Northzone VII, the technology investment fund, has successfully reached its first close, securing €150m from just under 20 pension funds and family office institutions.Among them are the sixth Swedish national buffer fund (AP6), which has joined existing backers in making its first investment, €15m, with technology investment partnership Northzone.Another first-time investor is SEB Pension Fund, also Swedish.The latest vehicle is a continuation of Northzone’s series of funds backing start-up and early-stage companies, primarily in the Nordic region. It will invest in 20-25 companies developing technology that “unexpectedly” displaces established technology.Previous Northzone investments include Spotify, Avito and eProspects.Northzone VII will make investments in individual companies in tranches of between €1m and €5m, either in partnership with other funds, or as the sole external investor.Typically, investing in companies will be over three or four years.A limit of 10% of the fund total will apply to individual companies.Tellef Thorleifsson, general partner in the Oslo office at Northzone, said: “This fund will enable pension fund investors to capture a part of value creation pre-IPO. The fund offers investors the chance of a superior return, as well as diversification. Technology companies are not reliant on GDP growth, as they are based more on the rapid deployment of new technology.”The fund’s target size is €200m, with a target return of 20%.Ulf Lindqvist, head of communications at AP6, said: “We have chosen to invest in Northzone VII because it fits in with our strategy. This investment will add diversity to our portfolio, although venture capital is rather a small part of it. We have evaluated the team at Northzone for quite some time, and it is our assessment they will be able to deliver a good return over time.”AP6 is a long-term investor in unlisted companies and invests in venture capital indirectly through funds.It focuses on more mature companies with growth potential, on which it has historically enjoyed a return of 16.3% per year since AP6 was set up in 1996.
The pension problem is one facing Europe as a whole and requires an integrated European approach. This also presents opportunities for member states that have a complex and well-developed pension sector, such as, for example, the UK and the Netherlands, with extensive funding-based pension schemes. Major UK and Dutch asset management organisations and pension providers, as well as insurance companies, could very well offer their services and know-how abroad. With greater efficiency and economies of scale, the strengthening and further development of fund entities and the provision of pension services could also benefit the European pension market and those participating in it. Furthermore, an increasing number of employees within the EU market work in cross-border situations and stand to gain from a better integration of pension accrual in the European employment market. A lack of European integration is keeping the markets closed off, and, as a result, opportunities for growth and improvement in European pension and employment market are not being sufficiently harnessed.Brussels to lead the way?The European Pension Fund Directive, which has been in force since 2003, is designed to facilitate the provision of a European cross-border pension scheme. On the basis of this directive, some member states have over the previous years pro-actively implemented specific legislation to stimulate the establishment of dedicated cross-border pension service providers from their jurisdiction, such as the Premium Pension Institution (PPI) in the Netherlands, the Pension Savings Association (ASSEP) and Pension Savings Company with Variable Capital (SEPCAV) in Luxembourg, and the Organisation for the Financing of Pensions (OFP) in Belgium. There is a fear, however, that achievements in the traditional funded (defined benefit) pension systems may be eroded by further European integration of the pension sector, that Brussels may for instance introduce legislation ‘Europeanising’ the pension reserves held by the local pension entities of the member states.Banks and insurers must adhere to basic European norms that promote the stability of the banking and insurance sectors and thereby the European economy. The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) aims to subject European pension entities to a similar regime by revising the current Pension Fund Directive. In our opinion, this would ultimately serve to protect members of pension schemes and, for example, to prevent pension funds from allowing a lack of clarity to exist about their ability to meet their obligations towards their members. However, there are those in the pension sector – as well as, for example, certain Dutch politicians who see such a European norm as unnecessary meddling – that “Europe should keep its hands off our pension reserves”. These representatives evidently prefer to keep decision-making powers in their own hands. In recent years, however, many members of Dutch pension schemes have had to adjust their expectations regarding Dutch retirement provisions considerably. With a European framework, Brussels could lead the way and thereby prevent such disappointments.The Hogan CaseMore generally, it must not be forgotten that the European Union is more than just an economic partnership. Consider, for example, the respect of the rights of the elderly