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Building up pensions for now and in the future

An interview with Emma Matthews, Head of Investment for NOW: Pensions

Emma Matthews, NOW: Pensions

A good nose for a deal

My interest in markets started when I was a child. My Dad was running an auction business and I learned that it was possible to earn money by buying quality items (e.g. jewellery or furniture) at an attractive price, enjoying them and then selling them on with a profit. Thinking about investing is similar in looking for something that gives good value and potential for appreciation over time. But it is not that easy and my interest for investing pension money goes beyond making a good deal. It is about acting as a steward safeguarding the pension savings of our members during accumulation. When it comes to pensions, every penny counts.

Responsible and sustainable future

As a long-term asset owner it is important to us to be a responsible and sustainable investor. This means managing the risk and return of the portfolio AND investing to have real world impact creating a sustainable future for our members. Since 2017, we’ve been investing in green bonds, which focus on funding environmental and climate-positive projects such as railways and wind farms. Going forward, we have set targets so that our portfolio will reach net zero by 2050. We are also increasing our engagement activities with support from Cardano. We find it particularly important to engage with our investee companies on their relationships with employee and local communities, on governance factors such as board diversity and remuneration, and environmental factors such as carbon emissions and water management.

A stable journey

Investing for the longer term is about reaching a destination, but the journey getting from here to there is equally important so that our members don’t need to worry. To achieve a more stable journey we want a responsible investment strategy that is balanced across different potential economic situations. Think of it as bringing an umbrella in the morning, even it if doesn’t rain. To accomplish this we focus on allocating risk, rather than capital, since that gives our members a more robust investment return across the business cycle.

Raising the bar

In our most recent investment review, our Trustee Board agreed that we need to take more risk in the savings phase, especially for younger members, and to further increase our approach to responsible investing. Together with our investment manager we have developed a portfolio to achieve this. It helped that our manager, Cardano, is able to bring the best of DB to DC investment management, applying tried and tested tools and techniques for building a responsible portfolio meeting our specific requirements on expected return, impact and charges.

What do you see in the future?

In my opinion, the journey of innovation in DC has only just begun. The ‘savings phase’ has been addressed with the introduction of Auto-Enrolment but solving the ‘spending phase’ remains a challenge for the industry. A retirement solution requires solving a consumption problem, rather than the traditional investment problem. To do that strong relationships with your investment manager and advisors is necessary. It’s important that they are able to think about the bigger picture and have the flexibility to develop solutions that address your overall needs rather than selling you a standard product off-the-shelf.

Why would you recommend Cardano?

The extraordinary team at Cardano has helped me visualise both the challenges and opportunities that we face. What I like about Cardano is that they very much have an independent mindset. The team is not tied to a specific methodology or school of thinking so they always provide me with different ways for reaching the end goal – a responsible and financially robust way for building up pensions for our members. Now, and in the future.

To learn more about NOW: Pensions, visit their website – nowpensions.com

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