cost-per-member, the Fund was one of most cost-effective Funds.

 

Rachel Brothwood, Director of Pensions added that last year the Fund had significant underspend against the staffing budget as a number of posts were recruited through the year and later than planned. Actual expenditure would therefore be higher and the Fund is not expected to see the same level of underspend in the current financial year.  The Fund was one of the lowest cost Funds in the LGPS and compared to other large UK pension schemes. 

 

Resolved:

1.    That the quarterly accounts for West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority Pension Fund for the period ending 30 June 2018 which show that the value of West Midlands ITA Pension Fund at this date was £497 million, an increase of £5 million from 31 March 2018 be noted.

 

2.    That it be noted that the West Midlands Pension Fund outturn against operating budgets as at the end of June 2018 is an under spend of £1.04million primarily attributable to lower external investment management costs.

 

3.    That it be noted that the quarterly accounts for West Midlands Pension Fund for the period ending 30 June 2018 were presented at the meeting. 

9.

Pensions Administration Report - April to June 2018 pdf icon PDF 111 KB

[To report on the work undertaken by the pensions administration service during the period 1 April to 30 June 2018 for both the Main Fund and the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority Fund]

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Amy Regler, Head of Operations presented the report on work undertaken by the pensions administration service during the period 1 April to 30 June 2018 for both the Main Fund and the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority Fund.

 

The Chair noted from the report that the Fund continued to grow in terms of the number of employers within the Fund and the case work and volume of enquiries it was now processing and commended the teams for maintaining the delivery of service.

 

Councillor Angela Sandison asked whether the Fund gave advice if a scheme member made enquiries about transferring out their pension.  The Chair reported that it was not the role of the Fund to give advice.  If the transfer value was below £30,000 the Fund was not required to satisfy itself that appropriate independent financial advice had been given.  For transfers above £30,000 the Fund had to satisfy itself that the scheme member had obtained independent financial advice from a registered advisor before a transfer can proceed.  Rachel Brothwood, Director of Pensions added that section 11 of the report set out the controls and protections in place to safeguard scheme members benefits when they are thinking of transferring their pension.

 

Malcolm Cantello (Unison) asked whether representations had been made to Government about the increased administrative burden and drain on Fund expenditure from implementing the Regulations relating to deferred member benefits. The Director of Pensions reported that this had been raised with the Scheme Advisory Board cost management, benefit design and administration committee, noting the impact on Funds, and that the timeframes given for implementation of new regulations were often short.

 

Councillor Stephen Simkins asked whether the Local Government Association (LGA) or the Local Government Information Unit could assist in putting the case forward.  The Director reported that the LGA was the Secretariat for the Scheme Advisory Board.  She undertook to submit a letter to the LGA with the Committee’s concerns.

 

Resolved:

  1. That the write-offs detailed in section 9.0 of the report be approved.

 

  1. The applications approved by the Director of Pensions and the Chair or Vice-Chair of Pensions Committee for admission to the West Midlands Pension Fund be noted.

 

3.    That the pensions administration activity for both the West Midlands Pension Fund (the Main Fund) and the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority Fund (the WMITA Fund) be noted.

 

4.    That the appointment of ITM to support with the reduction in outstanding leaver casework be noted.

10.

Customer Engagement Update pdf icon PDF 105 KB

[To provide an update of the Fund’s customer engagement activity from 1 April to 30 June 2018, in line with its Customer Engagement Strategy]

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Simon Taylor, Head of Pensions presented the update report on the Fund’s customer engagement activity from 1 April to 30 June 2018, in line with its Customer Engagement Strategy.

 

The Chair reported that the Fund’s customer engagement activity had been transformed over the years. He thanked all those involved.

 

Councillor Angela Sandison reported that she was pleased to see that a pensions roadshow event was delivered in Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.

 

Resolved:

The engagement activity and informed service development be noted.

11.

Data Management Report April to August 2018 pdf icon PDF 67 KB

[To report on the work undertaken in the Fund’s management of data to ensure compliance with statutory and regulatory duties]

Minutes:

Rachel Howe, Head of Governance and Corporate Services presented the report on the work undertaken in the Fund’s management of data to ensure compliance with statutory and regulatory duties.

 

The Chair reported that he was pleased with the marked improvement in the quality of data received by the Fund and acknowledged the hard work that had gone into making that happen.

 

Resolved:

That the actions taken by the Fund in the management of data be noted.

12.

Governance Update Report April to September 2018 pdf icon PDF 104 KB

[To provide an update on the work of the Fund in delivering a well governed scheme through the management of effective internal controls and a performance monitoring framework]

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Rachel Howe, Head of Governance and Corporate Services presented the update report on the work of the Fund in delivering a well governed scheme through the management of effective internal controls and a performance monitoring framework.

