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Pension Revolution: A Solution to the Pensions Crisis

ISBN: 978-0-470-08723-7
368 pages
January 2007
Pension Revolution: A Solution to the Pensions Crisis (0470087234) cover image
Praise for Pension Revolution

"When Keith Ambachtsheer puts his keen mind to work on a problem, watch out! Here he exposes today's fragile arrangements for the most serious social dilemma of our times--financing retirement. Then he provides a compelling and powerful set of solutions. His writings are essential reading for all who care about the future of American living standards."
--Peter Bernstein, founder and President, Peter L. Bernstein, Inc., and author of Capital Ideas and Against the Gods

"This book describes one of the most ingenious inventions in the history of mankind: pension funds offering credible promises about old-age income. It reads like a thriller: how can well-governed pension funds be created in an imperfect world in which mortals wrestle with foibles and moral shortcomings? One of the world's leading experts on pensions searches for the answer--and finds it."
--Lans Bovenberg, Scientific Director, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging, and Retirement, Tilburg University, The Netherlands

"Pension Revolution exposes the inadequacies of current pension systems and persuasively makes the case for the fundamental changes that are needed. It is essential reading for both the pension industry and policymakers."
--Elizabeth Bryan, Chair, Investment Committee, Unisuper Management PM Ltd, Australia

"Most analyses of complicated issues deal with complexity by simplifying or only looking at one piece-part, and, in doing so, provide limited value. In stark contrast, Keith Ambachtsheer boldly wades into the complexity in Pension Revolution to come up with a valuable integrative solution. He is a most welcome revolutionary!"
--Roger Martin, Dean, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Canada

"We have known Keith for over ten years, and consistently over that time, he has constructively and comprehensively challenged conventional wisdom. He has done this so effectively that many of his initial thoughts have now become universally accepted norms. Such is his energy however that he continues to push the boundaries of pension and investment thinking."
--Peter Moon, Chief Investment Officer, Universities Superannuation Scheme Ltd, UK

"Pension Revolution not only explains the shortcomings of the existing pension system and the underlying design features that have resulted in the current pension upheaval. It also offers thoughtful and creative suggestions for prospective pension design. A must-read for anyone interested in the future of retirement finance."
--James Poterba, Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the TIAA-CREF Board of Trustees
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Preface: Peter Drucker’s Pension Revolution: Here at Last.

Introduction: Why a Pension Revolution Now?

The Trouble with DB Plans.

DC Plans Are Not the Answer Either.

Expert Pension Co-ops.

TOPS Tipping Points.

PART ONE: The Pension Revolution: Touchstones.

CHAPTER 1: Are Pension Funds "Irrelevant"?

An "Unreasonable" Actuary?

Exley’s Four Irrelevance Propositions.

So What Is Relevant?

Responding to Exley.

Relevant Pension Funds: Building the Case.

Managing Retirement Income Risks.

Leveling the Informational Playing Field.

Getting the Execution of the Idea Right.

CHAPTER 2: The Pension Revolution—Are You a Believer Yet?

A Revolutionary Reordering of the Pensions Firmament.

From Fuzzy Pension Deals to "Risk-Sharing Co-ops."

Toward Pension "Business Models" That Work: The Risk Issue.

Toward Pension "Business Models" That Work: The Scale Issue.

The Pension Governance Issue.

Two Role Models.

PGGM.

SunSuper.

Great Treasures?

CHAPTER 3: After the Perfect Pension Storm: What Now?

From Vegas to Oxford: In Search of Answers.

Do Nothing or Something?

The Corporate Context: Two Basic Choices.

New DC Plan ‘‘Business Model’’ Also Needed.

The Industry/Public-Sector Pension Context.

The "Fair Value" Question.

Better Public Pensions Policy.

CHAPTER 4: Beyond Portfolio Theory: The Next Frontier.

Investment Theory’s Next Frontier: The Academic View.

Investment Theory’s Next Frontier: Two Further Considerations.

