In Episode 128, we welcome pension fund expert, Claude Lamoureux. We start with Claude’s background, which took him from Met Life to running the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan.
When Claude took over the pension, the fund was invested in just Canadian debt, and the size of the pension obligation was underestimated. Claude decided to use derivatives to diversify the portfolio. He expanded into the S&P, recruited an investment department, and within three years, had successfully reallocated the fund into the broad asset classes they wanted.
Meb asks how investing is different for a pension allocator versus an individual investor managing his own portfolio. Claude tells us that in the pension world, people don’t want to take responsibility. He wanted to do the opposite. He wanted to create a culture where people become entrepreneurial.
This dovetails into a conversation about valuations. Claude is a big believer in having a realistic valuation of liabilities and potential returns. He mentions that today, many U.S. pensions are expecting around 7% returns, which he finds unrealistic. Claude says people should earn the money before they spend it.
The conversation eventually turns toward Claude’s general market approach. Claude had a somewhat traditional policy portfolio, yet used lots of derivatives to diversify into stocks and non-Canadian bonds. He mentions how when you have a large deficit, you must go heavily into equities. He also liked private equity and real estate. And there was a great deal of leverage.
The conversation turns toward problems in the U.S. pension system. Claude gives us his take on the issue. In short, many pension liabilities here in the States aren’t measured properly. He also mentions interest rate assumptions and the fees of outside managers. Finally, Claude points toward politicians and how they don’t want to face the facts.
There’s plenty more in this pension-themed episode: the importance of being a student of the market history…the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance…the sage advice of “when you have to make a decision, always make the one that will let you sleep better, not the one that will let you eat better”…and of course, Claude’s most memorable trade.
All this and more in Episode 128.