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Pensions Conference

National • December 3 - 4, 2020
Virtual Event


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In support of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Lancaster House is moving the 2020 Pensions Conference online. Moving online will broaden the conference's scope, increase access to nationally recognized experts, and engage attendees across Canada.

HRPA Continuing Professional Development

HRPA Continuing Professional Development

The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) has approved Lancaster House as a Continuing Professional Development Partner, guaranteeing that participation in our conferences, workshops and audio conferences will be accepted by the HRPA for CPD credit.

Register today to earn your CPD credits with Lancaster!

In association with: http://www.library.utoronto.ca/cirhr/
 

Thursday, December 3, 2020


Registration 9:00 AM - 9:15 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM  


Panel 1


Turmoil or Turnaround: Global economic outlook and investment options in the wake of COVID-19

9:30 AM - 10:45 AM

* Panelists to be announced

Panel Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the global economy into a severe recession, and given the unprecedented nature of the crisis, forecasting future developments has been especially difficult. Given such unfavourable conditions, is there anything pension plans can do to maintain the type of investment returns that ensure plan stability? Should plans bank on a relatively quick economic recovery, or are more active strategies called for? In this session, specialists will discuss the effect of current economic conditions on pension plans and explore investment strategies that may help pension plans weather a turbulent economy.

  • What is the current economic situation — provincially, nationally, globally? How helpful have government stimulus programs been? What challenges are posed by the debt incurred to finance those programs?
  • What economic changes brought on by the pandemic are likely to be long-lasting? For example, will the long-standing trend toward offshore manufacturing be reversed?
  • Has a disconnect developed between the markets — and other major economic indicators — and the "real state" of the economy? Is there any more certainty to economic forecasts now compared to June, when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that the economic outlook was "highly uncertain"? How should pension plans make decisions amidst unprecedented doubt?
  • What investment strategies or mixes have been effective in dealing with the pandemic-induced crisis? Is there something to be learned from the strategies of major plans such as the Canada Pension Plan, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, the federal Public Service Pension Plan, or British Columbia Investments? Did plans with a value bias in their holdings achieve the expected downside protection?
  • What lessons should be learned from Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), which experienced significant losses between March 9 and 13, 2020, as a result of a volatility trading program that offered relatively fixed returns during moderate trading volatility but carried the risk of "greatly magnified losses from extreme volatility events"?
  • Should decisions to invest in certain "alternative" assets, such as real estate, be affected by behavioural changes induced by the pandemic? For example, do widespread work-from-home arrangements make investment in commercial real estate less desirable? What about increases in online shopping and home deliveries? Should these trends affect investment decisions?

BREAK

10:45 AM - 11:00 AM

Thursday, December 3, 2020


Registration 9:00 AM - 9:15 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM  


Panel 2


Pension Plans and the Pandemic: Lessons learned, future opportunities

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

* Panelists to be announced

Panel Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has created daunting challenges for pension plans on a number of fronts as they dealt with issues including market volatility, transitions to working remotely, and communication with plan members, all while keeping apprised of successive regulatory changes as governments took steps to respond to the crisis. How have pension plans responded to these challenges? What measures have they put in place that proved helpful? Are these changes here to stay? Are there any lessons to be learned from this experience that can improve pension plans? In this session, pension experts will review the implications for pensions going forward, addressing issues such as the following:

  • What measures did defined-benefit (DB) and defined-contribution (DC) plans put in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and maintain communication with their members? Were these measures effective from the point of view of employer plan sponsors and members?
  • Did plans with flexible design appear to withstand the pandemic better than traditional DB or DC plans did? How have plans in other jurisdictions fared? Are there measures that should be considered when designing plans in order to improve their ability to respond to future crises?
  • What measures did plans put in place to streamline their administrative practices or procedures? Were they effective?
  • Is there any data on how different investment strategies have fared as we emerge from the first phase of the pandemic? Have plans altered their investment strategies, revisited their risk tolerance, or rebalanced their investment mix in response to the economic downturn? Did plans with a value bias in their holdings achieve the expected downside protection? Are they reassessing that bias?
  • How have economic stimuli and relief measures such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy impacted pension plans? Were there any unforeseen effects of these programs? Are there any permanent regulatory changes that have been or should be made in response to the pandemic? Could COVID-19 usher in changes such as broader solvency reform?
  • In light of the pandemic, what is the direction of pension plans in the short, medium, and long terms?
  • What will pension plans do differently moving forward in light of lessons learned from the COVID-19 experience?

