The authors review the eight largest public pension funds in Canada. These funds are an important source of retirement income for Canadians. They are also significant investors, with net assets under management of over $1 trillion. The authors outline the investment strategies of the funds and how they interact with financial institutions and participate in financial markets. They also discuss the ways in which the funds’ risk-management frameworks could contribute to financial system stability and how they minimize potential vulnerabilities.
Defined-benefit (DB) pension plans account for the majority of employer pension fund assets. In recent years, a number of DB plans have become underfunded, in sharp contrast to the 1990s, when many plans had large actuarial surpluses. The deterioration in the financial health of DB plans has underscored various longer-term structural issues that could make it increasingly difficult for plan sponsors to manage the financial risks of these plans. Tuer and Woodman examine how funding deficits, a greater focus on plan liabilities, a low yield environment, and changing investment beliefs are influencing investment decisions in the Canadian DB pension sector. They review the funding of DB plans, changing views on the equity-risk premium, and the shift towards liability-centred approaches to investment and how these developments are affecting pension sector investment. They also consider additional influences on the pension sector, including the limited supply of long-term bonds, the elimination of the foreign-property rule, and the movement towards fair-value accounting and a financial-economics approach to actuarial valuation, as well as their implications for financial markets.
Effective 1 November 2003, the Bank of Canada abandoned its practice of backdating the results of settlement of payments through the Automated Clearing Settlement System (ACSS). It has adopted instead a system of "next-day" settlement under which the results of the settlement process will appear on the central bank's books on the day the items actually settle in the ACSS.
Since July 1986, settlement of these items had occurred at noon the day after items were presented for clearing, but the results were recognized on the Bank's books the previous day, through backdating, or "retroactive" settlement. The new system should simplify the payments process and improve the reporting of settlement risk, as well as promote cost-effectiveness within the payments systems. ACSS participants have agreed among themselves to implement an interest-compensation mechanism in order to avoid imposing a float charge on their customer base.