Varma

Varma’s result for January–June 2022: Broad diversification brought stability in a challenging market environment

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Unlisted investments brought the best returns to Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company in the first half of the year as accelerating inflation, slowing economic growth and the war in Ukraine rocked the investment markets. The appreciation of the dollar had a positive impact on Varma’s investments.

The return on Varma’s investments in January–June was -4.3 (10.4) per cent. The value of investments was EUR 56.7 (59.0 on 1 Jan) billion at the end of June.

“The investment markets were unstable during the first half of the year. The acceleration of inflation, the rise in interest rates and the war in Ukraine influenced the returns on our investments, but broad diversification across asset classes and geographical areas brought stability to our investment portfolio,” says Varma’s President & CEO Risto Murto.

“Early in the year, the investment markets offered few places to hide, with the returns on both fixed income and equity investments coming down. During the second quarter, concerns over slowing economic growth spread to the global markets, which was reflected in the returns,” says Varma’s Chief Investment Officer Markus Aho. Aho took on his role on 1 June.

“The returns on unlisted investments, such as private equity investments, hedge funds and real estate and infrastructure investments, compensated for the weak performance of the listed equity and fixed income markets. We also benefited from the appreciation of the dollar,” Aho continues.

Varma’s private equity investments generated a return of 12.1 (25.2) per cent, unlisted equities 8.5 (8.1) per cent, hedge fund investments 4.5 (7.5) per cent and real estate investments funds 6.3 (2.8) per cent. Of the main asset classes, equity investments yielded -8.2 (18.3) per cent, fixed income investments -4.6 (0.9) per cent, real estate investments 3.8 (1.9) and other investments 4.6 (7.4) per cent.

As stock prices fell, Varma transferred investments from listed equities to money market investments during the second quarter. Due to the change, the proportion of listed equities fell by almost 4 percentage points to 30.2 per cent of the investment portfolio from the end of March to the end of June.

Varma’s solvency capital remained strong, at EUR 14.8 (16.9 on 1 Jan) billion, i.e. 1.8 (2.0 on 1 Jan) times the solvency limit.

According to Murto, the biggest concern regarding the economy is Central Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas.

“Gas supply problems are likely to slow economic growth in Central Europe next winter. If growth slows down in Europe, it will inevitably also weaken the Finnish economy’s growth opportunities. The autumn ahead of us will be an unusual one, with inflation at a high level but economic growth already stalling,” he says.

“The outlook for the rest of the year on the investment markets is more balanced than before, even though the slowdown in economic growth is causing headwind. According to the latest market expectations, inflation has already peaked out, and the interest rate hikes by the central banks are also expected to be more moderate. The return expectations on investments have improved as valuations have fallen, however, strong volatility is expected to continue in the markets,” Aho says.

Reform of the Self-Employed Persons’ Pensions Act to improve the pension security of self-employed persons

The TyEL payroll of Varma’s client companies grew 7.4 per cent in January–June compared to the same period last year. Growth was brisk during the second quarter, especially thanks to rising employment.

A government proposal on amending the Self-Employed Persons’ Pensions Act will be before Parliament during the autumn season. The proposal aims to improve self-employed persons’ social and pension security and support the implementation of the Self-Employed Persons’ Pensions Act. The objective is that the YEL income would better reflect the value of the self-employed person’s work input.

“If the reform passes, it would clarify the position of YEL insurance providers and consolidate the legislative framework based on which earnings-related pension insurance companies confirm self-employed persons’ YEL income. Without the legislative amendment, it is difficult for pension companies to confirm YEL income equally for all self-employed persons,” Murto says.

Investments in sustainable ETFs and updated Sustainability Programme

In April–June, Varma invested a total of EUR 350 million in two sustainable ETFs. One of the funds is a Japan fund tailored for Varma and the other invests in euro-denominated corporate bonds. In addition, the investment policies of Varma’s ETF equity funds investing in the USA and in Europe were aligned with the Paris Agreement in June.

In May, Varma published its new Sustainability Programme that steers the development of sustainability at Varma. The Programme’s focus areas are providing pension security, directing investments towards tackling global challenges, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, and promoting sustainable working life.

In June, Varma published the updated climate policy for its investments and its sharpened investment targets aimed at combating climate change. The goal is to cut the entire investment portfolio’s absolute emissions by 25 per cent by 2025 and by 50 per cent by 2030.

Media contacts:
Katri Viippola, Senior Vice-President, HR and Communications, tel. +358 400 129 500 or katri.viippola(at)varma.fi   

Suvi Vesterinen, Communications Manager, tel. +358 40 555 8029 or suvi.p.vesterinen(at)varma.fi 

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About Varma

Varma
Varma
Salmisaarenranta 11
00180 Helsinki

010 2440http://www.varma.fi

Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company is a responsible and solvent investor of pension funds. The company is responsible for the statutory earnings-related pension cover of some 957,000 people in the private sector. Premiums written totalled EUR 5.6 billion in 2021 and pension payments stood at EUR 6.2 billion. Varma’s investment portfolio amounted to EUR 56.7 billion at the end of June 2022.

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