Behavioural Aspects of Institutional Investment Decision-Making

Investigating Institutional Investors Decision-Making

The IFoA’s Actuarial Research Centre (ARC) has awarded a grant to support a significant behavioural finance research programme; specifically focusing on decision-making by institutional investors. The selected research team is comprised of researchers from City, University of London, Ipsos, Leeds University Business School, University of East London and Reverence Limited. The team itself includes Professor Peter Ayton, Dr Iain Clacher, Dr Volker Thoma, Colin Strong and David Calfo, who bring expertise from a range of disciplines.

Project summary

The aim of this research project is to explore the decision-making of institutional investors, in particular insurers and pension schemes, and the biases that may affect their investment decisions. This may include, but not be limited to, emotional, psychological and political biases. It is expected that the project will first explore what "rational" or “optimal” behaviour could be expected from an institution in certain economic scenarios, based on its investment objectives and underlying values.

 It will then explore whether there is solid evidence that “behavioural” factors, such as human psychology, company culture, corporate politics and conflicts of interest, cause them to deviate from optimal behaviour. The research will then make practical conclusions that could be used by actuaries working in investment and related areas. For example, one possible output of the research could be a suggested governance structure an organisation could put in place to manage these biases and conflicts.

Project Highlights

NED Event: Behavioural Finance and Boards

18 June 2019

Substantial work has been undertaken in the field of behavioural finance to explore the psychological factors affecting investment decisions made by individuals.  In contrast, “behavioural” factors (such as politics or human psychology) affecting decisions and actions made by institutional investors, such as insurers or pension schemes, are less understood. The IFoA has commissioned research through its Actuarial Research Centre (ARC) into how institutional investors make investment decisions which is due to be completed this year. These results could be significant for investment committees of insurance companies and pension schemes. A recording from this event is available here. 

ARC Webinar Series: Behavioural Aspects of Institutional Investment Decision-Making

4 October 2018

Following the successful launch of last year’s webinar series, the Actuarial Research Centre (ARC) has produced a further series of webinars in 2018 to showcase its largest cutting-edge research programmes, addressing some of the significant challenges in actuarial science. In this webinar, we hear from the Principal Investigator of this research programme, Professor Peter Ayton (City, University of London) and co-researcher Dr Iain Clacher (University of Leeds). By watching this webinar you will learn about the objectives of this research programme and some of the early developments since its commencement in January 2018. A recording of the webinar is available on YouTube and is also posted on the IFoA's online learning webpages.

This webinar was sponsored by Aon and Invesco.

AONInvesco

Project Background

To date, a substantial volume of work has been undertaken in the field of behavioural finance to explore the psychological factors affecting investment decisions made by individuals.  In contrast, “behavioural” factors (such as politics or human psychology) affecting decisions and actions made by institutional investors, such as insurers or pension schemes, are less understood.  This could be significant for actuaries working in the areas of investment advice, asset-liability matching, liability-driven investments and investment risk management, within institutional investors, such as insurance companies and defined benefit pension schemes. A significant number of actuaries work today as advisors to institutional investors’ key decision-making bodies.  Typical roles could include:

  • Investment advisors to occupational pension schemes
  • Professionals setting the investment strategy for assets of insurance companies
  • Investment strategists for assets backing long-term life insurance liabilities, such as with-profit or annuity funds

Investment objectives and asset allocation decisions for the types of organisations mentioned above would typically be expected to be driven by the long term relationship between the value of assets and the actuarial or accounting value of liabilities. In setting a long term investment strategy, investment actuaries are often required to form judgements and make assumptions (explicit or implicit) based on commonly accepted economic theories.  This usually relies on the expectation of rational behaviour, in line with stated public objectives of these organisations and efficient market hypothesis in various forms.

The objective of this research is to test whether the actual decisions made by organisations, as groups of individuals, are influenced by a wider set of factors, such as emotions, human psychology, company culture, corporate politics and conflicts of interest.  This could provide a better tool kit for actuaries and other professionals in managing risks and making financial projections for these organisations.

Research Outputs

The expected output of this research is to explicitly draw out some of the key assumptions made about how institutions should behave rationally in certain scenarios and then test their validity.  Practical recommendations will then be produced which actuarial investment practitioners could use in their work. The research team have now produced a literature review which aims to better understand the relatively unexplored field of investment decisions made by pension fund trustees and identify future avenues of further exploration. This paper starts by setting out the landscape in which pension fund trustees operate and make their decisions, followed by a literature review of the behavioural finance research applicable to similar situations.

Presentations to date

 

Contact Details

If you want more information about our research programmes please contact the IFoA Actuarial Research Centre:

arc@actuaries.org.uk

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Events calendar

  • Autumn Lecture 2020: Professor Elroy Dimson

    Online webinar
    14 October 2020

    Spaces available

    Many individuals and institutions have a long-term focus, and invest funds for the benefit of future generations. Their strategy should reflect their long horizon. University endowments are one of the oldest classes of institutional investor, and I will present the first study of the management of these endowments over the very long term.

  • GIRO Conference 2020 Webinar Series

    Available to watch globally in November.
    02-13 November 2020
    Spaces available

    This year's GIRO has been re-designed as a virtual conference to offer members and non-members the opportunity to get up to date content from leading experts in the general insurance field via online webinars. All sessions will be recorded and made available to purchase and re-watch post-event on the IFoA's GI Online Learning Resource area

  • Life Conference 2020 Webinar Series

    Online
    16 November 2020 - 27 November 2020

    Spaces available

    This year's Life Conference has been re-designed as a virtual conference to offer members and non-members the opportunity to get up to date content from leading experts in the life insurance field via online webinars. All sessions will be recorded and made available to purchase and re-watch post-event on the IFoA's website.

  • Spaces available

    The webinar will discuss the challenges and opportunities schemes face in evaluating end game options, choosing a target state and understanding the impact this strategic decision could have on member outcomes long after the “end state” is reached. Adolfo, Kevin and Rhian bring over 60 years of experience in the industry and a variety of perspectives as scheme actuary, covenant adviser, trustee, de-risking adviser and insurer.

  • Spaces available

    Cash-flow driven investing is a game-changer for DB pension funds navigating their end-game. Suitable for sponsors who want to reduce risks on their balance sheets. And for trustees, it shifts the focus to providing greater certainty of returns, managing funding level volatility and ensuring they have enough income to pay cash-flow requirements.

  • Spaces available

    Patrick Kennedy, Partner at Gateley Legal and Founding Director of Entrust (a leading professional pensions trustee company), will be delivering an update on the latest legal developments during the course of 2020. With both a pensions legal perspective and over 25 years of trustee service, Patrick will seek to highlight how the letter of the law has continued to evolve against the backdrop of a difficult and challenging year

  • Spaces available

    The talk will provide an understanding of the priorities and relationships between deficit reduction contributions, in the context of wider scheme funding, and different types of value outflow from the employer based on the working party’s recently published report.