The Next Frontier: "Integrative Investment Theory."

CHAPTER 5: The United Airlines Case: Tipping Point for U.S. Pension System?

The United Airlines Case.

A Good Question and Two Very Different Answers.

ERISA’s "Sole Interest" Rule.

Lessons from Abroad.

Searching for "Supreme" Answers.

The UAL Case in Context.

CHAPTER 6: Peter Drucker’s Pension Revolution After 30 Years: Not Over Yet.

Two Unfashionable Themes.

Politico-Agency Issues.

Pension Contract and Risk Issues.

Investment Beliefs.

Pension Fund Governance.

Still Much Work to Do.

CHAPTER 7: Winning the Pension Revolution: Why the Dutch Are Leading the Way.

The Globe’s Number One Pensions Country.

Culture, Compactness, and Leadership.

Regulatory Leadership.

Research Leadership.

A Remaining Challenge: Solving the Organization Design Puzzle.

What About the Other Pensions Countries?

CHAPTER 8: Pension Reform: Evolution or Revolution?

A Pension "Tipping Point" Indeed.

What Should Happen?

Pension Reform in the United States.

Pension Reform Elsewhere.

Pension Reform: Evolution or Revolution?

PART TWO: Building Better Pension Plans.

CHAPTER 9: Can Game Theory Help Build Better Pension Plans?

Pension Games.

Why do Pension Game Switches Occur?

Who Are the Stakeholders and What do They Want?

Sources of Risk in Pension Schemes.

Mitigating Micro Risks.

Can We Mitigate Macro Risks?

Is Investment Risk Worth Taking in DB Plans?

Can Game Theory Build Better Pension Plans?

CHAPTER 10: If DB and DC Plans Are Not the Answers, What Are the Questions?

From Answers to Questions.

Ultimate Pension Questions and Their Consequences.

Underwriting Pension Mismatch Risk: Any Volunteers?

Should Pension Mismatch Risk Be Minimized?

Pension-Delivery Institutions.

Benchmarking Traditional DB and DC Plans.

The Way Ahead.

CHAPTER 11: Human Foibles and Agency Dysfunction: Building Pension Plans for the Real World.

Some Fundamental Questions First.

Back to First Principles.

Human Foibles.

Agency Issues.

Counteracting Human Foibles.

Minimizing Agency Costs.

TOPS, Employers, and Public Policy.

TOPS and DB Plans.

CHAPTER 12: DB Plans and Bad Science.

Science and the Design of Pension Contracts.

The TOPS Contract.

Taking on Investment Risk: Implications.

Is Investment Regime Risk Insurable?

Intergenerational Bargaining.

Robust Course-Correction Mechanisms Required.

The Flawed DB Model.

Bad Science.

CHAPTER 13: Peter Drucker’s Pension Legacy: A Vision of What Could Be.

Two Handshakes to Remember.

The Melbourne Message.

TOPS: Neither DC nor DB.

TOPS and Investing.

TOPS and Governance.

TOPS and the Real World.

The Drucker Visit.

PART THREE: Pension Fund Governance.

CHAPTER 14: Reinventing Pension Fund Management: Easier Said than Done.

A Paradigm Shift?

Novelties of Fact.

Novelties of Theory.

Pension Industry Responses.

Crossing the "Innovation Chasm."

CHAPTER 15: Should (Could) You Manage Your Fund Like Harvard or Ontario Teachers’?

Four Things in Common.

Legal Foundations: Solid or Not?.

Governance and Management: Understanding the Difference.

Investment Beliefs: Theirs or Yours?

Investment Processes: Like Wall Street?

Should You Manage Like HMC or OTPP?

Could You Manage Like HMC or OTPP?

CHAPTER 16: "Beauty Contest" Investing: Not Dead Yet.

"Déjà Vu All Over Again."

Why "Beauty Contest Investing" Is Ugly.

Integrative Investment Theory.

Investment Beliefs.

Managing from the Inside Out.

