Actuarial assumptions and methods
The following instructions are designed to help actuaries choose actuarial assumptions and methods for determining the value of pension plan commitments on a going concern basis. Retraite Québec may request explanations from actuaries whose assumptions deviate from the instructions described below.
As part of its supervisory mandate, Retraite Québec may also require any information that it deems necessary to verify that the actuarial valuation report complies with all legislative requirements.
Interest rate assumption
Retraite Québec has analyzed the information regarding the interest rate assumptions used in actuarial valuation reports as at 31 December 2017 and as at 31 December 2018, as well as the most recent return forecasts for the coming years. Based on this analysis, Retraite Québec expects the interest rate assumption of actuarial valuations carried out after 30 December 2020 to be established using a best estimate of the rate of return on investments (including the effects of rebalancing and diversification) that does not exceed 5.75%. This limit applies to plans with investment policies that provide for 50% of plan investments to be fixed-income investments, as defined in the first paragraph of
section 60.8 of the
Regulation respecting supplemental pension plans .
For other investment policies, the actuary will establish the interest rate assumption of the actuarial valuation by taking into account the 6% limit as well as the risk premium limit presented below.
The educational note from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries concerning the determination of best estimate discount rates shows the reasonable risk premium for the different categories of a pension plan's assets. Retraite Québec expects actuaries to respect the educational note when determining the best estimate for the rate of return on investments.
Best estimate and margins for adverse deviations
According to the Canadian Institute of Actuaries' Standards of Practice , for valuations on a going concern basis, actuaries must choose best-estimate assumptions that have been modified to include margins for adverse deviations to the extent required by legislation or by the terms of an appropriate engagement.
The Standards of Practice define a best-estimate assumption as an unbiased assumption. It must not be conservative or non-conservative. In cases where a stochastic model is used to determine the best estimate of the expected rate of return, Retraite Québec considers the median of the distribution of returns on investments to be the best estimate.
In addition, Retraite Québec expects actuarial valuations to include a margin for adverse deviations when the interest rate assumption on a going concern basis is established for a pension plan or the component of a plan where
- no stabilization contribution is required by law
- the following 2 conditions are met:
- a stabilization provision is established
- the interest rate assumption stems from an investment policy in which the target distribution of investments in variable-income securities is higher than the one used to establish the stabilization provision.
In the absence of such a margin, Retraite Québec could require that the valuation be revised or that a complete actuarial valuation be produced at the end of the fiscal year following the valuation date.
In an actuarial valuation report, actuaries must describe the methodology used to establish the interest rate assumption. The description must take into account the following:
- best estimate rate of return on investments
- the adjustment stemming from the zero return of letters of credit
- rebalancing and diversification
- value added returns from active management
- investment management fees
- plan administration fees
- rounding of figures
- margin for adverse deviations.
Letters of credit
In the case of a plan whose assets include letters of credit, the best-estimate assumption on the rate of return on investments must be adjusted to take into account the letters of credit's zero return. The impact of the adjustment must be equal to the proportion that corresponds to the letters of credit included in the plan assets on the plan's liabilities on a going concern basis.
Nevertheless, Retraite Québec will accept an adjustment that only applies for periods in which the letters of credit are expected to be renewed, in accordance with the funding policy. In such cases, the interest rate assumption would be select and ultimate.
Active investment management
According to the educational note concerning the determination of best estimate discount rates, it is generally reasonable to assume that active management will generate returns equivalent to the additional investment management fees associated with active management over those for passive management. Retraite Québec therefore expects the actuary to limit the added value of active management that is included in the interest assumptions to the fees incurred for active management.
The assumptions regarding the plan's administration fees and the pension fund's management fees must be listed separately and reflect the advice provided in the educational note concerning expenses in funding valuations.
Rounding of figures
Actuaries can, in a reasonable manner, round the interest assumption to the nearest 0.1%. However, this rounding of figures must be done consistently from year to year
before applying the margin for adverse deviations (so that the margin chosen by the plan administrator is not changed by the rounding of figures).
Salary increase assumption
Where an actuarial valuation uses a salary increase assumption that is less than the assumption used in the previous valuation, actuaries should justify their choice of assumption by referring to plan experience, the interdependence of salary increase and inflation assumptions, economic conditions, the collective agreement, etc.
References from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries