July 26, 2021
- One-year return of 16.5%
- 10-year annualized return of 9.0%, representing $10.2 billion in added value
- Five-year annualized return of 9.3%, representing $4.0 billion in added value
- Assets under management increased by $28.3 billion to $199.6 billion in fiscal year 2021
VICTORIA, BC (July 26, 2021): British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) today published our Corporate Annual Report announcing we ended our fiscal year on March 31, 2021, with $199.6 billion of assets under management and delivered a 16.5 per cent one-year return for our combined pension plan clients, net of all fees. The $28.3 billion increase of assets under management reflects investment gains of $27.4 billion and $900 million of client net contributions.
“Thanks to the trust and confidence of our clients and the skill and commitment of our employees, we look back at a difficult and challenging year with a sense of accomplishment and pride,” said Gordon J. Fyfe, chief executive officer / chief investment officer of BCI.
“We managed through the market crisis while protecting the safety of our employees and doing our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19. Our investment performance reflects the strength and resiliency of the portfolios across the asset classes and our focus on owning quality companies for the long term.”
Over the past six years, BCI has transformed to an active in-house asset manager. We continue to focus on diversification across a wide range of asset classes to meet our clients’ long-term investment objectives and risk profiles. By generating reliable investment returns, our work supports pension benefits for 690,000 British Columbians, provides for stability in insurance premiums, and helps finance government programs.
Our long-term results remain the best measure of our performance – for every $100 a pension plan member receives in retirement benefits, on average, $75 is provided by BCI’s investment activity. Over the 10-year period, BCI has generated an annualized return for the combined pension plan clients of 9.0 per cent against a benchmark of 7.9 per cent, contributing $10.2 billion in added value. Our five-year annualized return is 9.3 per cent against a benchmark of 8.7 per cent, representing $4.0 billion in added value.
While BCI’s one-year return slightly lagged the combined market benchmark, our longer-term returns exceed our six major pension plan clients’ required actuarial rates of return that currently range between 5.65 per cent and 6.75 per cent, improving their funding ratios. Our clients entered the pandemic in a well-funded position – ranging from 103 per cent to 128 per cent – and, as a result, now have greater flexibility for longer-term planning and allocation of capital for the benefit of their members.
“Over the past six years, BCI has invested in our people and systems, focused on strengthening our processes, and built the resiliency of the team through business continuity planning and regular crisis management exercises,” said Gordon J. Fyfe.
“All of this came to fruition during the pandemic where the entire team successfully pivoted and adapted to a largely remote working environment while maintaining our focus on putting our clients first.”
As the pandemic started to impact the capital markets, BCI seamlessly transitioned our 590-member team, almost overnight, to a remote working environment. We employed our strategies for managing our clients’ portfolios in a downturn by ensuring sufficient liquidity and positioning our clients to capture investment opportunities within a dislocated market. We found high-quality opportunities without having to sell assets.
BCI maintained a diversified and disciplined approach to the market volatility associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Prioritizing our clients’ long-term objectives prevented overreactions to temporary market movements. We avoided the short-term trends, high-risk gains, and riskier investments that drove the rapid market recovery in the fiscal first quarter.
Underpinning our success was our focus on employee health and safety. We adapted existing training and development programs to the virtual environment, introduced courses to equip staff with techniques for remote working, and offered new programs to support employee health and wellness.
At BCI, we believe a focus on diverse talent drives broad insight, a deeper understanding of our clients, and fosters a culture of inclusivity where employees can thrive. In fiscal 2021, we developed a three-year diversity and inclusion strategy and hired a manager of diversity and inclusion to further our commitment to accessing great talent, retaining our highly skilled people, driving business insight, and ultimately delivering long-term returns to our clients.
“We have reached a significant milestone in BCI’s history, ending the year with $200 billion in assets,” said Gordon J. Fyfe.
“Overall, fiscal 2021 demonstrated the success of BCI’s transformation, the strength of the portfolio, and the skill and commitment of the entire BCI team.”
Looking ahead, BCI is also releasing our fiscal 2022-2024 Business Plan. It will allow us to continue leveraging our competitive advantages to meet the needs of our clients. The plan outlines how we will build on our transformation with four strategic ambitions: strengthening our value to clients; optimizing risk-adjusted returns; leveraging technology; and developing our talent.
“At the core of our business, we will continue to manage towards achieving optimal risk-adjusted net returns. Behind the scenes, we will build on the foundation we laid by continuing to invest in our people, technology, and operational capabilities,” said Gordon J. Fyfe.
Public markets, composed of fixed income and public equity investments, represents $137.8 billion and accounts for 69.1 per cent of net assets under management.
BCI’s fixed income program represents $71.2 billion, up from $57.1 billion at the end of the previous fiscal year, and 35.7 per cent of net assets under management. The program invests in public and private market debt and oversees our exposure to foreign currency. In fiscal 2021, the program benefited from defensive positioning pre-pandemic, providing the ability to act on several opportunities within a dislocated market, resulting in a strong performance in relative and absolute returns. We continued diversifying investments through the Canadian Universe Bond Fund, Corporate Bond Fund, Government Bond Fund, and the Principal Credit Fund.
Our $66.6 billion public equities program, an increase from $55.7 billion in fiscal 2020, represents 33.4 per cent of net assets under management. Public equities delivered a solid performance in fiscal 2021 in an unprecedented volatile market environment. We took advantage of price dislocations and favourable conditions to buy quality assets at attractive prices for our clients. BCI initiated new positions and built on existing positions in the following pooled funds: Active Canadian Equity; Active Canadian Small Cap Equity; Active Global Equity; Active U.S. Small Cap Equity; Global Partnership Fund; and Thematic Public Equity.
The program continued internalizing active equities, increasing the amount of actively managed internal equities by transitioning more than $3.0 billion from external managers, and focusing on opportunities to invest directly in public companies.
In addition to fixed income and public equities, our public markets program manages $14.4 billion of leverage, representing (7.3) per cent of total assets under management.
Private equity represents $20.7 billion and 10.4 per cent of net assets under management, compared with $17.9 billion at the end of fiscal 2020. With a sector-focused strategy, the program committed $2.6 billion total during the calendar year 2020.
The program invests directly in private companies on our own and with strategic partners, and indirectly through our fund investments. BCI focuses on the business services, consumer, financial services, healthcare, industrials, technology, media, and communications sectors.
In fiscal 2021, the program invested $900 million in six direct investments diversified by sector and geography, and we committed $1.7 billion across 13 funds.
In addition, the program also completed a partial sale of a direct investment to a like-minded investor, providing realized cash proceeds of approximately $500 million and retaining a significant interest in the company as it continues to increase its market share.
The program capitalized on close relationships with management at portfolio companies and collaborated on best practices to protect the value of our clients’ investments. As well, BCI’s extensive networks and reputation as a trusted co-investor allowed the program to source new private market opportunities despite ongoing travel restrictions.
INFRASTRUCTURE & RENEWABLE RESOURCES
Our infrastructure & renewable resources program represents $20.0 billion and 10.0 per cent of net assets under management, compared with $18.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2020. Through the year ending December 31, 2020, the investment team reviewed opportunities across a variety of sectors and geographies – ultimately committing $2.0 billion on behalf of our clients.
Historically, the program has made material equity investments that allow BCI to pursue an active governance approach with our portfolio companies. The program is diversified by geographic region and sector and consists of a global portfolio of regulated utilities in the water, electricity, and gas sectors, as well as holdings in the digital infrastructure and transportation sectors. Timberlands, farmlands, and agri-businesses are also held within the program.
This past year, our holdings in the regulated utility sector performed well despite the global pandemic, with strong operational results and, in many cases, growing demand for their essential services. In addition, the program saw good overall performance from our agricultural and timberlands portfolio holdings.
Notable new investments included the acquisition of an ownership stake, alongside other institutional partners, in a high-quality portfolio of approximately 136,000 communication towers in India. In addition to being the country’s largest private market transaction, the portfolio provides a well-positioned platform to participate in further growth and development of the digital marketplace within India.
During the year, BCI further increased our investment in Teays River Investments LLC, a U.S.-based platform company with interests in multiple food and agricultural-focused businesses. The new capital allowed the company to complete the acquisition of Grimmway Farms – one of North America’s largest organic vegetable producers with activities across 65 organic crops and more than 135 seasonal and year-round product offerings.
REAL ESTATE AND MORTGAGES
QuadReal Property Group (QuadReal), a company owned by BCI and created in 2016, actively manages our clients’ real estate and mortgage investment portfolios. The two programs represent $35.5 billion or 17.8 per cent of net assets under management.