 

Referring to the Fund’s key performance indicator ‘retirement options to members’, Malcom Cantello (Unison) commented that active members considering retirement needed information on their pension options in a timely manner. It was therefore important that the performance on the production of retirement quotes improved towards the target. The Director of Pensions explained that performance had been affected by the need to maintain the production of deferred members quotes which had seen a comparative increase following a statutory disclosure mailing. Malcolm Cantello added that members looking into their options for retirement deserved priority over deferred member quotes. The Director of Pensions agreed that the priority should be for members actively seeking to retire. The increase in demand for deferred member quotes has had a short-term impact. Systems development changes were being explored to make the Fund more resilient in the future to spikes in the volume of these types of enquiries.

 

Malcolm Cantello asked whether there was anything the Fund could do with its scheme employers to give appropriate advice, Simon Taylor, Head of Pensions reported that the Fund continued to engage with employers. Like the Fund they had peaks and troughs in their workloads and the Fund was reliant upon them providing information in order to respond to requests for pensions quotes. The Fund continues to monitor the timeliness of issues of information to scheme members and payment to members following receipt of confirmed retirement decisions.

 

Resolved:

1.    That the work underway with LGPS Central and Partner Funds to establish a robust and consistent approach to monitoring compliance in the investment pool be noted.

 

2.    That the Fund’s risk register and the mitigations in place to manage risk at the Fund be noted.

 

3.    That the Fund’s Key Performance Indicators be noted.

 

4.    That the delivery of the Fund’s objectives to date and an update on our corporate objectives as noted in the Fund’s Service Plan 2018 – 2023 be noted.

 

5.    That the progress of the Fund in delivering benefit statements to members be noted.

13.

Quarterly Investment Report to 30 June 2018 pdf icon PDF 201 KB

[To provide a quarterly update on a range of investment issues, primarily the economic and investment background, the Fund’s responsible investment activities, an update on LGPS Central investment pooling and the quarterly performance of both the West Midlands Pension Fund and the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority]

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jill Davys, Assistant Director – Investments and Finance presented the quarterly investment report that covered the range of investment issues, primarily the economic and investment background, the Fund’s responsible investment activities, an update on LGPS Central investment pooling and the quarterly performance of both the West Midlands Pension Fund and the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority.

 

Councillor Angela Sanderson commented that from the report it appeared that Brexit was having mixed effects on the Fund.  She asked whether it would be adversely affect in future.  She also noted from the report that the global active equities had not performed well compared to the benchmark. The Assistant Director reported that following the Brexit decision there had been an impact in the markets, the main effect being on currency. The Fund had put in place currency hedging arrangements in response to movements in currency. However, the ability to differentiate between whether changes in the markets were as a result of Brexit or merely normal market changes was unclear. Regarding the internal active portfolio, the Assistant Director explained how the portfolio was currently being managed and that the Fund was in the process of putting together an action plan to take the risk out of the portfolio as part of the preparation for transition to a pooling sub-fund.

 

Referring to the Fund’s stewardship themes theme for 2018, particularly ‘diversity’, Councillor Angela Sanderson said that the Fund needed to be careful how it pressed for improvements in this area. She did not believe in quotas and felt that the best candidate should be appointed to a post. The Chair noted that the stewardship theme was about moving the obstacles that are in place and creating a level playing field.

 

Rachel Brothwood, Director of Pensions reported that the Fund’s engagement on diversity was wider than gender.

 

Councillor Steve Simkins asked about training packages available to Fund employees to support them in their development and to enable them to apply for senior positions. The Chair commented that the stewardship theme focused more on the companies the Fund invests and at investment managers and was challenging them on their approach on these issues.

 

Responding to Councillor Steve Simkins, the Head of Governance and Corporate Services reported that the Fund had a workforce development strategy, the aim of which was to grow and develop its own employee base and had recently commenced its graduate and trainee programme.

 

Councillor Harbans Bagri asked for an update on currency hedging. The Director of Pensions reported that the Fund was broadly at a neutral position on currency hedging. The gains made during the third quarter of 2017-2018 had eroded by more recent falls in sterling. The Assistant Director - Investments and Finance added that the Fund was looking to make its currency hedging programme more proactive.

 

Councillor Jasbir Jaspal informed the Committee that she had received correspondence about the Fund’s investments in fossil fuels. The Head of Governance and Corporate Services reported that the Fund regularly received correspondence which is reviewed and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.

14.

Exclusion of the Press and Public

[To pass the following resolution:

 

That in accordance with Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business as they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information on the grounds shown below]

Minutes:

Resolved:

That in accordance with Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business as they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information falling within the paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A of the Act.

Part 2 - exempt items, closed to press and public

15.

Investment Strategy and Activity Update

[To provide an update on investment strategy and activity in the Fund over the last quarter; the WMITA Fund’s investment strategy; and on the product development plan and launches of LGPS Central Ltd sub-funds and arrangements for the Fund to transition assets]

 

 

Minutes:

Jill Davys, Assistant Director – Investments and Finance presented the report on an update on investment strategy and activity in the Fund over the last quarter and on an update on the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (WMITA) Fund’s investment strategy.  The report further provided an update on the product development plan and launches of LGPS Central Ltd sub-funds and arrangements for the Fund to transition assets.

