Why do pension schemes use liability-driven investment?

Link: https://lotsmoore.co.uk/why-do-pension-schemes-use-liability-driven-investment/


Liability-driven investment allows schemes to invest in the growth assets they need to close the funding gap while reducing the impact of interest rates on the liabilities. This is achieved by assigning a portion of a portfolio to an LDI fund. Rather than this fund just holding gilts, it holds a mixture of gilts and gilt repos.

A gilt repo is re-purchase agreement. The LDI manager sells a gilt to a counterparty bank while arranging to buy back that gilt at a later date for an agreed price. This gilt repurchase agreement provides cash to the pension scheme which it can then use to invest in other assets.

This mixture of gilts and gilt repos in an LDI fund uses leverage to provide capital to the pension fund. It is akin to using a mortgage to buy a house. Different levels of leverage were available in the funds – the more leverage, the greater the ratio of gilt repos to gilts in a fund.

The more leverage in a fund, the less capital a pension scheme had to lock up in government debt and the more it could use to invest in assets which could help to close its funding gap. This was helpful when interest rates were low but became problematic when gilt yields rose.

Author(s): Charlotte Moore

Publication Date: 17 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Lots Moore

Bank of England Bought Only Small Amounts of Bonds even Today, Warns Pension Funds They Have “Only Three Days Left” to Unwind Derivatives with BOE Support

Link: https://wolfstreet.com/2022/10/11/bank-of-england-bought-only-small-amounts-of-bonds-even-today-warns-pension-funds-they-have-only-three-days-left-to-unwind-derivatives-with-boe-support/



The relatively puny amounts of actual purchases show that the BOE is trying to calm the waters around the gilts market enough to give the pension funds some time to unwind in a more or less orderly manner whatever portion of the £1 trillion in “liability driven investment” (LDI) funds they cannot maintain.

The small scale of the intervention also shows that the BOE is not too upset with the gilts yields that rose sharply in the run-up to the crisis, triggering the pension crisis, and have roughly remained at those levels. The 10-year gilt yield today at 4.44% was roughly unchanged from yesterday and just below the September 27 spike peak.

And it makes sense to have these kinds of yields in the UK, and it would make sense for these yields to be much higher, given that inflation has spiked to 10%, and yields have not kept up with it, nor have they caught up with it. And to fight this raging inflation, the BOE will need to maneuver those yields far higher still:

So today, BOE Governor Andrew Bailey, speaking at the Institute of International Finance annual meeting in Washington D.C., warned these pension fund managers that the BOE will only provide this level of support, however little it may be, through the end of the week, to smoothen the gilt market and give the pension funds a chance to unwind in a more or less orderly manner the portions of their LDI funds that they cannot maintain.

Author(s): Wolf Richter

Publication Date: 11 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Wolf Street

Bank of England to Treasury, House of Commons

Link: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/30136/documents/174584/default/



LDI strategies enable DB pension funds to use leverage (i.e. to borrow) to increase their
exposure to long-term gilts, while also holding riskier and higher-yielding assets such as
equities in order to boost their returns. The LDI funds maintain a cushion between the
value of their assets and liabilities, intended to absorb any losses on the gilts. If losses
exceed this cushion, the DB pension fund investor is asked to provide additional funds
to increase it, a process known as rebalancing. This can be a more difficult process for
pooled LDI funds, in part because they manage investment from a large number of small
and medium sized DB pension funds.

Diagram 1 gives a stylised example of how the gilt market dynamics last week could
have affected a DB pension fund that was investing in an LDI fund. In this illustrative and simplified example, the left hand side of the diagram shows that the scheme is underfunded (in deficit) before any change in gilt yields, with the value of its assets lower than
the value of its liabilities. More than 20% of UK DB pension funds were in deficit in August
2022 and more than 40% were a year earlier. In this example, the fund is holding growth
assets to boost returns and has also invested in an LDI fund to increase holdings of longterm gilts, funded by repo borrowing at 2 times leverage (i.e. half of the holding of gilts in
the LDI fund is funded by borrowing). The cushion (labelled ‘capital’) is half the size of
the gilt holdings.

The right hand side of the diagram shows what would happen should gilt yields rise (and
gilt prices fall). The value of the gilts that are held in the LDI fund falls, in this example by
around 30%. This severely erodes the cushion in the LDI fund. If gilt prices fell further, it
would risk eroding the entire cushion, leaving the LDI fund with zero net asset value and
leading to default on the repo borrowing. This would mean the bank counterparty would
take ownership of the gilts. It should be noted that in this example, the DB pension fund
might be better off overall as a result of the increase in gilt yields. This is because the
market value of its equity and shorter-term bond holdings (‘other assets’) would not fall
by as much as the present value of its pension liabilities, as the latter are more sensitive
to long-term market interest rates. The erosion of the cushion of the LDI fund would lead the LDI fund either to sell gilts to reduce its leverage or to ask the DB pension fund
investors to provide additional funds.

In practice, the move in gilt yields last week threatened to exceed the size of the cushion
for many LDI funds, requiring them to either sell gilts into a falling market or to ask DB
pension plan trustees to raise funds to provide more capital.