CHAPTER 17: Eradicating "Beauty Contest" Investing: What It Will Take.

The Ugliness of "Beauty Contest" Investing.

A Two-Pronged Eradication Strategy.

What Corporations Must Do.

What Investing Institutions Must Do.

A Debilitating Pension Fund Governance Problem.

Light at the End of the "Beauty Contest" Tunnel?

CHAPTER 18: High-Performance Cultures: Impossible Dream for Pension Funds?

Thinking and Acting Like Goldman Sachs.

New Research Results.

Specific Governance and Management Challenges.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER 19: How Much Is Good Governance Worth?

Governance Quality and Organization Performance Should Be Related.

A Road Map for the Journey of Discovery.

The Pension CEO Score and NVA Metrics: The Data.

Pension CEO Scores Meet NVA Metrics.

Further Insights.

The Value of Good Governance.

PART FOUR: Investment Beliefs.

CHAPTER 20: The 10 Percent Equity Return Illusion: Possible Consequences.

Consequential Miscalculations.

Why 10 Percent Doesn’t Work.

Painted into an Awkward Corner?

Consequences.

CHAPTER 21: Stocks for the Long Run? . . . or Not?

A Debate with Jeremy Siegel.

How Investment Theory Became Investment Practice.

What Is Wrong with These "Proofs."

What if "Reality" Is Not a Random Walk?

Investment Regimes, Dividend Yields, and ERPs.

The Post-Bubble Blues Decade.

CHAPTER 22: "Persistent Investment Regimes" or "Random Walk"? Even Shakespeare Knew the Answer.

The Ambachtsheer-Siegel Debate Revisited.

History on Our Side.

The Investment Returns Story: How to Tell It.

The "Investment Regime" Game: Spot Today’s Well Before It’s Over, and Tomorrow’s Before It’s Gone on Too Long.

"Regime Spotting" versus "Random Walk": Which Is More Useful?

Theory on Our Side, Too.

Fellow Travelers.

CHAPTER 23: The Fuss about Policy Portfolios: Adrift in Institutional Wonderland.

Tempest in a Teapot . . . or Not?

Duality in Finance: A Brief History.

Financial Duality in Pension and Endowment Funds: Building the Conceptual Framework.

New Insights from the CEM Database.

Enter Organizational Dysfunction.

Decisions by Default.

CHAPTER 24: Shifting the Investment Paradigm: A Progress Report.

The "Policy Portfolio" Debate Continues.

A Lens to See the World.

Why the "Old" Lens Distorts.

A Varying Equity Risk Premium.

A New Lens.

A Higher Level of Thinking.

Glimmers of Light.

CHAPTER 25: Whose "Investment Beliefs" Do You Believe?

Writing an "Investment Beliefs" Statement.

Inferring Beliefs from Actions.

Measuring Predictive Ability.

What about Market Timing and Strategic Asset Allocation?

Expected ERP Powerful Predictor.

Enter Woody Brock.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER 26: Our 60-40 Asset Mix Policy Advice in 1987: Wise or Foolish?

Why Roll the Clock Back 20 Years?

Leibowitz’s Immunization Campaign.

Investment Beliefs in 1987.

Investment Beliefs in 1997.

The Right Kind of Active Management.

Wise or Foolish?

CHAPTER 27" "But What Does the Turtle Rest On?" A Further Exploration of Investment Beliefs.

"But What Does the Turtle Rest On"?

The Efficient Markets Hypothesis: Fact or Fiction?

The Three Strikes against the EMH.

Economists and "Operationally Meaningful Theorems."

The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis.

The AMH’s Five Practical Implications.

The AMH and Integrative Investment Theory.

CHAPTER 28: Professor Malkiel and the New Investment Paradigm: Raining on the Parade?

Raining on the "New Paradigm" Parade?

The Bases for Malkiel’s Skepticism

An Alternative Conclusion.

Winning Evidence.

The "Good Governance" Boost.

We’re Both Right.

CHAPTER 29: The "Post-Bubble Blues Decade": A Progress Report.