to lead a life of dignity and independence anchored in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. A retirement provision forms part of preserving this dignity and independence. And in the Hogan case, the European Court of Justice ruled, for instance, that, if an employer becomes insolvent, there must be a certain minimum guarantee for members of the company’s pension schemes.Given the above, we put the case that consideration should be given, within Europe, to forming a European ‘Pensions Union’ that underpins pension law with a stronger European framework and clear (basic) norms.This could prevent retirement provisions from being insufficiently facilitated or even carelessly managed in another member state, with the attendant negative socio-political consequences in that particular state. In such a case, any (socio-)economic problems would also entail risks for the state budget in question, which, in turn, could have consequences on the European financial system as a whole. A ‘pension crisis’ in, for example, Germany could also have a direct or an indirect impact on the economy of other member states.As an accompaniment to a European framework, the goal of further integrating the European pension market could be achieved by putting into place common (basic) rules regarding the accrual and payment of retirement provisions that could at least be provided, in part, by local or cross-border pension entities, as an alternative to local pension rules in each member state.In our opinion, a scheme that in any case establishes legally clear, individual rights for members could be a good starting point. For that matter, experts in the pension sector have long been pondering these solutions and EIOPA, too, is now investigating the possibility of taking the first step in this direction.Right to self-determinationWould such a Pensions Union be a step towards losing the right to self-determination or even the local pension participants ceding sovereignty over their own pension system and reserves? We do not believe that either the current European pension legislation or the development of a European Pensions Union would impair any Member State’s sovereignty. They merely provide better protection for members of pension schemes which, in some cases, can never be provided by national policy makers, e.g. in the case of cross-border situations.Since as far back as the 1960s, it has been established that European cooperation (among sovereign states) under European treaties requires a collective exercise of powers (as held by the European Court of Justice in the Van Gend & Loos judgment). But this European cooperation is voluntary and, like any international cooperation, can also be voluntarily terminated – the EU Treaty contains a specific ‘exit’ clause for this. In that sense, the member state still have full sovereignty.Leaving the European Union would obviously have so many practical and economic implications that the decision to do so would not be taken easily. As it happens, the small group of European countries that do not belong to the European Union, e.g. Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, have, for the sake of their economic interests, fully integrated the most important European laws and regulations, including the provisions of the aforementioned Pension Fund Directive, into their own national legislation. However, these countries were unable to play a role in drafting the directive, and the specific exceptions that the Netherlands was able to stipulate for its own pension system were unavailable to them.The common framework provided by a European Pensions Union and a European basic pension scheme would, in fact, protect members of pension schemes across Europe in the accrual and enjoyment of their pension entitlements. It would also support the complex and developed UK and Dutch pension sector, as well as international companies that have cross-border operations. Furthermore, it would provide a general boost to European economic stability and the accomplishment of social objectives. The pension issue, therefore, requires a European approach.Pascal Borsjé and Hans Van Meerten are both lawyers at Clifford Chance Amsterda Pascal Borsjé and Hans Van Meerten of Clifford Chance Amsterdam make the case for ‘Brussels meddling’The strengthening of European financial supervision raises questions about the sovereignty of national governments and the desirability of transferring powers to ‘Brussels’. Some people are even calling for integration to be reversed (at least partially). The pension issue does, however, require a European approach.The sustainability of pension systems in the EU cannot be viewed separately from the stability of the European financial system. At the same time, social unrest, due to uncertainty about retirement provision combined with the fact populations of the EU member states are aging, has implications for the European economy as a whole.In addition, in the European employment market, pension schemes in cross-border situations are often beset with practical problems. If, for example, a person accrues a pension in one member state and receives pension payments in another, this pension can be subject to double taxation, i.e. pension contributions that are not initially subject to tax relief in the member state where the person works (and are thus taxed) are taxed again in another member state (where the person receives retirement benefits).
The Bulgarian Association of Supplementary Pension Security Companies (BASPSC) is to approach the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) to settle the association’s dispute with its regulator, the Financial Supervision Commission (FSC), over mandatory pension fund returns.According to the FSC, for 2004-14, the universal pension funds, which manage mandatory second-pillar contributions from the so-called ‘non-privileged’ workers, returned an inflation-adjusted negative return of 0.16%, while BASPSC reported a positive return of 0.48%.The discrepancies arise from the different methodologies used by the two parties.According to Miroslav Marinov, executive director of Pension Insurance Company “Doverie”, part of Vienna Insurance Group, the BASPSC deploys the money-weighted return (MWR) approach, which takes into account all inflows and outflows and their exact timing. Meanwhile, the FSC uses a simple time-weighted return (TWR), where the formula takes into account all investments accumulated since the beginning of the calculation period, irrespective of their length of time in the portfolio.Sofia Hristova, chief executive and chairman at Allianz Bulgaria Pension Company, said: “The TWR approach greatly amplifies the effect of inflation. The MWR is equivalent to the internal rate of return. It incorporates the size and the timing of cash flows by finding the rate of return that will set the present values of all cash flows and the terminal values equal to the value of the initial investment. Thus, it is an effective measure for returns on a portfolio.”The MWR is also the investment industry standard elsewhere in Bulgaria, being used by the CFA Society Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Association of Asset Management Companies and the Bulgarian Association of Licensed Investment Intermediaries.What galls the BASPSC is that, having explained the measurements to the FSC, the regulator then presented only its own, unflattering calculations to Parliament’s budget and finance committee.The discrepancies are among the issues being discussed by the ad-hoc committee overwhelmingly voted through on 17 February at an extraordinary parliamentary session.The cross-party committee has a month to report on the financial status, supervision, regulatory compliance and legal shortfalls in the system.The FSC, for its part, has unveiled its proposals for changes to the second pillar.These include the introduction of multi-funds, reductions in fees, abolition of transfer fees, a more stringent application of the types of related parties into which pension fund managers can invest and payouts.The most controversial proposal is a separately managed common guarantee fund.Currently, pension funds set aside reserves, and there are concerns the better-run entities will end up paying for others’ shortfalls.In the meantime, the controversial amendments to the Social Insurance Code that came into effect this year remain in place, while changes such as those recently proposed by the Finance Ministry remain on hold.Second-pillar members have been unable as yet to opt out because the necessary documents have not been published.At the same time, the funds are reluctant to enrol those new entrants to the labour market who want to join because of legal uncertainties over using the old system’s documents.
The National Grid UK Pension Scheme is to sell its in-house asset manager in changes to its investment and governance model.The £17bn (€23.4bn) pension fund for the UK’s electricity network management company manages around 75% of its investments through Aerion Fund Management, wholly owned by the pension scheme and managing only its assets.However, after the scheme reviewed its investment and governance models with the aid of consultants Redington, the trustees decided to offload the asset management business.Aerion’s sale, preceded by the exit of chief executive Paul Sharman in March, is likely to see all of its remaining staff move with the asset manager, according to chair of trustees Nigel Stapleton. Stapleton said the decision to sell the asset manager was not about costs or Aerion’s performance as an in-house manager.“The trustees must focus on how they can do their own job most effectively,” he told IPE.“Aerion is a very strong team, but the scheme is maturing, and, as you mature, you must become more risk averse.“It is not cost or the team, but, eight years on from when we last looked at this, the scheme’s profile has changed and matured, with asset and liability management becoming more complex. We need more specialist skills.”The pension fund will now create a small and specialist “executive team” to support the trustees with asset manager monitoring, investment strategy and liability management.The team will report directly to the trustees, focusing on the scheme’s needs on a full-time basis.Fenchurch Advisory, an asset manager buy-and-sell specialist, will assist with Aerion’s sale.
