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Investment strategy

The CAAT Plan's investment strategy is developed out of an asset-liability analysis and detailed risk assessment. The Plan’s $10.8 billion pension fund is well-diversified across a broad range of public and private asset classes and return sources. The guiding principles laid out in our Statement of Investment Policies and Procedures (SIPP) help ensure our assets are invested in a prudent and skillful manner, and follow the highest standards for quality, compliance and performance that will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the pension fund.

Risk management

The Plan employs several strategies for managing investment risk, including diversification and liability-sensitive investing.

Diversification helps reduce the risk that certain market fluctuations and economic factors will have a negative impact on large portions of our portfolio at the same time. Asset classes that experience strong performance under certain economic conditions can balance out those with weaker performance.

Examples of diversification include:

  • Asset classes (e.g. equity, fixed income, real assets and commodities)
  • Regional (e.g. Canadian, global, emerging markets)
  • Company type (e.g. large or small cap, public or private).

Liability-sensitive investing helps reduce risk by considering that part of the fund will behave in a similar way as the Plan’s liabilities.

The CAAT Plan's fund is divided between the following:

  • "Liability sensitive" investments that are split between “interest rate sensitive” assets (such as nominal bonds) and “inflation sensitive” assets (such as real return bonds, real assets and commodities) help to hedge the interest rate and inflation and sensitivity of our liabilities.
  • "Return enhancing" investments such as public and private equities are expected to grow faster than the liabilities over the long term.

Read more about the Plan's asset mix

Statement of Investment Policies and Procedures

The CAAT Plan's investment policies are documented in its Statement of Investment Policies and Procedures (SIPP), which serves as a blueprint for our investment strategy, outlining our investment goals, beliefs and philosophy. Among other things, the SIPP details the asset mix policy and permitted investments, as well as the long term return expectation and the Plan’s approach to responsible investment.

The SIPP also outlines the investment principles that guide the investment and risk management of the assets in the fund. These investment principles are:

To meet the goals of stable contribution rates and securing retirement income, the investment policies that govern the Fund should take into account the behaviour and sensitivities of the Plan’s liabilities.

Perfectly matching or immunizing the Plan’s liabilities is rarely achievable in practice because:

(i) Estimating the value and risk profile of the liabilities relies on many assumptions about member demographics that are altered frequently, as well as economic factors such as interest rates and inflation;

(ii) The value of the liabilities also varies with the discount rate which is in part driven by expected returns of the asset classes in the Fund and by the risk tolerance of the Plan’s governors; and

(iii) Fixed income instruments, such as long duration bonds and real return bonds, that help to hedge the economic risks, may not be available in the Canadian market in the form and quantities required (although use of derivative instruments such as swaps may be of help) and they do not hedge longevity or salary escalation risks.

Closer matching of assets to the liabilities may be achievable, but it may cause contribution rates to go above an affordable level.

Assets in the Fund are divided into three broad categories: interest rate sensitive, inflation sensitive and return enhancing.

Interest Rate Sensitive and Inflation Sensitive asset classes help to hedge the economic exposures to interest rates and inflation in the Plan’s liabilities. Return Enhancing asset classes provide the opportunity for long-term enhanced returns and diversification in managing contribution rate volatility. Several asset classes in which the Fund invests have characteristics and risk factors that fit into more than one of these categories.

The level of equity exposure will drive much of the risk level of the Fund assets relative to the liabilities and will vary depending upon the risk tolerance of the Board.

The risk tolerance of the Board will be influenced by the funded status of the Plan and therefore the return requirement.

Strategies that access different sources of return and / or increase portfolio diversification will be pursued in the expectation of enhanced long-term risk-adjusted returns. This includes the diversification of asset classes and risks as well as the diversification of sources of added value or alpha.

While there will be periods of equity underperformance, it is expected that equity investments will outperform bond investments over the long term.

While returns associated with non-Canadian currency movements relative to the Canadian dollar are not expected to have a significant effect on the return of the CAAT Plan over the very long term, over shorter periods, currency movements may cause returns to be volatile. Hedging will be employed for certain non-Canadian currency exposures.

Active management is employed for those strategies where there is an expectation of adding value relative to a benchmark over the long term net of expenses. 

All active management activities are carried out within defined parameters. Active management performance is measured against appropriate absolute or relative benchmarks and relevant asset class peer groups.

Passive investment management may be used in certain asset classes where the prospects of adding value are diminished based on market efficiency or limited opportunity or in managing the level of active risk exposures within asset classes.

While the Plan’s liabilities are long-term in nature, the requirement to file valuation results with the regulator every three years (which in turn can drive contribution levels) means the investment horizon of the Fund has to be balanced between the relatively short term and the long term.   The ability to smooth asset values and to work within a range of acceptable valuation assumptions helps to extend the investment horizon of the Fund.

The long-term nature of the Plan’s liabilities allows for a material portion of the assets in the Fund to be invested in illiquid assets.  Investment in illiquid assets such as infrastructure, real estate or private equity shall be implemented for those investments where there is expected to be additional return available due in part to an illiquidity premium.

Leverage, defined as the use of non-cash backed derivative instruments or borrowed capital to increase the expected rate of return received from investment activities or to manage risk, may be used in defined and controlled circumstances as permitted by applicable law and approved by the Board.

Financial assets in Canada represent a very small segment of global market capitalization and are concentrated by industry sector and geographically. While there may be reasons for the Plan to hold Canadian investments in excess of their global market weight within a particular asset class, global diversification of investments is beneficial to the Plan and will be employed.

In addition, the SIPP describes the Plan’s approach to responsible investing.

The primary goal of the CAAT Plan’s responsible investing activities is to assist in maximizing the Fund’s risk adjusted returns. The Plan’s Trustees believe that, over the long term, companies that have sound corporate governance structures and practices will outperform those that do not and that managing the risk to long-term shareholder return includes the awareness and management of the environmental and social impacts of a corporation’s business activities.

The key components of the Plan’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) activities are:

  • The CAAT Plan is a signatory to the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment Initiative;
  • The Plan’s proxy votes are cast in such a way as to encourage corporations to be environmentally and socially responsible, to adopt sound governance practices and to disclose information on ESG factors and risks;
  • The CAAT Plan joins with other institutional investors in engaging with the management of corporations in which it invests to encourage better ESG practices; and
  • The Fund’s investment managers are encouraged to incorporate ESG factors in their investment management processes, where appropriate to the mandate.

Read more about responsible investing

Download the full SIPP (PDF - November 2017)

Asset mix

The Plan’s team of investment professionals implements the investment policies established by the Board of Trustees. The team recommends to the Board of Trustees the asset mix based on Asset-Liability Modelling studies  conducted every few years. These studies test the future potential investment performance of various asset mixes and funded status and other key outcomes under a range of economic and demographic scenarios.


Asset mix aligned to liabilities

The Plan’s diversified investment portfolio falls into three broad categories: Interest-rate-sensitive, Inflation-sensitive, and Return-enhancing.

Interest-rate-sensitive and Inflation-sensitive assets help offset the sensitivities to changing interest rates and to inflation that impact the valuation of the Plan’s pension payment stream. Return-enhancing assets help the Plan meet its expected rate of return and keep contribution rates appropriate and affordable for contributing members and employers.

Asset Mix

Because pension plans like ours have an investment time horizon that is decades into the future, they can provide stable sources of long-term capital for investments such as infrastructure, real estate and private equity.

Julie Cays, Chief Investment Officer

Investment performance

The ultimate objective of the investment strategy is to deliver a rate of return that will fund current and future pension benefits while keeping contribution rates affordable for our members.

2018 Highlights

More details can be found in the most recent Annual Report.

Responsible Investing

The CAAT Pension Plan believes that, over the long term, companies that have sound corporate governance structures and practices will outperform those that do not. 

The Plan believes that managing the risk to long-term shareholder return includes the awareness and management of the environmental and social impacts of a corporation’s business activities. Inattention to these impacts can result in, among other things, reputational harm that in turn can lead to financial underperformance.

In carrying out investment activities, the Plan follows its Responsible Investing Policy that covers:

  • proxy voting
  • corporate engagement
  • encouraging the integration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in investment processes.

Objectives

The primary objective of the CAAT Pension Plan’s responsible investing activities is to assist in maximizing the Fund’s risk adjusted returns.   

Principles

The CAAT Plan’s Board of Trustees believes that, over the long term, companies that have sound corporate governance structures and practices will outperform those that do not.  

The Board believes that managing the risk to long-term shareholder return includes the awareness and management of the environmental and social impacts of a corporation’s business activities. Inattention to these impacts can result in, among other things, reputational harm that in turn can lead to financial underperformance.