Another Nail in the IID Coffin.

Why Non-IID Logic Wins.

Investment Regimes in the Real World.

What Seems to Actually Be Happening?

Some Actual Numbers.

The Bottom Line.

PART FIVE: Risk in Pension Plans.

CHAPTER 30: Rethinking Funding Policy and Regulation: How Should Pension Plans Be Financed?

The Devil in the Details.

How Many Course-Correction Tools?

Making Financing Decisions: In Whose Interest?

An Analytical Framework for Assessing DB Plan Financing Decisions.

"Rational" Explanations.

Four Principles to Fund By.

CHAPTER 31: Funding Policy and Investment Policy: How Should They Be Integrated in DB Pension Plans?

Principles to Fund and Invest By.

What Makes DB Pension "Contracts" Risky?

Should DB Funding Target Calculations Assume That More Risk Means More Return?

Is Current "Accepted Actuarial Practice" Unacceptable?

What Is an "Acceptable Level of Certainty"?

Surplus Ownership.

Cleaning Up Our Act.

CHAPTER 32: Resurrecting Ranva: Adjusting Investment Returns for Risk.

Resurrecting RANVA.

RANVA in 1998.

Measuring RANVA in the Real World.

The 2000 to 2004 Experience: Lessons.

Remaining Barriers.

CHAPTER 33: Adjusting Investment Returns for Risk: What’s the Best Way?

Resurrecting RANVA.

The "Cost of Market Volatility" Approach.

The "Cost of Insurance" Approach with Risk Buffers.

The "Cost of Insurance" Approach with Put Options.

PART SIX: Measuring Results.

CHAPTER 34: Pension Plan Organizations: Measuring "Competitiveness."

Pension Plan Organizations and "Legitimacy."

"Provider of Choice" for Which Services?

Benchmarking Pension Services.

Costing the Benefit Administration "Business."

The Benefit Administration Cost Equation.

Build or Buy?

CHAPTER 35: Measuring DC Plans as "Value Propositions": The New Imperative for Plan Sponsors.

Silk Purses from Sows’ Ears.

Measures of "Prudence."

The ‘‘Own-Company Stock’’ Phenomenon.

Understanding DC Plan Total Returns.

DC versus DB Plan Cost Performance.

Other DC Plan Performance Metrics.

"Value Proposition": Yes or No?

CHAPTER 36: Measuring Pension Fund Behavior (1992 to 2004): What Can We Learn?

A Well-Endowed Database.

Current International Investment Policy and Implementation Style Differences.

Ten-Year Investment Policy and Implementation Style Trends for U.S. Funds.

Did Active Management Add Value?

The Selection "Alphas": Good News and Bad News.

Is There Also a Payoff from Actively Managing Pension Fund Costs?

Two Important Lessons Learned Thus Far.

PART SEVEN: Pensions, Politics, and the Investment Industry.

CHAPTER 37: Whither Security Analysis?

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble.

Fortune Trashes Wall Street.

Is Better Regulation the Answer?

Reversing the Financial Food Chain.

What Is Security Analysis, Anyway?

Even Good Security Analysis Needs Context.

Effective "Buy-Side" Structures.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER 38: Pension Funds and Investment Firms: Redefining the Relationship.

Who Are the Simbas of the Pension Investment Kingdom?

The Money Flood .

A Question of Governance.

Enter the Anthropologists.

A Call to "Excellence."

What Do "Excellent" Pension Funds Look Like?

A Supplier-Driven Market.

The Tiny Equity Risk Premium Factor "New Paradigm" Pension Funds: What Kind of Investment Services Do They Want?

New Pension Fund–Investment Firm Partnerships.

Could You Be a "New Paradigm" Player?

CHAPTER 39: The New Pension Fund Management Paradigm: Feedback from Financial Analysts.

Test Driving the New Paradigm.

Pension Politics and Economics.

Pension Plan Governance.

The New Pension Fund Management Paradigm.

