JPMorgan Paper Suggests Pension Risk Management Needs Corporate Touch

January 17, 2007 ( - A new paper released by JPMorgan Asset Management (JPMAM) suggests that pension plans should adopt a risk management approach similar to the one used in corporate finance.

The paper suggests that defined benefit plans posed an even greater risk to corporations in 2006, as laws and regulations such as the Pension Protection Act of 2006 and new accounting rules threaten to increase liabilities by as much as 15%, raise plan sponsors’ funding requirements and force companies to reconfigure their balance sheets.  

In order to curb the risks associated with the plans, the paper argues for a corporate finance approach that measures and controls the risk the plans add to the balance sheet, earnings and cash flow. The paper also proposes an integration of the plan’s liability management and asset selection decisions into the corporate risk profile.

Some of this would mean handing more power over the plan to executives at the company, giving them the power to:

  • Have greater control over the balance sheet risk exposures resulting from the plan,
  • Reduce the level and volatility of contributions, and
  • Minimize corporate earnings at risk.

In this new framework, JPMAM suggests new ways to measure the risk in the assets and liabilities of a company’s pension plan on overall corporate risk.

One of the recommendations from JPMAM is to reduce “uncompensated” interest rate risk by narrowing the duration mismatch between plan assets and liabilities and the management of the risk of equity concentration in a pension plan through the implementation of a Broadly Diversified Investment Portfolio.

JPMAM also calls for a customized asset allocation based on risk levels set by company management, instead of the  the  standard  60%  equity,  30%  fixed  income  and 10% alternative  assets  allocation, and suggests that plans discontinue their traditional reliance on public equities, in exchange for a more investible universe.