“We think this is a new bargain that can deliver better results for both pension savers and private equity managers,” @nestpensions – please make this happen!
— Henry Tapper (@henryhtapper) April 5, 2021
Now we are getting somewhere.
I’ve had my run ins with Mark Fawcett over the years. Either I’ve learned to understand him or he’s getting to grips with being CIO to Nest – or both.
I cast my mind back a few years to Chris Sier asking Mark Fawcett what he was paying his managers, Mark admitted that Nest’s Investment Management Agreements were under non-disclosure agreements. I thought this wrong then and I think it wrong now. And I hope that when Nest cuts this new bargain, it will make it clear what the bargain is.
Nest is in the process of repaying a huge amount of money borrowed from the taxpayer on preferential terms. Part of this loan is justified by Nest being not for profit and fulfilling a public service obligation.
It is in the public’s interest to access parts of the investment market which are currently “private” and to do so in a way that delivers its savers value for their money. In his interview with the FT’s Chris Flood, Mark Fawcett makes some bold and encouraging statements including the succinct
We won’t pay two and 20
“Two and 20” is the way that hedge funds extract value from their customers , taking 2% of the investment upfront and harvesting 20% of the profits (as determined by the hedge fund valuation process) along the way.
Fawcett is explicit in separating Nest’s capacity to take on the hedge-fund hegemony.
“The total level of fees levied by most private market funds will remain too high for many DC pension schemes to access,”
He’s right, and hedge fund managers aren’t going to drop their pants to any old scheme that thinks that Nest’s terms are available to any DC scheme. We need consolidation so that all DC schemes can compete with Nest and provide better outcomes to all DC workplace savers.
We also need Nest to raise the game elsewhere. The “ours by right” attitude of some parts of the wealth management industry needs to be challenged. While behemoths such as SJP might rival Nest for hedge fund manager’s terms, most Discretionary Fund Managers will not.
Advisers choosing to take money out of Nest and other super DC funds are going to need strong arguments if they are to pacify the FCA which is now openly arguing that Nest and People’s Pension and other large schemes be considered in the advisory process.
There are those in the investment management industry looking to take advantage of doors opened by Nest and others. I spoke last week with Darren Agomber, the outsourced CIO of Smart Pensions and CEO of Connected Asset Management.
Smart is not able to cut deals as Nest can, but we may see pooling of assets in funds that allow second tier master trusts getting access to private equity on pretty well equivalent terms. Connected Asset Management clearly think this is possible.
What is good – and new – and different, is that we have fund analytics businesses like ClearGlass and Byhiras that can look inside the charging structures and tell us whether what is displayed is what we get, or whether it’s more smoke and mirrors.
It is important that Nest now drop all these NDAs and “most favored nation” clauses . It must be transparent – and not enter Faustian pacts with hedge-fund managers over fees. It should fulfill its public service obligation rather than exploit the advantage given it by the taxpayer.
In the absence of the EU (who have intervened on this in the past) , we need the DWP to be clear to Nest that any “bargain” is a bargain for all. Nest may get the best terms – by being there at the start – but that doesn’t mean savers in other workplace pensions, can’t benefit from the bargain.
I look forward to hearing more from workplace pensions on allocations to private markets. I would like to hear from People’s and NOW and Lifesight and Legal and General in particular.
With more companies de-listing and using private markets to raise equity funding, with an increasing number of private deals to be done in the credit space and with the prospect of a Treasury backed infrastructure fund in the fourth quarter, it is time for this radical new bargain.
Let’s see if it will happen and let’s encourage small schemes to recognise their members need access to these kind of funds. We need to support the DWP’s consolidation agenda – if member outcomes are to improve.