The Board supports and encourages fair wages, benefits and working conditions for workers employed by our assets.  In particular, we point to the ILO Principles addressing the right to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively and freedom for workers’ representatives from discrimination and their right to access all workplaces necessary to enable them to carry out their representation functions.

The Board recognizes the important role and contribution of public employees – and a public sector with sufficient capacity and resources – in ensuring the long-term prosperity of our society and economy.

Practices

United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Initiative

The CAAT Plan is a signatory to the PRI Initiative, which is made up of an international network of institutional investors that are committed to incorporating responsible investment issues into their decision making and ownership practices.

Proxy Voting

One of the most important ways for the Plan to encourage corporations to be environmentally and socially responsible and to adopt sound governance practices is by using its proxy vote.  The Plan or its voting service provider will:

  • Vote proxies in a thoughtful, responsible manner.  Shareholder proposals on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues will be examined on a case-by-case basis taking into account the possible effects that any proposed actions would have on the long-term shareholder value of the corporation.
  • Encourage disclosure by corporations on ESG factors and risks so that investors can be better informed as they do their financial and fundamental analysis.
  • Vote for proposals that corporations adopt policies that embrace the following third party guidelines/ principles:
    • The International Labour Organization’s Conventions
    • The Ceres Principles on the Environment
    • OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises - General Principles

Corporate Engagement

The CAAT Plan will also join with other institutional investors in engaging with the management of corporations in which it invests to encourage better environmental, social and governance practices.

  • Membership in the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance
  • Participation in the Pension Investment Association of Canada (PIAC)’s investor stewardship and advocacy endeavours
  • Sign on to:
    • CDP (carbon disclosure and water use)  o Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative o Other initiatives that are consistent with the principles of this Policy and approved by the Managing Fiduciaries

Investment Managers and General Partners

In meetings with the Fund’s Investment Managers and General Partners, where appropriate to the type of mandate, the CAAT Plan will encourage the incorporation of environmental, social and governance factors into the investment management processes.

On an annual basis, Investment Managers and General Partners are asked to respond to a series of questions about how ESG issues are integrated into their investment processes.

Direct and Co-investments

In due diligence processes relating to private market direct and co-investment opportunities, the CAAT Plan will consider ESG factors in risk analysis.

Reporting

Each year a report will be provided to the Investment Committee on how this Policy is incorporated into the CAAT Plan’s investment activities.

Policy Review

The Board of Trustees will review this policy at least once every three years to ensure that it remains relevant and appropriate.

Policy History

The Board of Trustees approved this Policy on March 27, 2007.

The Board of Trustees approved an amended Policy on May 31, 2016.

Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI)

The CAAT Plan is a signatory to the United Nations supported Principles for Responsible Investment, together with over 1,800 institutional investors from more than 50 countries. The signatories to the six Principles for Responsible Investment believe that: “an economically efficient, sustainable global financial system is a necessity for long-term value creation. Such a system will reward long-term, responsible investment and benefit the environment and society as a whole.”

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Proxy voting

The Plan will vote the proxies attached to its shareholdings thoughtfully and responsibly. Shareholder proposals dealing with ESG factors will be examined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the effects of the proposals on shareholder value. 

Corporate Engagement

The CAAT Pension Plan joins with other institutional investors in Canada to encourage regulators and the management of corporations to strive for better governance practices and more comprehensive disclosure of environmental, social, and governance risks.

The Plan participates in or is a signatory to the following responsible investing initiatives:

Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG)
The Plan is a member of the CCGG, which represents the interests of institutional investors in promoting good governance practices in Canadian public companies and the improvement of the regulatory environment.

Pension Investment Association of Canada (PIAC)
Members of the CAAT Plan investment team are active members of PIAC, which sets out to develop, monitor, and promote sound standards of corporate governance in Canada.

Institutional Limited Partners Association (ILPA)
The Plan is an active member of ILPA and has endorsed ILPA's Private Equity Principles, which promote the alignment of interest, good governance, and transparency that form the basis of effective relationships between limited and general partners.

CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project)
The Plan is a signatory to the CDP and the related CDP Water Disclosure initiatives. CDP initiatives encourage companies globally to disclose information related to environmental impacts, enabling investors to evaluate the risks in their portfolios relating to these factors.

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