Putting the Paradigm in Practice.

Performance Measurement.

Did the Yardsticks Move Forward or Backward?

CHAPTER 40: Reconnecting GAAP and Common Sense: The Cases of Stock Options and Pensions.

Closing the Information GAAP.

When Are Employee Stock Options "Expenses"?

The Common-Sense Solution in Action.

Current Pension Accounting Rules Defy Common Sense, Too.

Sensible Pension Accounting Rules.

Common Sense in Action.

Carpe Diem.

CHAPTER 41: Is Sri Bunk?

SRI and Zen.

What Is "Socially Responsible Investing"?

A Slippery Slope?

Sustainable Investing.

Assessing the Sustainability of Dividend Growth.

From Saying to Doing: A Case Study.

Redefining the SRI Revolution.

CHAPTER 42: Alpha, Beta, Bafflegab: Investment Theory as Marketing Strategy.

Giving Alpha and Beta a Rest.

The Beautiful Art of Language.

The Myth of "Absolute-Return Investing."

Investment Theory with the End in Mind.

The Critical Role of Fund Governance.

Pension Revolution.

CHAPTER 43: The Turner Pensions Commission Report: A Blueprint for Global Pension Reform.

Pension Wisdom from the United Kingdom.

Turner’s Recommendations.

The Power of Integrative Thinking.

Blueprint for Global Pension Reform.

NPSS Governance, Management, and Investment Options.

Moving Forward.

CHAPTER 44: More Pension Wisdom from Europe: The Geneva Report on Pension Reform.

Eight Hands, Four Economists, and One Point of View.

Powerful Pension Policy Implications.

Labor Markets and Human Capital.

Optimal Risk Sharing.

Optimal Pension Fund Organizations.

A Powerful Pension Vision.

PART EIGHT: The Case of PERS.

CHAPTER 45: PERS and the Pension Revolution: Active Participant . . . or Passive Bystander?

Alyson Green’s New Job.

History of Workplace Pensions.

The 1976 to 2005 Period.

Governance–Organizational Issues at PERS.

Finance–Investment Beliefs.

Pension Contract–Risk Issues at PERS.

Is a Higher Contribution Rate the Answer?

More Drastic Action Indicated.

Spreading the Pain Evenly.

Is Risk-Sharing an Essential Pension Plan Feature?.

Getting from Here to There.

Devising an Action Plan.

CHAPTER 46: Advice for Alyson Green: How PERS Can Join the Pension Revolution.

Case Discussion Summary from October 25, 2005.

The PERS Situation.

The PERS Debate.

In Conclusion: A Call to Arms.

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KEITH P. AMBACHTSHEER is the Director of the Rotman International Centre for Pension Management at the University of Toronto and founder of KPA Advisory Services, Ltd. He is an award-winning analyst of pensions and investment issues who advises governments, industry associations, pension plan sponsors, and money managers on pension governance, finance, and investment. His advisory publication, the Ambachtsheer Letter, regularly reaches 150 different institutional clients across the world. Ambachtsheer is also a cofounder of CEM Benchmarking Inc., which monitors the management quality of 300 of the world's largest DB and DC pension funds. He is the coauthor of Pension Fund Excellence: Creating Value for Stakeholders (Wiley).
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“I enjoyed reading the book…Well documented, the author makes it clear that it is time to change our thinking about asset management.” (Investment & Pensions Europe,  April 2007) 

“This book is a valuable tool in raising awareness of the current climate and provides people with the information they need to create efficient pension solutions in the future." (Pensions World, May 2007)


 

"The tectonic plates of governance reform have totally transformed the landscape of governance in publicly traded corporations. Now, Ambachtsheer challenges the owners of those corporations, the institutional investors, to examine themselves and to reform their own fiduciary practices."
—David Beatty, Managing Director, Canadian Coalition for Good Governance, Canada

"I discovered Keith Ambachtsheer's cutting-edge ideas and thinking a decade ago, and only wish I had discovered him sooner. Ambachtsheer offers intelligent and practical strategic thinking about pension governance, benefit design, and investment policy. If you are struggling with the pension crisis, you owe it to yourself to read the Pension Revolution."
—David Blitzstein, Director, Negotiated Benefits Department, United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, U.S.A.

