Transamerica Launches Stable Value Account for Retirement Plans
Transamerica announced the availability of a new stable value general account option for retirement plans. The option empowers employers by offering flexibility to develop a stable value solution for their defined contribution (DC) retirement plan participants based on their goals and objectives for the plan and stable value option. For example, the new solution allows plan sponsors to customize the contract termination provision.
The Transamerica Guaranteed Investment Option is backed by the general account holdings of Transamerica Life Insurance Company. Crediting rates are set based on current economic and market conditions and by the contract provisions selected by the plan sponsor at contract issuance.
The Transamerica Guaranteed Investment Option is available to most large market retirement plans administered by Transamerica, including 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans. There are no minimum deposit requirements.
“As retirement plan participants approach retirement, many look to cash equivalents because this asset class does not have the same risk factors associated with stocks or bonds. The Transamerica Guaranteed Investment Option is unique because it allows plan sponsors to pre-select certain provisions that can elevate the stated return rate,” says Joe Boan, senior vice president, executive director, Workplace and Individual Market Distribution at Transamerica. “The periodic change in rates give people confidence that they are receiving a competitive rate as markets change.”
Fidelity Offers Third ESG Investing Option
Fidelity Investments has extended its suite of sustainability-focused index funds with a new fixed income offering: Fidelity Sustainability Bond Index Fund. The launch of this third environmental, social and governance (ESG) offering, the others being Fidelity U.S. Sustainability Index Fund (FENSX) and Fidelity International Sustainability Index Fund (FNIYX), makes Fidelity the only firm to offer ESG index mutual funds in every major asset class, the firm says.
The sustainability bond index fund is available directly to individual investors, as well as through third-party advisers (TPAs) and workplace retirement plans. The share classes are offered with total net expense ratios of .20% for the Investor Class (FNASX), .13% for the Premium Class (FNBSX), and .10% for the Institutional Class (FNDSX). In addition to the firm’s three sustainability index funds, Fidelity’s ESG investment offerings include an actively managed mutual fund—Fidelity Select Environment & Alternative Energy Portfolio—and Fidelity’s FundsNetwork program.
Colby Penzone, senior vice president for Fidelity’s Investment Product Group, says an emphasis among ESG investing will sprout in the impending future, as waves of younger investors hit the market looking for socially conscious options.
“We know from speaking with clients, advisers and employers that interest in ESG investing continues to grow,” she says. “The market is expected to continue to grow in the coming years as 86% of Millennials are interested in sustainable investing, and 90% are interested in pursuing sustainable investments if an option in their 401(k) plans.”
Vanguard ESG ETFs to Commence Trading in September
Vanguard has filed a preliminary registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for Vanguard environmental, social and governance (ESG) U.S. Stock exchange-traded fund (ETF) and Vanguard ESG International Stock ETF. The latest ETFs will complement Vanguard’s existing FTSE Social Index Fund and are expected to begin trading in September.
Vanguard ESG U.S. Stock ETF will seek to track the FTSE U.S. All Cap Choice Index, a market-cap weighted benchmark comprising large-, mid-, and small-cap U.S. stocks screened on specific environmental, social, and governance criteria. Vanguard ESG International Stock ETF’s target benchmark will be the FTSE Global All Cap ex U.S. Choice Index, a market-cap weighted benchmark comprising large-, mid-, and small-cap stocks in developed and emerging international markets (excluding the U.S.) screened on specific ESG criteria. The estimated expense ratios for the new ETFs are 0.12% and 0.15%, respectively, making them among the lowest-cost ESG offerings available to investors.
“The adoption of ESG investing has accelerated in recent years, and more investors are looking for opportunities to align their investment choices with their values,” says Jon Cleborne, head of Vanguard’s Portfolio Review Group. “Our new ETFs marry Vanguard’s characteristic low-cost, diversified investment approach with a rigorous ESG screening process.”
In the development of the benchmarks, FTSE screens its broad domestic and international stock indexes and excludes stocks of companies in the following industries: adult entertainment, alcohol, tobacco, weapons, fossil fuels, gambling, and nuclear power. The construction methodology also screens the stocks of companies that do not meet certain diversity criteria as well as labor, human rights, anti-corruption and environmental standards defined by the U.N. global compact principles.
WBCSD Creates ESG-Centered Alignment with Investment Companies
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has launched “Aligning Retirement Assets” (ARA), an initiative enabling companies to better align retirement assets, including defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) plans, with their overall sustainability goals by integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations.
As an aspirational goal, the project envisions that 1% ($10 billion) of WBCSD member companies’ total retirement assets (estimated at $1 trillion) will be invested in ESG-themed funds by 2020.
Allianz Global Investors, BlackRock, Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), Mercer and Natixis have joined the initiative’s steering committee to contribute best practices on ESG, helping to educate member companies on incorporating sustainable strategies in their retirement plans.
Through advancements in sustainable investing, initial data indicates it may be possible to create total portfolio solutions that enhance risk-adjusted returns in the long run without compromising short-term return goals. This long-term outlook matches well with the long duration of retirement investments. Additionally, companies who have high ESG characteristics may also be more resilient through a downturn.
Moreover, a clear majority of all employees who work at Fortune 1000 companies expect their 401(k) plans to offer funds aligned with their own companies’ sustainability commitments, with this expectation rising to 66% with Millennials and 67% among women, according to a soon-to-be-released study by Povaddo. Such interest has the potential to increase participant engagement and savings rates.
“With low interest rates and increased longevity, companies need to motivate more people to participate in pension plans and 401(k)s to keep the system healthy,” says Irshaad Ahmad, head of Institutional Europe at Allianz Global Investors. “Sustainability helps build the context to influence the behavior of plan participants, especially with Millennials who are keenly focused on values.”
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