Accelerated inflation and rising interest rates were reflected in Varma’s January–September investment performance. In spite of the strong stock price reactions, almost half of Varma’s investments generated positive returns.
The return on investments in January–September was -4.9 (13.5) per cent. The value of Varma’s investments was EUR 56.4 (59.0 on 1 Jan) billion.
“In Europe, bleak signs for the economic outlook are caused especially by the energy crisis and the ongoing war in Ukraine. However, the investment market is driven by the US, where the economic issues are more straightforward and the war is more distant. Of Varma’s entire investment portfolio, 49 per cent continued to generate positive returns,” says Varma’s President & CEO Risto Murto.
Private equity investments yielded 13.5 (39.9), hedge funds 5.6 (11.6) and real-estate investments 5.5 (4.1) per cent. These compensated for the return on listed equities, which was -19.3 (17.6) per cent.
“As a result of rising inflation and central banks’ interest rate hikes, market movements have been steep, as expected. Diversification across asset classes and geographical areas as well as investments in unlisted companies helped secure investments against the worst turmoil. We have temporarily reduced the weight of listed equities, and our investment allocation secures solvency,” says Chief Investment Officer Markus Aho.
Varma’s solvency ratio was EUR 133.0 (139.4 on 1 Jan) per cent, and solvency capital was 1.9 times (2.0 on 1 Jan) the solvency limit. Solvency capital protects investments against market volatility and enables Varma to aim for higher returns by making riskier investments with a better return potential.
Markets will stabilise only after inflation comes to a halt
Markets will stabilise only after record-high inflation comes to a halt and the central banks can contain interest rate hikes.
“The investment environment continues to be unstable, and no immediate encouraging signs are in sight. The biggest concern that has emerged in the autumn is the possibility of a recession. The investment markets are now pricing the effect of high interest rates on companies’ financial performance,” Aho says.
“In the USA, economic issues are linked to a classic overheating in the labour markets and recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, during which stimulus measures were excessive. In the eurozone, the bundle of problems is unfortunately complex and cannot be easily solved through economic policy,” Murto says.
Applications for partial old-age pension increased by a quarter
Applications for partial old-age pension received by Varma in January–September increased by a quarter compared to the previous year. In October, the number of applications has increased many times over, and the flow of applications is expected to remain high in November. This trend is explained by the 6.8 per cent raise in the earnings-related pension index as of the beginning of 2023 which the applicant receives if the payment of pension begins no later than at the beginning of December. A person who has turned 61, can draw 25 per cent or 50 per cent of their accrued pension without having to give up working.
Disability pension applications on the basis of mental disorders on the rise among young women
Disability pension applications on the basis of mental disorders by women under 35 have increased. Gender differences have become more pronounced: In Varma’s statistics, applications among young men have declined (-9.9 per cent) but have increased among women (7.6 per cent).
Among those under 35, the number of people who have applied for disability pension on the basis of mental disorders has remained practically unchanged compared to last year’s comparison period.
“There are worrying aspects in the work well-being and work ability of young people. Studies show that young people assess their work ability to be weaker than others. Among young adults, mental disorders are the main cause of long absences due to illness, which may lead to permanent disability,” Musto says.
Varma ranks number one in comparison of investment transparency
Varma was tied for first place in the Global Pension Transparency Benchmark’s (GPTB) category Responsible investment. The international benchmark included 75 pension funds from 15 countries. The GPTB looked into the transparency of pension funds using four factors: cost, governance, performance and responsible investment.
Varma signed the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which drives climate action through science-based emissions reduction targets. Companies that are part of the global joint initiative set their own short- and long-term targets concerning emissions reduction in accordance with the Paris Agreement.
Varma signed the 2022 Global Investor Statement to Government on the Climate Crisis, aimed at governments and political leaders. In the global joint statement, investors call for governments to set more ambitious climate targets by 2030.
“Varma has been working for sustainability for a long time, and I am happy to see these efforts are paying off,” Murto says.