 

Councillor Angela Sanderson commented that in terms of property, given the retail sector was not performing should the Fund continue to invest in the sector.  The Assistant Director reported that the Fund looked at all opportunities and their potential for the best returns.

 

Resolved:

1.    That the delegation to the Director of Pensions and Assistant Director, Investments and Finance to agree the arrangements for the transition of Fund assets to LGPS Central Ltd Global Equity sub-fund as appropriate be reconfirmed.

 

2.    That the delegation to the Director of Pensions and Assistant Director, Investments and Finance to agree the arrangements for investment to LGPS Central Ltd Private Equity sub-fund for the 2018 vintage and further vintage as appropriate be confirmed.

 

3.    That the update on investment strategies for the main Pension Fund and the WMITA Fund be noted.

 

4.    That highlights of recent activity within the Pension Fund be noted.

 

5.    That the Fund’s proposals to liquidate the existing internal global equity portfolio and develop a sustainable equity mandate and appoint specialist managers in this area be noted.

16.

West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority Pension Fund - Investment Strategy Review

Minutes:

Rachel Brothwood, Director of Pensions presented the report that sought approval to a change in the Investment Strategy for the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority Pension Fund with a move to increase stabilising asset allocation, for the smaller, more mature element of the Fund.

 

Councillor Stephen Simkins reported that in the future the West Midlands Combined Authority could be responsible for the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (WMFA) and West Midlands Police.  He asked whether entrants come into the LGPS.  The Director of Pensions reported she had spoken to the s151 Officer for the WMCA on the proposed changes with a view to understanding proposals for pension arrangements and would follow up on the WMCA pension scheme due diligence. 

 

Resolved:

1.    That change to the strategic allocation of assets within the Preston Bus Ltd section of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (WMITA) Fund, to reduce the allocation of growth assets from 45% to 15% and increase the allocation to stabilising assets from 55% to 85%, introducing an allocation to Liability Driven Investments (LDI), in line with the strategy approved for the larger West Midlands Travel element of the Fund in March 2018 be approved.

 

2.    That authority be delegated to the Director of Pension and Officers of the Fund to agree further detail and implementation of the changes in investment strategy with review and approval of an updated Investment Strategy Statement, documenting the changes at the Pensions Committee meeting in December 2018.

17.

West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority Fund- Outcomes from the Government Actuary Department (GAD) Section 13 Review

[To provide an overview of the outcomes of GAD Section 13 review in relation to the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority Fund and update on the action officers are taking in response to the proposed recommendations to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government]

 

Minutes:

Rachel Brothwood, Director of Pensions presented the report on an overview of the outcomes of the Government Actuary Department (GAD) Section 13 review in relation to the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (WMMITA) Fund and update on the action officers are taking in response to the proposed recommendations to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

 

Resolved:

1.    That the proposed principles for considering a merger of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (WMITA) Fund into the main West Midland Pension Fund be approved, and it be noted that this is subject to further due diligence and discussion with the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

 

2.    That subject to outcomes of further due diligence, authority be delegated to the Director of Pensions and Section 151 Officer, to take the discussion forward and agree documentation to facilitate implementation.

 

3.    That the recommendation from GAD and the discussions ongoing with West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the Participating Employers to develop a response to the employer-risk inherent in this Fund be noted.

18.

Pension Fund Structure and Service Development

[To provide details of the internal Fund structure and an update on the steps being taken by the Fund to increase the utilisation of apprenticeships, one-year university placements and graduate trainee roles to support development of employees, increase the pool of potential new hires and increase the profile of the Fund as a leading employer]

 

Minutes:

Rachel Brothwood, Director of Pensions presented the report on the internal Fund structure, by service area noting how it was evolving to facilitate service development and following the creation of the LGPS Central investment pool. It also provided an update on the steps being taken by the Fund to increase the utilisation of apprenticeships, one-year university placements and graduate trainee roles to support development of employees, increase the pool of potential new hires and increase the profile of the Fund as a leading employer.

 

The Chair commented that he was pleased the Fund had taken the opportunities regarding promoting local talent and developing its employees.

 

Malcolm Cantello (Unison) also commented that an issue for the Fund’s staffing was that it was trying to compete for staff when it was part of the Local Authority Single Status arrangements. He asked whether there was any progress on the appointment of support for the Assistant Director -Investments and Finance. The Director Pensions reported that the recruitment process was ongoing.

 

The Chair commented that in terms of competing for staff the Fund provided a different offer to the private sector and looked to grow and develop its own employees.

 

Resolved:

1.    That the internal Fund structure at as April 2018, updated to reflect service restructuring and the transfer of employees to LGPS Central be noted.

 

2.    That the action being taken by the Pension Fund to support workforce development and recruitment, together with additional resource being utilised to support change and service development be noted.