Lunch

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Thursday, December 3, 2020


Registration 9:00 AM - 9:15 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM  


Panel 3


Rethinking Governance: Building back better in a post-pandemic world

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

* Panelists to be announced

Panel Summary

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, pension administrators have a significant opportunity to rethink existing governance models and practices based on their performance throughout this challenging year. In this session, experts will discuss current issues in pension governance and explore possibilities for improving governance going forward, with a focus on the following:

  • What constitutes good governance? What key developments in law, policy, and stakeholder expectations have shaped the evolution of good governance in recent years?
  • What are the essential skills, knowledge, and competencies required of individual board members and of a board as a whole? What soft skills are critically important but often undervalued in appointment processes?
  • Over time, how can boards ensure that they have the skill sets to govern effectively in a continually changing environment? What are examples of best practices for the orientation, training, and continuing education of board members?
  • How does diversity among board members contribute to good governance and better outcomes for plan members? What types of diversity do boards often lack? What steps can plan administrators take to recruit, train, and retain diverse board members?
  • What governance models and practices have most successfully responded to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis? How have plan administrators adapted to address gaps in governance that have been exposed by the pandemic, and what are the implications for the future of pension governance?
  • What trends are emerging in the division and coordination of responsibilities between plan sponsors and plan administrators? What lessons can be learned from recent developments in governance of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), public-sector plans in Alberta, and the new Ontario University Pension Plan (UPP)?

END OF DAY ONE

2:00 PM

Friday, December 4, 2020


Registration 11:00 AM - 11:25 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 11:25 AM - 11:30 AM  


Panel 4


Pensions on the Move: Exploring the benefits and challenges of JSPPs, MEPPs, and other pooling models

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

* Panelists to be announced

Panel Summary

As membership in traditional single-employer defined-benefit (DB) plans continues to decline, alternative plan designs with pooling frameworks are receiving increased attention, including jointly sponsored pension plans (JSPPs), multi-employer pension plans (MEPPs), and variations on pooled defined-contribution (DC) plans. At the same time, efforts to improve the sustainability, affordability, and efficiency of pension plans have led to the growth of pooled asset management, including through investment master trusts and investment management corporations. In this session, panelists will assess the merits and drawbacks of the most prominent pooling approaches, addressing the following:

  • What are the most significant benefits and challenges associated with JSPPs, MEPPs, and variations on pooled DC plans? What is the appropriate level of funding for these plans?
  • How do the risk parameters for employers, members, and retirees change under the various pooling approaches?
  • Do any of the pension pooling models increase pension coverage? Do they enhance pension security? Do they simply consolidate smaller plans into larger ones?
  • What are the key advantages of pooled asset management, including investment master trusts and investment management corporations? What are the chief concerns?
  • Is the recent underperformance of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) — including its multi-billion-dollar losses through a volatility-based investment strategy — a warning sign for plans considering the use of a (voluntary) investment management corporation or other forms of pooled asset management?
  • How is the voluntary, not-for-profit Investment Management Corporation of Ontario (IMCO) faring since it began managing funds for clients in 2017? Does IMCO have expertise that differentiates it? How successful has IMCO been in recruiting new clients? Which organizations should consider joining it?

LUNCH

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Friday, December 4, 2020


Registration 11:00 AM - 11:25 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 11:25 AM - 11:30 AM  


Panel 5


Pension Plans in the New World of Work: Assessing the impact of disruptive technologies, artificial intelligence, and shifting demographics

1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

* Panelists to be announced

Panel Summary

In many respects, the future of work is now. Demographic shifts and technological innovation are rapidly changing the way businesses operate and the organization of work itself. These megatrends have a direct and lasting effect on pensions — from administration to member engagement to plan design. Seasoned professionals will provide insight into how plans are adapting to and capitalizing on current transformations and explore the possibilities for expanding pension coverage in this new era. Points of discussion include the following:

  • Can advances in disruptive technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) improve pension plan design, administration, investment management, and/or member engagement? If so, how? What are the key challenges and risks involved?
  • How are shifting demographics, including the growth of the millennial generation as the largest portion of the workplace, changing pension plan design? What is the impact of demographic changes on future types of retirement savings plans?
  • Will new and emerging pension models, such as variations on pooled defined-contribution (DC) plans, expand pension coverage for current and future generations of workers, including underrepresented groups? Do these models better respond to the rise of self-employed, freelance workers than traditional plan designs do? Is making enhancements to existing public pension schemes, including the Old Age Security (OAS) program and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), the best option for improving retirement security?

BREAK

2:30 PM - 2:45 PM

Friday, December 4, 2020


Registration 11:00 AM - 11:25 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 11:25 AM - 11:30 AM  


Panel 6


Past Reflections, Future Directions: Concluding insights and open-forum discussion

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

* Panelists to be announced

Panel Summary

In this session, the conference co-chairs will offer brief closing reflections on the conference as well as on the past, present, and future of the pension industry. Following these insights, the session will be conducted as an open forum, with facilitators inviting comments and questions from the floor regarding key issues and take-aways from the conference. Attendees will deepen their understanding of the current pension landscape and what lies ahead as they exchange ideas with experts and peers from across Canada.

Conference Ends

4:00 PM

Keynote Speakers


CPD


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