Pension Committee Meeting- December 19, 2017
On Tuesday December 19 at headquarters on Colonel Sam Drive, Mike Powell and Garry Marnoch met with Amy Martin, Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer since July 2017, and David Courtney, who oversees our salaried pension plan as well as the hourly plan.
As you know, our plan suffered in the 2008-9 financial crisis because of the large proportion of investment in stocks. Since then, a policy of de-risking has been judiciously implemented. This past March saw approval to increase the fixed income categories to 65% from the previous target of 60%. De-risking makes sense for our defined benefit plan which is closed; that is, no new members, and at this stage in our lives, we value protection from loss more that opportunity for future gains. High quality bonds now make up 61.2% of our portfolio.
The rising interest rate has improved the funded status of our plan. As rates rise, the obligation falls but the assets in fixed income (bonds) fall as well. The net position improves but leads to lower asset returns. To that point, our year-to-date return is 2.5% overall. All asset classes outperformed their benchmarks except for "broad scope mandate" (high growth but high risk; 3.1% of total plan) and real estate (9.8% of assets), resulting in the portfolio beating benchmarks by 28 basis points. The last quarter returns were slightly negative, but still exceeded the benchmarks. The less risky classes did better than the more volatile investments.
After having the plan's assets evaluated as of September 2016, General Motors arranged for another Actuarial Valuation as of December 31, 2016, to allow valuation comparisons to be made more easily. Although a date has not yet been set, it is expected that the next AV will be as of December 31, 2017.
GM issued a two-page Progress Report to pensioners after the September 2016 AV but not after the December AV, because regulations require only one a year. A similar update will follow the December 2017 Actuarial Valuation, probably by end of summer.
So, there are no startling developments, nothing alarming. We can proceed into Christmas in relative peace.