Employers that provide registered pension plans to their Ontario employees should review their Statement of Investment Policies and Procedures (“SIPPs”) within the next few months. New Ontario SIPP requirements are coming into force: SIPPs will have to be filed with the Ontario pension regulator, and they will have to address new issues described below.
Electronic filing of SIPPs with the Ontario regulator will be mandatory in 2016. You shouldn’t assume that your pension service provider will attend to the filing for you. It’s the legal responsibility of the registered administrator of the plan – usually the employer – to ensure that the SIPP is adopted and filed on time. For most plans, the filing deadline is March 1st, 2016.
There is no change to the requirement that SIPPs be reviewed and confirmed, or amended, at least annually. If your company has not yet conducted its 2015 SIPP review, now is the time to become familiar with the new SIPP requirements and address them as part of your 2015 review. Doing so will avoid having to do another review in early 2016.
Under the new rules SIPPs must state whether environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) factors have been incorporated into the pension plan’s investment policies and procedures and, if so, how those factors were incorporated. There is no legal or standard definition of “ESG factors”. On June 30th the Ontario regulator released draft “Investment Guidance Notes” (here) which provide background information on the new rules. Notably, the regulator expects the administrator to “establish and document its own view or understanding on what is meant by ESG factors” and “consider whether or not it will incorporate ESG factors and document the basis for its decision.” The regulator expects such documentation to appear in meeting minutes or in an “internal memorandum”.
SIPPs for defined contribution (“DC”) registered pension plans will have to contain a significant amount of new information. The Ontario regulator released a separate draft “Investment Guidance Note” (here) for “Member Directed Defined Contribution Plans”. It lists eight categories of information that should be included in SIPPs for DC plans, including the requirement to disclose how investments are selected, communicated and monitored. Most interesting is the proposed requirement that the SIPP specify “the frequency and type of reporting” that the administrator will require from the plan’s service providers. The regulator provides an example: the SIPP may have a statement that quarterly reporting will be provided by the record keeper on fund performance, fund allocation, web-site usage, and other service-level statistics. This level of disclosure regarding monitoring of service providers should cause administrators to take a fresh look at how they govern their DC plans.
The Ontario pension regulator has invited public submissions on both of its draft Investment Guidance Notes. All feedback will be made public. Click here for information about how to comment on the drafts.