The $28.5 billion real estate program accounts for 14.3 per cent of BCI’s assets under management, compared to $25.5 billion at the end of fiscal 2020. After early-year volatility that led to lingering uncertainty through much of the year, QuadReal saw asset values stabilize and marginally rebound in certain sectors and geographies. There was a broadening rebound in both tenant and investment activity in the second half of 2020, with sizeable new commitments and acquisitions in Canada and internationally.
Despite the challenges of investing during a global pandemic, QuadReal is closer to reaching the objective of a 50/50 allocation between the Canadian and international real estate portfolios. BCI’s partnership in Canada with RBC Global Asset Management (RBC GAM) was extended, as planned, enabling both to partner on a portfolio valued at over $7.5 billion.
While maintaining low leverage levels, QuadReal accessed debt markets to capitalize on the low interest rate environment and investor demand for ESG-focused assets by issuing $750 million in green bonds through two offerings. Proceeds support QuadReal’s qualifying expenditures on green buildings, renewable energy, resource and energy efficiency, pollution prevention, clean transportation, and climate change adaptation.
The $7.0 billion mortgage program accounts for 3.5 per cent of BCI’s net assets under management, compared with $6.5 billion at the end of fiscal 2020. Many of QuadReal’s borrowers were impacted by the pandemic, particularly those with retail, hospitality, or service-related tenants. The team assessed all loans to determine repayment ability and risk in the circumstances. For some loans, they worked with borrowers to allow payment deferrals and loan extensions and to structure enhanced loan security and reporting where applicable. Three of the four mortgage funds within the mortgage program delivered positive results for the nine-month period from April 1 to December 31, 2020 and outperformed their benchmarks. QuadReal committed $688 million to the U.S. portfolio and $422 million to the Canadian portfolio, and developed new lending relationships.
Effective January 2021, BCI and QuadReal, in collaboration with our clients, consolidated the four mortgage pooled funds — Construction Mortgage Fund, Mezzanine Mortgage Fund, Fixed Term Mortgage Fund, and U.S. Mortgage Opportunity Fund — into one program, the BCI QuadReal Mortgage Program. By combining separate mortgage pools with similar investment objectives and characteristics, QuadReal will realize efficiencies and increase potential returns through diversification.
BCI is committed to maintaining fiscal discipline as we continue to expand our global investment footprint. Our active, in-house asset management model requires robust systems and processes, and a growing complement of specialized expertise. Cost advantages arise from the economies of scale that come with managing $199.6 billion, pooling assets, and managing 77.3 per cent of assets in-house.
BCI’s total costs, consisting of internal, external direct, and external indirect costs, were $1.6 billion or 88.5 cents per $100 of assets under management for fiscal 2021, all of which are netted against investment returns. This compares to total costs of $1.3 billion or 79.0 cents per $100 in fiscal 2020.
INVESTMENT AND CORPORATE HIGHLIGHTS
- Partnered with global investors to acquire a telecom tower company, BCI’s first direct infrastructure investment in India
- Transitioned more than $3.0 billion from external managers to internally managed public equities
- Reached $1.4 billion in cumulative historical participation in sustainable bonds, compared to $439 million in fiscal 2020
- QuadReal issued $750 million in green bonds and is one of the top three Canadian issuers
- Launched our diversity and inclusion strategy to strengthen diversity and foster an inclusive culture at BCI
- Named as one of BC’s Top Employers and one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for the second consecutive year
- Successfully transitioned a 590-member BCI team to a remote working environment
- Developed and implemented our F2022-F2024 Business Plan, outlining our four strategic ambitions: strengthening our value to clients; optimizing risk-adjusted returns; leveraging technology; and developing our talent.
For more information on BCI’s fiscal 2021 performance, please download our F2021 Corporate Annual Report here.
With $199.6 billion of managed assets, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) is the provider of investment management services to British Columbia’s public sector. We generate the investment returns that help our institutional clients build financially secure futures. As of March 31, 2021, BCI has 30 clients in three separate classifications: Pension Funds, Insurance Funds, and Special Purpose Funds. With our global outlook, we seek investment opportunities that convert savings into productive capital that will meet our clients’ risk/return requirements over time. We offer investment options across a range of asset classes: fixed income; public and private equity; infrastructure & renewable resources; real estate, and commercial mortgages. For more information, visit our website BCI.ca or follow us on LinkedIn.
Ben O’Hara-Byrne, senior manager, external stakeholder engagement,