Willis Towers Watson will require fund managers to provide data about the gender composition across their workforce, a move that responds to evidence that more women in the workforce improves financial performance.The plan was mentioned by Luba Nikulina, global head of manager research at Willis Towers Watson, at an MSCI event on the subject of women in finance in London last week. She spoke of “hardwiring this into the process of allocating money”.“If asset owners add their voice it will help to move things forward,” she added.She was responding to a comment from a representative of a local authority pension fund about asset owners wanting better data on gender representation in roles below board level. Nikulina later told IPE that the consultancy was also considering including flexible working arrangements in its assessment of investment managers, as these can influence the stability of fund management teams, which the consultancy values.A member of the audience from an asset manager said that investment teams want to be able to show team stability when they go to investment consultants.Nikulina said that good data was key to being able to research the link between gender diversity and investment performance.The premise of the event was the “business case” for gender diversity and the underperformance of financial services – and fund management in particular – in this respect.Panellists at the event articulated the problem in different ways.Roger Urwin, speaking in his capacity as strategic director of the CFA Future of Finance Initiative, said that finance needed a “clean licence to operate” and “it won’t be clean if we don’t have diversity”.Tamara Box, founder member of the 30% Club and managing partner, Europe and Middle East at law firm Reed Smith, spoke about gender diversity as a “bottom line” issue and said the finance sector “seems different” when it comes to gender issues.She ventured the theory that a belief in finance having a strong culture of meritocracy was partly to blame for the sector lagging on female representation in senior roles.Box said this culture was strongly linked to metrics such as pay that are easily influenced by working long hours. However, the belief that the culture was meritocratic skewed people’s reading of reality, causing them to “miss unconscious bias feeding those metrics”.Meritocracy is confused with the majority, she said, which dictates what constitutes success and what is considered to be normal.Millennials to the rescueUrwin – who is also global head of investment content at Willis Towers Watson – agreed that the culture of long hours in finance, as reflected in “convexity of pay”, was one of the main reasons for poor gender diversity in this sector.Companies “need to chill out” about long hours, as “clients can cut you some slack”, he added.The role of cultural norms and expectations in gender diversity was also discussed.Willis Towers Watson’s Nikulina said that there were more women in fund management in emerging markets than in developed markets. Comparing the two, even though the fund management industries in each are at different stages of development, can provide “interesting insight” into the influence that social norms and behaviours can have, she said.She gave the example of the Soviet Union, where she was brought up, noting that women were expected to return to work after having children and worked “across all ranks”.Linda-Eling Lee, global head of ESG research at MSCI, highlighted three possible connections between female representation in the workforce and financial performance benefits. These benefits could stem from women being “better suited to today’s economy”, Lee suggested, from a greater diversity of thinking, or “human capital arbitrage”.The latter is the idea that, given the barriers they face, “the women who end up at the top are extraordinary so the performance edge may erode as the pipeline to the top opens up”.Great hope was placed on millennials as the driver of change on gender diversity because, as relayed by Lucy McNulty, author of an annual survey on women in finance, “millennials are hungry for equal treatment” and “the best talent will walk away if companies don’t change”.
Representatives of two of the biggest trade unions in the UK met staff at PensionDanmark this morning over a dispute regarding Croatian workers on two biomass plants the fund invests in.The unions – Unite and GMB – claim Croatian workers are being underpaid in contravention of union agreements at two power plants owned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP). PensionDanmark, the DKK221bn (€29.7bn) labour-market pension fund, is CIP’s biggest investor, alongside other institutional backers.The two power plants concerned are the biomass-fuelled power plant in Rotherham, and a biomass-fired combined heat and power plant project in Kent.Jens-Christian Stougaard, director of PensionDanmark, told IPE: “We had a very pleasant meeting this morning with four representatives from the UK unions. “When we invest – being directly or through CIP – we have, among other things, clauses regarding wage and work conditions which also apply to subcontractors. Of course we do not support undercutting rates.”Some of the points discussed at the meeting had been put forward before, Stougaard said. There had been an ongoing dialogue between the parties involved: Babcock & Wilcox Vølund, Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC), and the two unions.The meeting was part of a programme of action scheduled today in Copenhagen by members of Unite and GMB, which together have around 2m members across various UK industries.Union members handed out leaflets in the city encouraging the Danish public to sign a petition calling on the Danish government to launch an investigation into what the unions called social dumping.The unions claimed that at the Rotherham project, Babcock & Wilcox Vølund was sub-contracting work to Croatian company Duro Dakovic, which had ignored the appropriate collective agreement and was paying workers the minimum wage of £7.20 (€8.44) an hour, less than half the rate in the collective agreement for engineering construction workers (NAECI).Meanwhile at the Kent project, BWSC did not allow trade unions on their site and refused to follow the NAECI agreement, Unite and GMB said.Unite national officer for construction, Bernard McAulay, said: “It is the height of hypocrisy when companies turn a blind eye to allow the exploitation of workers in the UK to boost profits, when such practices are illegal in Denmark.”After the meeting, McAulay told IPE PensionDanmark had said they would come back to the unions and that further meetings would take place.“The key for us is that they listened, and I do believe they’ll do something going forward,” he said.While trade union collective agreements are legal and binding in Denmark, they are not in the UK.