"Retirement plans are a critical part of both the social systems and the financial systems of the free world. They are failing on both counts. Turning failure to success will be no mean task, and there is no better place to begin than Pension Revolution. It demands your attention."
—Jack Bogle, Founder and Former CEO, The Vanguard Group, U.S.A.

"Over the years, Keith Ambachtsheer has triggered pension funds around the world with ground breaking initiatives like CEM and his insightful 'Ambachtsheer Letters.' This book is no exception to this impressive tradition. The issues raised in this book should be in the forefront of the minds of trustees, pension professionals and regulators. Pension Revolution will definitely be one of the key contributions to the pension debate and the challenge to design sustainable pension systems."
—Else Bos, CEO, PGGM Investments, The Netherlands

"Yet another revolution in pensions! This one is about the very future of private pensions, their design, benefits, funding and the distribution of risk. As we would expect from Keith Ambachtsheer, this book combines perceptive and informed assessment of the issues with a way forward. This is nothing short of Drucker's world re-written for the twenty-first century."
—Gordon Clark, Professor of Geography and Director of the Oxford University Centre for the Environment, Oxford University,U.K.

"Financing retirement income has reached crisis proportions around the world. Keith has thought as much as anyone about how to best redeem and redefine societies' vital, yet frail structures for delivering income to workers once they retire. Here in one place you get the benefit of that accumulated wisdom."
—Richard Ennis, Co-founder and Chairman, Ennis Knupp + Associates, U.S.A., and Editor, Financial Analysts Journal

"I have known and worked with Keith for many years and look forward to the next chapter in his analysis of the pension fund business. I anticipate a thought provoking "solution" which will no doubt impact how many of us think about our business going forward."
—Nancy Everett, President and Chief Executive Officer, General Motors Asset Management, U.S.A.

"While I don't necessarily agree with all of Keith's pension revolution conclusions and proposed solutions, I do believe there is great value in seriously considering the issues. This thought-provoking book makes a substantial contribution to promoting that highly desirable end result."
—Gary Findlay, Executive Director, Missouri State Employees' Retirement System, U.S.A.

"A cure for pension ills? Founded on problems so well defined and incorporating relevant factors so well described in his earlier works, Keith's Pension Revolution is surely an excellent prescription. Whether it is a cure is up to those of us with oversight responsibilities."
—Michael Grandin, Corporate Director and former Dean, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada

"Keith Ambachtsheer is one of the few pension thinkers consistently worth (re-)reading. His writings push all stakeholders towards clarity of purpose, governance, measurement, expression, and execution. Ineluctably his TOPS model offers a new vision for future pension deals."
—Jack Gray, Global Investment Strategist, GMO Australia Limited and Advisor to Sunsuper, Australia

"When it comes to investment and pension funds, Keith has spend more time than anyone thinking, researching, writing and talking about how to get better investment performance and pension outcomes. Pension systems around the world are at a crossroad. The book is a must read for decision makers as well as plan participants."
—Claude Lamoureux, President & Chief Executive Officer, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Canada

"No one in the world knows more about Pension Funds than Keith Ambachtsheer. Pension Revolution exactly elucidates the causes of the global pension crisis and offers a comprehensive blueprint for pension reform."
—Burton Malkiel, Professsor of Economics, Princeton University, U.S.A., and author of "A Random Walk Down Wall Street"

"As a keen reader of Keith’s 'Ambachtsheer Letters', I know his writings to be thought-provoking, bar-raising, and innovative. His new book is a ‘must-read’ for anyone involved in pension fund management. Putting his ideas in practice will benefit pension plan members around the world."
—Roderick Munsters, Chief Investment Officer, ABP Pensionfund, The Netherlands

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