UPP takes a total fund approach that focuses on maintaining a strong funded status and meeting members’ pension needs for decades to come. Together, our total fund investment strategy and developing asset class sub-strategies form a unified and purpose-driven investment program aligned to our:
Long-term investment beliefs and objectives (read our investment beliefs)
Liabilities and risk profile
Opportunities to leverage our structure and scale
Responsible investing ambitions and strength
Total fund lenses
Disciplined risk management is everyone’s responsibility at UPP.
Our Investment teams work together to ensure we understand, manage, and optimize
risks in everything we do, and make informed decisions accordingly.
Serving as a key risk partner, our Portfolio Construction and Investment Risk team plays a dual role as the analytic and planning engine for top-down asset mix construction and investment risk measurement. The team evaluates many dimensions of risk, across various time horizons, to gain deeper insight into the material risk exposures in our portfolio and those of our investment managers.
Investment risk is governed through a structured framework with clear policies and procedures to ensure that investment decisions are risk-informed and yield the necessary return on risk taken.
UPP holds the evidence-based view that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, such as climate change, will fundamentally influence the long-term sustainability of financial markets.
We account for these factors at every stage of the investment process to better assess and create value, identify differentiated opportunities, and drive stronger long-term financial performance. This includes working with our external investment partners and industry peers to continuously improve performance in these areas and reinforce the health of the capital markets on which our fund relies.
Being able to dynamically change our exposures in a fast-moving market is an important part of our strategy. Proactive liquidity planning helps us maintain our desired asset mix and meet our liability obligations while remaining a reliable source for markets when liquidity is scarce.
Our Total Fund and Treasury team carefully manages liquidity and funding across the portfolio, ensuring we have sufficient capital to pay pensions and reserves in place to withstand market disruptions and take advantage of investment opportunities that align with our long-term strategy, including those presented by changing investment markets and the net-zero transition. This includes strategic employment of leverage, which, used prudently, is a powerful tool for optimizing risk-adjusted returns relative to the Plan’s pension liabilities.
The Plan’s asset mix is diversified across a broad range of asset classes, organized under three categories: return enhancing, interest rate sensitive, and inflation sensitive. Under this structure, we divide our total fund assets based on their exposure to key economic drivers as well as their risk-return characteristics and roles in funding the pension.
Thoughtful diversification and a mix of passive and active strategies across these categories help us capture opportunity and spread investment risk across factors such as geography, currencies, sector, duration, and asset classes. They also help manage short-term volatility and ensure we maintain a resilient portfolio.
2022 annual rate of return
The portfolio posted a 9.1% net loss in 2022, outperforming median defined benefit pension returns in Canada by 3.3%.1 Performance primarily reflects UPP’s transitional portfolio state amid a strained macroeconomic environment.
Net returns from January 1 to December 31, 2022
UPP one-year return
Major market indices (blended)2
1 Based on a sampling of public sources, the annual average net return among Canadian DB pension plans in 2022 was -12.4% (RBC Investor & Treasury Services, January 2023, reporting -10.3%; Northern Trust Pension Universe Data, January 2023, reporting -12.8%; Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario Quarterly Update on Estimated Solvency Funded Status of Defined Benefit Pension Plans in Ontario, December 2022, reporting -14.1% for plans subject to solvency funding).
2 Index performance is presented as general references and not UPP benchmarks.
Our team of investment professionals deploy and manage investments and risk across these asset classes, and pursue new investment opportunities, with a laser-focus on quality, risk-adjusted value, and total fund diversification.
Return enhancing assets: include public and private equities, private debt, and absolute return strategies—generally reduce funding risk over the long term by delivering higher relative rates of return. They can, however, display higher relative volatility (a measure of market risk) in the short term.
Interest rate-sensitive assets: allocations to assets such as fixed income generally reduce funding risk over the long term by helping offset the effects of changing interest rates to our assets and liabilities. This includes long-dated government bonds, which are a stable source of long-term returns and help align our fixed income portfolio with the interest rate sensitivity of our liabilities.
Inflation sensitive assets: assets such as real estate and infrastructure provide stable long-term returns while helping mitigate the impact of inflation on the long-term value of the Plan liabilities, which are linked to salary levels and partially indexed to changes in inflation.
Short term money market and funding: being able to dynamically change our exposures in a fast-moving market is an important part of our strategy. Proactive liquidity planning helps us maintain our desired asset mix and meet our liability obligations while remaining a reliable source for markets when liquidity is scarce.
UPP’s Investment team leverages partnerships with external investment managers and co-investors to implement our public and private market strategies. Collectively, these partners play an essential role in the success of our investment strategy and in bringing our net-zero commitment to bear—alignment in vision and values is imperative.
Disciplined due diligence and dialogue help us understand our partners’ (and prospective partners’) investment commitments, capabilities, and goals and express our objectives in return. We seek partners who are interested in exchanging strategic insights and best practices, creating a mutually beneficial relationship.
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