Author(s): Sir John Cunliffe, Deputy Governor, Financial Stability

Publication Date: 5 Oct 2022

Publication Site: UK Parliament

Bank of England says pension funds were hours from disaster before it intervened

Link: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/10/06/bank-of-england-says-pension-funds-were-hours-from-disaster-before-it-intervened.html


The Bank of England told lawmakers that a number of pension funds were hours from collapse when it decided to intervene in the U.K. long-dated bond market last week.

The central bank’s Financial Policy Committee stepped in after a massive sell-off of U.K. government bonds — known as “gilts” — following the new government’s fiscal policy announcements on Sept. 23.

The emergency measures included a two-week purchase program for long-dated bonds and the delay of the bank’s planned gilt sales, part of its unwinding of Covid pandemic-era stimulus.

The plunge in bond values caused panic in particular for Britain’s £1.5 trillion ($1.69 trillion) in so-called liability-driven investment funds (LDIs). Long-dated gilts account for around two-thirds of LDI holdings.


The 30-year gilt yield fell more than 100 basis points after the bank announced its emergency package on Wednesday Sept. 28, offering markets a much-needed reprieve.

Cunliffe noted that the scale of the moves in gilt yields during this period was “unprecedented,” with two daily increases of more than 35 basis points in 30-year yields.

“Measured over a four day period, the increase in 30 year gilt yields was more than twice as large as the largest move since 2000, which occurred during the ‘dash for cash’ in 2020,” he said.

Author(s): Elliot Smith

Publication Date: 6 Oct 2022

Publication Site: CNBC

U.K.’s LDI-related turmoil puts spotlight on use of derivatives

Link: https://www.pionline.com/pension-funds/uks-ldi-related-turmoil-could-spread-experts-say



The Bank of England’s emergency bond-buying last week helped shore up U.K. pension funds and threw a spotlight on a popular strategy among corporate plans known as LDI – or liability-driven investing.

Total assets in LDI strategies in the U.K. rose to almost £1.6 trillion ($1.8 trillion) at the end of 2021, quadrupling from £400 billion in 2011, according to the Investment Association, a trade group that represents U.K. managers. Many LDI mandates allow for the use of derivatives to hedge inflation and interest rate risk.


Here’s how LDI works: Liability-driven investing is employed by many pension funds to mitigate the risk of unfunded liabilities by matching their asset allocation and investment policy with current and expected future liabilities. The LDI portion of a pension fund’s portfolio utilizes liability-hedging strategies to reduce interest-rate risk, which could include long government and credit bonds and derivatives exposure.

Jeff Passmore, LDI solutions strategist at MetLife Investment Management, said the situation with U.K. pension plans “has been challenging, and the heavy use of derivatives in the U.K. LDI model has made the current situation worse than it would otherwise be.”

While most U.S. LDI portfolios rely on bonds rather than derivatives, ‘”those U.S. plan sponsors who have leaned heavily on derivatives and leverage should take a cautionary lesson from what we’re seeing currently across the Atlantic.”


The U.K. pension debacle “is a plain-and-simple problem of leverage,” Charles Van Vleet, assistant treasurer and chief investment officer at Textron, said in an email.

Many U.K. pension plans were interest rate-hedged at 70%, while also holding 60% in growth assets, suggesting 30% leverage, he said. The portfolio’s growth assets have lost around 20% of value if held in public equities and fixed income or about 5% down if held in private equity, he noted.

“Therefore, to make margin calls on their derivative rate exposure they had to sell growth assets – in some cases, selling physical-gilts to meet derivative-gilt margin calls,” Mr. Van Vleet said.

“The problem is worse for plans who gain rate exposure with leveraged ETFs. The leverage in those funds is commonly via cleared interest rate swaps. Margin calls for cleared swaps can only be met with cash – not posted collateral. Therefore, again selling physical-gilts to meet derivative-gilt margin calls.”



Publication Date: 5 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Pensions & Investments

Deep Learning for Liability-Driven Investment

Link: https://www.soa.org/sections/investment/investment-newsletter/2022/february/rr-2022-02-shang/



This article summarizes key points from the recently published research paper “Deep Learning for Liability-Driven Investment,” which was sponsored by the Committee on Finance Research of the Society of Actuaries. The paper applies reinforcement learning and deep learning techniques to liability-driven investment (LDI). The full paper is available at https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/files/resources/research-report/2021/liability-driven-investment.pdf.

LDI is a key investment approach adopted by insurance companies and defined benefit (DB) pension funds. However, the complex structure of the liability portfolio and the volatile nature of capital markets make strategic asset allocation very challenging. On one hand, the optimization of a dynamic asset allocation strategy is difficult to achieve with dynamic programming, whose assumption as to liability evolution is often too simplified. On the other hand, using a grid-searching approach to find the best asset allocation or path to such an allocation is too computationally intensive, even if one restricts the choices to just a few asset classes.

Artificial intelligence is a promising approach for addressing these challenges. Using deep learning models and reinforcement learning (RL) to construct a framework for learning the optimal dynamic strategic asset allocation plan for LDI, one can design a stochastic experimental framework of the economic system as shown in Figure 1. In this framework, the program can identify appropriate strategy candidates by testing varying asset allocation strategies over time.

Author(s): Kailan Shang

Publication Date: February 2022

Publication Site: Risks & Rewards, SOA