William Bourne plays devil's advocate at the LAPF strategic investment forum

On 7th February 2018, William participated in the Devil's Advocate Panel during the afternoon sessions at the LAPF Strategic Investment Forum in London.​

DCLG response to Law Commission paper on social investment

The DCLG slipped out an interim response to the Law Commission paper (274) on Pension Funds and Social Investment a couple of days before the Christmas break.  The recommendation is to accept the original paper’s recommendations to encourage pension schemes to place more emphasis on ESG considerations when investing, although DCLG will consult on some before enacting them.  While the LGPS is statutory rather than trust-based, legal opinion has previously made it clear that these changes will also apply to them. The most important new requirement is for pension schemes to ‘state their policies’ in relation to how they evaluate investment risks, including ESG considerations, in the long term (our italics).  While most funds will already be considering the financial risk to portfolios from climate change, there will now be a legal requirement to do so, or at least to state publicly if choosing not to.  The implications are wider than just climate change: it will become less easy for a company to pay its senior management disproportionately, for example. The second proposal is that pension schemes should say how they will consider and respond to members’ ethical or other concerns.  Again, a fund may choose to ignore them but will have to state publicly that it is doing so.  We expect most will find it easier to find a way to respond. If an administering authority wishes to make an investment or divest for ‘non-financial’ reasons, it will still have to pass the two tests set by the Law Commission: no significant financial detriment and that members share the concerns.  There is some interesting language on the latter point in the Law Commission paper:  if an authority does conduct some form of broader consultation - as opposed to, for example, simply asking the Local Pension Board - the bar to pass the test is not necessarily complete agreement. However, a court would consider a significant minority disagreeing sufficient to fail it. The administering authority would then have to make its investment decision on financial grounds only.  Apathy and lack of response need not be taken as disagreement. In practice, most LGPS funds seem to prefer engagement - through LAPFF or more directly - to divestment. However, at the margin, the legislation will perhaps make it clearer what is required in order to divest from, for example, fossil fuels and will make it harder for funds to ignore well-organised pressure groups.    ​

William Bourne attends 22nd LAPF Annual Conference

On 6th to 8th December 2017, William attended the 22nd LAPF Annual Conference in Bournemouth.

William Bourne comments in Room 151 article on London civ global infrastructure initiative and brexit risk

To read more please visit Room 151.

William Bourne attends SPS 'LGPS in Flux' Conference 

On 23rd November 2017, William attended the SPS 'LGPS in Flux' conference in London.​

William Bourne comments on the latest LGPS cashflow data in Room 151

To read the article please visit Room 151.

William Bourne attends the 15th Annual Local Government Pension Investment Forum

On 11th October 2017, William Bourne attended the 15th Annual Local Government Pension Investment Forum in London. 

What makes a good conference?

I attended the excellent LAPF Strategic Investment Forum last week and it led me to muse on what makes for a good conference.  Some of the ingredients are obvious: interesting topics, adequate venue and food etc, and moderators who are able to keep the programme to schedule while allowing a bit more time for the subjects which interest the room.  The constraints are also obvious:  giving good value for money, both for delegates who are giving up time and sponsors who are paying for the event. I would highlight three further aspects. The first is a programme which has a theme to it and some variety of pace.  All too often, in order to give the paying sponsors their opportunity, there is a series of slightly salesy presentations – or, even worse, presentations which try not to be but clearly are - without much coherence or consideration of what the audience already knows, or what it might like to learn from the session.  At the end of the conference, most of the information is consigned to those distant recesses of the brain from which there is no recovery.   In contrast, good conferences have a mix of formats around a clear thread, clear messaging and some thought given to how delegates might wish to follow up. The second is time to network.  We all go to conferences to meet people, whether our peer group, potential clients or useful service providers.  I appreciate there is some tension between giving platform space to sponsors and finding time for networking, but it is an essential part of a successful conference and has to be there.  I also think sponsors benefit from having quality conversations as opposed to giving a one-way presentation.  My bugbear is being herded back into the main arena when in the middle of a meaningful conversation and, for that reason, I prefer a smaller number of longer breaks. The third is the size and make-up of the conference.  I believe that conferences with around 100 to 150 delegates work better than larger ones, because you can guarantee to meet with those you want to and speak properly to them.  The need to give sponsors proper value for money remains a constraint but I would argue they benefit from fewer but higher quality conversations.  And we all know that it is often the question and answer or discussion sessions involving knowledgeable and thoughtful delegates which really light up a programme.So my perfect conference would be not too large, involve a varied programme with a theme and lots of discussion time, attracting the right spread of delegates and setting aside plenty of time to network.  The LAPFSIF conference (I must declare an interest here, in that I was on the Advisory Board) was not perfect, but did tick a lot of those boxes.  If only they could have added a stop button so that 9.30pm after dinner didn’t suddenly turn into 12.30am at the bar!​