Chris Norton, Strategy and Commissioning Manager, introduced the report and drew Members’ attention to the summary of the business plan. He said the number of completed actions had increased by four; the number of action points with an amber rating had decreased from 14 to 11; and there were no action points that had a red rating. Some of the completed actions were ‘business as usual’ items that took place throughout the year; however Chris Norton highlighted that the review of objectives had been completed by the deadline. Members were told that issues relating to the capacity of the internal team had been identified as a risk and discussed at the last Investment Sub Committee as a result. Creating job posts for an investment analyst and for a trainee accountant had both been approved.
Chris Norton said the business plan for 2022/23 was now being worked on and it would be discussed at the next Investment Sub Committee meeting in March. He said the next business plan would have more of an emphasis on noting the achievement of objectives rather than being seen as a tick box exercise for ongoing items that were monitored each month. Monitoring issues might include things such as looking to see if any of the Pension Fund’s investments were experiencing any volatility.
Jeff Carruthers noted that the action point relating to the maintenance of the contract register had gone to amber, but it had previously been recommended that it stayed red. Chris Norton said it had been a judgement call as to how to record this action point. He said however that since the last time the Board had reviewed the business plan an independent financial advisor had been appointed and more resources had been allocated to the investments team. It was therefore felt the right steps were being taken to address the risks that had been identified.
Jeff Carruthers asked if there was a possible conflict between different pension funds having different commitments to achieving net zero carbon emissions. Chris Norton said the County Council had pledged to meet net zero by 2030 but there had not yet been a firm pledge from the pension fund and this was noteworthy. He said there was a reluctance to sign up to anything without having a full understanding of the implications on investments based on climate change strategies. The Chair said it was wise not to make a commitment at this stage as it may not end up being a meaningful one if there was no evidence to substantiate the reasoning behind it.
Members were told that Anthony Fletcher had been appointed as an independent financial advisor. He had experience working within the LGPS and across all aspects of investments. The Chair said he had experience of working with Anthony Fletcher and said he was an excellent choice.
The Chair asked which of the amber-rated action points were of greatest concern. Chris Norton said the biggest risks related to employer covenants and employer risks. The development of new funds, such as those relating to Border to Coast, were deemed those closest to going red and required careful monitoring.