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Article | Corporate and Trustee Briefing

Whitbread – achieving efficiencies with AMX

How an already efficient scheme achieved further benefits

Pension Board and Trustee Consulting|Pensions Corporate Consulting|Pensions Risk Solutions|Reinsurance|Retirement
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By Jignasa Patel and Nick Horsfall | November 19, 2019

We spoke to Lena Andrew, Pensions Investment Manager, and Steve Jones, Pensions Director, of Whitbread about the value of working with AMX. They shared their views with Jignasa Patel on how the platform helps their team on a day-to-day basis.

The Whitbread Group Pension Fund is a £2.9 billion defined benefit scheme with a diverse investment portfolio that combines many asset classes and investment strategies. By working with AMX it has been able to speed up the process of investing with different managers and by streamlining the process it has been able to reduce the associated costs.

About AMX

AMX is an institutional platform, operated by Willis Towers Watson, which gives investors and asset managers a way to do business with each other. AMX standardises, centralises and streamlines the process of investing so it works better for everyone, allowing investors and managers to focus on what is really important.

AMX standardises, centralises and streamlines the process of investing so it works better for everyone

The 80-strong team at AMX, based in London, Cork and New York, negotiate with managers, transition assets, provide reporting and add an extra layer of risk oversight.

About Whitbread

Established in 1742, Whitbread is the largest hotel operator in the UK with over 800 hotels as well as several restaurant chains and employing more than 35,000 people. Whitbread Group Pension Fund is sponsored by Whitbread and is one of the larger schemes in the UK. It is operationally complex, with investments across multiple asset classes including hedge funds, equities and credit. In November 2017 Whitbread joined AMX seeking to achieve further efficiencies across an already well-run scheme.

Whitbread initially switched three of its hedge fund strategies to the AMX platform at the end of 2017. Since then three other hedge funds and one credit fund have been switched to the AMX version.

The AMX platform provides the following benefits to Whitbread:

Ease of set up process

The uniformity of application forms makes them easy to complete. All AML, KYC and legal checks are carried out upfront so there is no need to carry out detailed reviews for each new investment.

Robust and secure portal

The AMX portal offers confidentiality and security. The facility to upload completed documentation – such as signed application forms for new managers – has been particularly helpful for Whitbread.

Cost savings

Whitbread has saved approximately £4,000 per manager in legal reviews since joining the platform. Additionally, since November 2017, the company has saved manager fees of up to 16bps, equating to total savings of approximately £100,000.*

Operational savings

Having used the platform for 18 months, Whitbread has seen onboarding administrative time reduced by up to a day per manager, time their team can spend elsewhere.

Negotiation support

AMX helped negotiate redemption terms when exiting managers so Whitbread was able to avoid out of market exposure.

Tailored reporting

Working with AMX is collaborative, with an offering and support that suits Whitbread’s specific needs and reporting requirements.

Multi-asset

A variety of investment strategies from skilled managers allow Whitbread to manage a diversified and dynamic portfolio and move across asset classes as needed.

*Figures based on investments and associated savings as at 31 August 2018

We asked Whitbread to summarise how the platform helps their team. Below Lena Andrew, and Steve Jones from the Whitbread Pension Fund spoke about the value of working with AMX:

1. How has AMX helped Whitbread?

“One of the main reasons we like AMX is the ease of the set-up process, specifically when it comes to investments into new strategies. Having used the platform since November 2017, we have seen our previous on-boarding administrative time reduced by up to a day per manager, time our team can spend elsewhere.

Some examples include:

  • The uniformity of application forms which makes them very easy to complete
  • Back and forth communication has reduced by around 50%
  • As AML, KYC and legal checks were carried out upfront, there is no need to carry out detailed reviews for each new investment

The AMX portal is robust in terms of confidentiality and security. We find it helpful because of the facility to upload completed documentation – such as signed application forms for new managers – which we are starting to use more frequently. From what we see in the industry, AMX was the first to offer this function.”

2. Has AMX helped you to reduce costs?

“Yes – this is particularly evident on the legal side, where we estimate a saving of approximately £4,000 per manager in legal reviews. Additionally, since we started using AMX in November 2017, we have saved manager fees of up to 16bps. This equates to total savings of approximately £100,000.

We’ve also seen operational savings in terms of our team’s time spent in on-boarding.”

Savings with AMX

£100k
of managers fees in 9 months
£4k
per managers in legal reviews
Opening
operational savings from reduced onboarding

3. Have there been other benefits?

“The AMX portal is excellent at putting everything in one place for us: factsheets, quarterly investment reports, contract notes and valuation statements and a dashboard that shows exactly what we have on the platform. The access to data and the ease of reporting is also very important to us.

Furthermore, AMX helped to negotiate redemption terms when exiting managers to ensure we avoided out of market exposure.

The process has been very collaborative and the team at AMX team has been going out of its way to develop an offering that suits our needs, including a lot of support on the types of reports we want to see. The platform was new to us and the AMX team didn’t mind all the questions we had!”

4. Why is a platform offering multiple asset classes important to you?

The AMX portal is excellent at putting everything in one place for us: factsheets, quarterly investment reports, contract notes and valuation statements and a dashboard that shows exactly what we have on the platform.”

Steve Jones

“We have a diversified and dynamic portfolio across multiple asset classes – hedge funds, equities and credit – which makes it operationally complex.

Knowing that AMX has the scalability to offer us a variety of investment strategies from skilled managers was something that appealed to us from the beginning.

Recently, we have been going through a de-risking exercise, with significant movement between asset classes, so access to a platform offering multiple asset classes is valuable to us.”

5. How would you sum up how AMX helps Whitbread Group Pension Fund?

“We can achieve cost and operational efficiencies under one umbrella which is exactly what all engaged trustees are trying to achieve.”

Authors

Jignasa Patel

Nick Horsfall

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