As a result, Amundi and Legal & General Investment Management came 11th and 12th, despite both breaking through the €1trn barrier. With nearly €4.9trn of assets, BlackRock tops IPE’s Top 400 latest ranking of asset managers in terms of global assets under management (AUM).BlackRock’s market share was 7.7% of global assets at the end of 2016. The firm also recorded the highest inflows during the year, bringing in €192bn – nearly three times that of its nearest rival.Amundi Asset Management, AXA Investment Managers, Goldman Sachs Asset Management and JP Morgan Asset Management made up the rest of the top five for inflows during the year. The ranking of global managers is largely unchanged from last year, but Fidelity Investments entered the top 10, reporting €2.13trn of AUM and attaining fourth place, following a year in which it expanded its exchange-traded fund business. Source: IPETop 400 Asset Managers 2017: European institutional AUMBlackRock also topped the AUM ranking of managers of European institutional assets, with €912bn.Amundi climbed several places in the ranking to fifth place, reporting an AUM increase of nearly 15% to €309bn. The French asset manager was aided by its strong inflows as well as its acquisition of Pioneer Investments.Credit Suisse moved up to 10th place, reporting €215bn of assets managed on behalf of European institutional clients. Aberdeen Asset Management fell out of the top five, following a year of outflows. The survey does not reflect the recent merger deals involving Aberdeen and Standard Life Investments, or Janus and Henderson Global Investors.Leading asset managers ran €63.3trn of assets globally at the end of 2016 the Top 400 Asset Managers survey shows. Global assets grew 12% during 2016, in line with the previous year’s growth rate.Total assets managed on behalf of European institutional clients reached €8.9trn. European institutional assets grew 2.3% during 2016.For the full Top 400 Asset Managers Special Report, click here.For last year’s rankings, click here. Source: IPETop 400 Asset Managers 2017: Inflows and outflows
Gideon Smith, Europe CIO of Rosenberg Equities, said: “This is the first step in us using neural network techniques and advanced artificial intelligence in client portfolios, but is a natural progression of the advanced quantitative techniques we’ve adopted over the last 30 years.“We believe this is a considered step and consistent with our investment approach of modelling and managing investment risk for clients. It’s an area where we have a wealth of knowledge and expertise and we are excited to leverage these techniques with the aim of improving client results in all areas of the investment process.”The company is also looking at “unstructured data sets” to use alongside traditional financial data, including a language processing tool that can analyse various text-based filings from companies to monitor investor sentiment.BNP Paribas cuts out oil and gas related assetsFrench financial services giant BNP Paribas will stop working with companies involved with extracting oil and gas from tar sands and shale methods. It has also declared it will not finance operations to extract oil from the Arctic region.The company said it was “committed” to aligning with a global initiative to keep global warming below 2°C by the end of the 21st century.Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, CEO of BNP Paribas, said in a statement: “We’re a long-standing partner to the energy sector and we’re determined to support the transition to a more sustainable world.“As an international bank, our role is to help drive the energy transition and contribute to the decarbonisation of the economy. As we have announced, we’re committed to working with and supporting those energy sector partners who have decided to make environmental issues a central part of their business policy.”The bank had previously announced a range of other aims, including €15bn of financing for renewable energy projects by 2020, €100m of investment in startup companies involved in energy transition projects, and withdrawal of financing for coal mines and coal-fired power plants.JP Morgan to launch first European ETFsJP Morgan Asset Management (JPMAM) is to list exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in Europe for the first time. The two strategies are based on strategies “typical of hedge funds”, the company said – specifically, a long-short equity product and a managed futures product.The two funds will list on the London Stock Exchange “imminently”, JPMAM said.Bryon Lake, international head of ETFs at JPMAM, said the launches would be the “first wave”, adding that the company was seeking to build out its “active, strategic beta and alternative beta ETF capabilities”.The company currently runs $2.2bn (€1.9bn) through 13 ETFs listed in the US. Rosenberg Equities, the quantitative investment arm of AXA Investment Managers, has begun using a form of artificial intelligence in its investment process.The company announced today that it had introduced “advanced modelling techniques that specifically utilise neural networks”.Rosenberg has incorporated a neural network system into its sustainable equity strategy. The company said the new model would “improve the strategy’s ability to identify stocks that are at risk of extreme price events”, as well as mitigate tail risks and ultimately seek to improve risk and return outcomes.Neural networks are computer systems designed to “learn” information in a similar way to humans. The technology hit global headlines last year when DeepMind, a machine learning company owned by Google, used its algorithm to learn the boardgame Go and subsequently beat one of the world’s top players.
