A report of the Director of Finance was presented to provide Members with quarterly investment reports in respect of funds invested externally with Border to Coast Pensions
Partnership Limited (Border to Coast) and with State Street Global Advisers (State Street).
As at 30 June 2021, the Fund had investments in the Border to Coast UK Listed Equity
Fund, the Border to Coast Overseas Developed Markets Equity Fund and the Border to Coast Emerging Markets Equity Funds. For all three sub funds the return target was an annual amount, expected to be delivered over rolling three year periods, before calculation of the management fee.
The Fund also had investments in the Border to Coast Private Equity sub-fund and the Border to Coast Infrastructure sub-fund. Total commitments of £50 million were made to each of these sub-funds for 2020/2021, in addition to £100 million commitments to each sub-fund in 2019/2020. Up to 30 June 2021, around 15% of this total had been invested and these investments were not reflected within the Border to Coast report attached at Appendix A to the submitted report.
The Border to Coast report showed the market value of the portfolio as at 30 June 2021 and the investment performance over the preceding quarter, year, and since the Fund’s investments began. Border to Coast had also provided additional information within an appendix to that report in relation to the Overseas Developed Markets Equity Fund, giving a breakdown of key drivers of and detractors from performance in relation to each of its four regional elements. Market background information and an update of some news items related to Border to Coast were also included. Border to Coast’s UK Listed Equity and Overseas Developed Markets Equity performance had dipped slightly over the last quarter and last year, but both still remained broadly in line with target since inception. The performance of the Emerging Markets Equity Fund was below benchmark in the initial quarter, however the Fund’s investments only began in the second half of the quarter and it was too early to draw any meaningful conclusions from such a short investment period.
State Street had a passive global equity portfolio invested across four different region tracking indices appropriate to each region. The State Street report (attached at Appendix B to the submitted report) showed the market value of the State Street passive equity portfolio and the proportions invested in each region as at 30 June 2021.
Performance figures were also shown in the report over a number of time periods and from inception – the date the Fund started investing passively with State Street in that region: for Japan and Asia Pacific ex Japan the inception date is 1 June 2001, as the Fund had been investing a small proportion of its assets in these regions passively since then. For North America and Europe ex UK the inception date was in September 2018, therefore performance figures only covered around two and three quarter years as this represented a comparatively new investment for the Fund. The nature of passive investment – where an index was closely tracked in an automated or semi-automated way – meant deviation from the index should always be low.
State Street continued to include additional information with their report this quarter, giving details of how the portfolio compared to the benchmark in terms of environmental, social and governance factors including separate sections on climate and stewardship issues. Since the State Street investments were passive and closely tracked the appropriate regional equity indices, the portfolio’s rating in those terms closely matched the benchmark indices ratings.
As previously reported to the Committee, State Street advised investors in a number of its passively-invested funds, including the four State Street equity funds the Fund invests in, that it had decided to exclude UN Global Compact violators and controversial weapons companies from those funds and the indices they tracked. For the four State Street funds the Fund was invested in, the combined effect of applying this change to benchmarks excluded around 3.6% by value of the companies/securities across the regions. The latest report showed performance of the State Street funds against the revised indices and as expected for a passive fund, performance closely matched the performance of the respective indices.
Border to Coast had been working with its reporting providers to develop reporting which covered the Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) issues and impact of the investments it managed, together with an assessment of the carbon exposure of these investments. This was easier with some asset classes than others, and Border to Coast had initially focussed on reporting on listed equities as this was the asset class where most information was available and this type of reporting was more advanced.
Appendix C to the submitted report contained the latest available ESG and carbon exposure in relation to the three Border to Coast listed equity sub-funds the Fund invested in. The reports included information on the highest and lowest ESG-rated companies within those Border to Coast sub-funds, together with an analysis of the carbon exposure of the sub-funds on a number of metrics. The sub-funds’ ESG position and carbon exposure was also compared to benchmarks representing the ‘average’ rating across the investment universe of that particular benchmark.
A detailed explanation of the reports on the equity sub-funds was provided at the meeting by a representative of Border to Coast.
ORDERED that the report was received and noted.