Even given the rise in attention paid to political risk, only 36 percent of study participants indicated that their pension funds measure political risk in some form. In assessing political risk, plan sponsors identified legal and regulatory changes such as the European Union Pensions Directive, Myners Report, Sarbanes Oxley Act and USA Patriot Act as the dominant factors to be considered. Of those who do attempt to quantify their exposure to political risk, corporate funds tend to use external sources, such as asset managers, rating agencies and consultants, while public funds tend to use internal resources.
"Political risk can impact a plan sponsor in many ways, such as through legislative and regulatory changes, political unrest, corruption and contractual issues. Given the movement to less familiar asset classes and emerging markets, as well greater public scrutiny of specific pension fund investments, assessing political risk has clearly emerged as one of the three pillars for building an all-encompassing risk profile," said Violeta Ciurel, general manager, Global Pension of ING Group.
Market Risk: Expanding the Frontier
Because comprehensive risk management systems and analytical frameworks are available and widely utilized, the study found that plan sponsors can ably evaluate fund-wide allocation decisions, broadly monitor market risks, and tap new asset classes with more security and knowledge than ever before. In assessing the relative importance of various market risks, participants rate asset allocation as the most critical, with other risks related to fund level decisions such as the risk of underperforming relative to the capital market benchmark and fund liabilities as the next highest-rated market risks.
"The study results will surely be a source of satisfaction to the many that have helped to bring portfolio theory and techniques to their present state," said Harry Markowitz, who is best known his pioneering work in the theory of financial economics, which helped earn him the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1990. "However, the fact that theory is widely used in practice should be a sobering thought that causes the theoretician to ask what more can be done to better serve practice. Clearly risk needs to be controlled along the new frontier as well as the old frontier."
In addition to the analysis of participants' responses, the study also offers investors detailed checklists of best practices related to dealing with market, operational and political risk.
Results were compiled from surveys of more than 75 representatives from leading pension institutions and nonprofit organizations from around the world. It is the latest in a series of studies conducted by The Bank of New York, including ones on institutional demand for hedge funds (Institutional Demand for Hedge Funds: New Opportunities and New Standards, The Bank of New York/Casey, Quirk and Acito 2004) and criteria for success in the global fund management arena (Future Leaders in Investment Management: Survival of the Fittest, The Bank of New York, 2005).
The Bank of New York's Global Risk Services division provides performance measurement, analytics, compliance reporting, risk budgeting and other risk measures to institutional clients worldwide. This division supports multi-faceted market segments including pensions, investment managers, insurance companies and banks. The Bank has been providing variations of risk products and services to clients for nearly 30 years.
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