As much as NOK300bn (€30.8bn) could be divested from energy stocks by Norway’s giant sovereign wealth fund.The Norwegian Ministry of Finance has tasked a group of experts with reviewing whether the NOK8.1trn (€830bn) Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) should drop all energy stocks from its portfolio – including companies involved in renewable energy.It follows advice received in November from the fund’s manager, Norges Bank, to remove the oil and gas sector from the fund’s equity benchmark index.The bank argued that offloading the stocks would make the government’s overall wealth less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil and gas prices, taking account not only of the GPFG’s investments but also the government’s stake in oil firm Statoil. Siv Jensen, Norway’s minister of finance, said: “The government seeks a broad basis for its decision. The issue must be thoroughly examined, as is the case for all important matters in the management of the GPFG.”The ministry said it wanted the expert group to consider divestment from FTSE Russell’s energy sector indices, which are to be adjusted at the end of this year as part of a wider overhaul of the company’s benchmarks. The sector includes alternative fuels and renewable energy equipment stocks, and from 1 January 2019 will also include coal companies.The GPFG currently invests roughly 4% of its portfolio in the sector, worth roughly NOK300bn.The ministry has also launched a public consultation on the issue, and has written to Norges Bank asking for additional information about the proposed divestment of the stocks.The group will be chaired by Øystein Thøgersen, professor and rector at NHH Norwegian School of Economics. Other members include Harald Magnus Andreassen, chief economist at Sparebank 1 Markets, and Olaug Svarva, the former chief executive of Folketrygdfondet, which manages the Nordic investment segment of the country’s sovereign wealth assets.In its letter to Norges Bank, the ministry said it wanted more information on some aspects on the advice already received, including the basis for recommending a larger deviation between the fund’s benchmark index and the investment universe.“In this way, the bank can continue to invest in companies in that sector, for example, within renewable energy, by deviating from the reference index within the given risk limits,” it wrote.The government aimed to conclude the matter this autumn, the ministry said.
“We were impressed by the clarity of these managers’ investment processes, and, as always, sought out those whose values chimed with our own with regards to successful long-term investment, while bringing their own unique perspectives on successful investment,” Mansley said. Brunel Pension Partnership has selected Quoniam and Robeco to run a low volatility global equity mandate.The mandate would initially be for £400m (€467m) of investments, but could increase to at least £600m, Brunel said in a statement. The partnership is one of the eight asset pools created by the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).According to one of the managers, the amount was expected to be split equally between Robeco and Quoniam.In assessing asset managers’ tenders for the mandate, Mark Mansley, chief investment officer, said Brunel had paid particular attention to how managers addressed the risk of valuation bubbles, and how they used environmental, social and corporate governance considerations to further reduce risk. Mark Mansley, chief investment officer, BrunelThe low volatility portfolio is the second sub-fund Brunel has launched within its authorised contractual scheme (ACS), a UK tax-efficient fund structure other LGPS pools have also used.Brunel has also launched a £1.6bn active UK equities fund within the ACS structure, appointing Aberdeen Standard Investments, Baillie Gifford, and Invesco. It is currently searching for managers to run a “flagship” high-alpha global equities fund.Brunel is a collaboration of 10 LGPS funds that have around £30bn in assets between them. It expects to have long-term relationships with asset managers, and documented its expectations in an “accord” that was publicly unveiled in November.Further readingLGPS pooling: Funds under pressure to comply About 30% of assets have been absorbed by the new LGPS pools – but a recent government consultation has heightened tensions with some of the partnershipsLGPS pool targets long-term manager relationships The Brunel Pension Partnership has set out expectations for long-term manager relationships as it prepares to bring on board more of its member funds’ assets