Category Guidance

The guidance and criteria for each category has been carefully compiled in consultation with the judges and we refine the guidance each year to ensure we ask the entrants to impart the depth of information required to impress the judges as they review the entries. 

You may download the guidance by clicking here or by clicking the relevant button at the bottom of this page.  

Country/regional awards

For your country or regional award, you should present a general, detailed overview of your recent activity in the past 12-15 months, focusing on any areas where you believe you have displayed excellence and / or innovation.
If your recent activity relates to a specific area that could also feature as a themed award, then please go ahead and base your country or regional award on that topic but make it clear to the judges that this constitutes your main area of activity in the period under review. For instance, if you undertook a large scale review of your risk management, you may want to consider opening the main text part of your country or regional award with a phrase such as: "Risk was the main area of concern for us the past year.
Or if, for example, you implemented a new emerging market programme, you could open your main text with a sentence such as: "Integrating emerging markets into our investment strategy was the focus of our attention most recently." This would help the judges understand why your country or regional entry is devoted to a particular theme, innovation or development.

Themed awards

Active Management

For this silver level award, the judges are looking to see whether you run your own in-house active management, use external managers or a mix of both. Among the areas of interest to them are:

  • why you have chosen the active role
  • do you actively manage across asset classes, or just particular classes?
  • what are your return expectations on a risk adjusted or other basis?
  • your risk management and controls
  • any use of tactical overlays
  • benchmarked and/or absolute return strategies

If you use external managers:

  • how do you select the best in class and monitor them effectively?


The judges are keen to see evidence of a long-term approach to alternative investments and the role they play as part of your long-term objectives. This bronze award may cover a wide range of non-traditional assets, such as commodities and derivatives. Your focus may be on a carefully selected and balanced range of alternatives or just one key alternative, such as hedge funds or private equity. Either way, the entry should cover in detail:

  • ·the strategy and thinking behind using alternatives
  • ·the benefits of their risk return profiles
  • · their correlation with both traditional and other alternative classes
  • ·the contribution being made by each type of alternative you invest in
  • ·how the use of various alternatives or your overall alternatives portfolio impacts your traditional portfolios in terms and risk and return
  • ·how you calculate and manage the risk associated with the different alternative classes you invest in or target
  • how you select the different types of alternatives
  • ·how you construct and implement your alternatives mandates
  • ·whether you invest internally or externally
  • ·how you monitor performance and benchmark your alternatives

Climate-related Risk Management

This is a highly specialised category that relates specifically to the carbon footprint your investments create and how you develop solutions to reduce it as part of your long-term overall strategy and objectives. Detailed accounts of one or more of the following are key to a strong entry: 

  • how you have integrated climate change and related risks into your statement of investment principles and / or other main documents of association
  • how you implement and integrate practically your climate-related risk management across the different asset classes you invest in
  • how you have adapted your active engagement policy accordingly
  • how you include climate-related risk factors in your research and analyses and manager searches
  • any bespoke mandates you have innovatively created
  • how you use innovative investment products and processes to off-set or hedge the carbon risk in your portfolio
  • niche sectors such as renewable energy sources and bio-mass technology as potential investments
  • how you engage and interact with peers, regulators, governments and consultants with respect to reducing managing your carbon footprint
  • how you monitor and report on your climate-related risk management and investments

DC & Hybrid Strategies

For this award, the judges would like to see entries that describes how your defined contribution or hybrid model is structured and show how it seeks to innovatively:

  • meet your members’ return and pension income expectations
  • structure the plan in terms of governance and risk sharing between sponsor and member
  • manage contributions and costs
  • offer the best investment choices

Full details about any guaranteed income element you offer would also strengthen your case, especially for hybrid schemes.


For this award, we would expect submissions that demonstrate:

  • clear evidence of a diversified investment strategy
  • the reasons for adopting such an approach
  • regions, sectors and/or investment style
  • use of benchmarks
  • use of overlays and tactical asset allocation

Please also demonstrate how you implement this strategy to ensure an appropriate level of diversification through structured mandates that respond cyclically while benefiting your strategy in the long term within a clear risk framework.

Emerging Markets

This category is aimed at attracting entries from pension funds or equivalent institutions of any level of experience in investing in emerging markets.
In addition to describing your strategy, expectations and implementation, entries should cover:

  • any innovative steps taken to enhance the benefits of investing in emerging markets
  • the risk controls you have in place across the wide range of emerging market exposures
  • the countries and regions you invest in and why you choose these areas
  • distinct management tools for any associated risks such as currency management and political stability

Lessons learned that have affected your approach and process can also be a valuable part of submissions.


While pension funds’ involvement with this asset class varies considerably from country by country, there is usually some exposure to equities. For this bronze award, the judges will want to know in detail:

  • the reasons you include equities in the long-term and size of your fund’s commitment
  • the different mandates you construct based on geography, style and / or sector and their risk return profile
  • how you manage short-term volatility and market downturns
  • how you harvest short-term equity premium
  • your wider equities risk management process and analysis models
  • whether you invest internally or externally or a mix of both
  • whether you manage your equities actively or passively
  • any innovative concepts you have developed or are developing to ensure equities benefit your scheme


The judges would like to see clear evidence of a carefully conceived and implemented innovative socially responsible investing and environmentally protective policy across the various asset classes you invest in. Where possible please include detailed examples of:

  • voting and engagement policies
  • exclusions and exclusions policies
  • carbon-footprint management
  • monitoring and/or a proactive approach to ensuring your scheme supports a streamlined and inclusive governance framework
  • how you measure success and benchmark your ESG performance
  • how the principles of sustainable investing complements your overall objectives

Other factors to consider include declaring any codes of practice you are signed up to and follow.

Factor Investing

Additionally known as alternative benchmarking, advanced beta and smart beta, factor investing is becoming an increasingly popular means of seeking additional market beta. For this category, your entry should focus on:

  • how you conceived your factor investing or smart beta strategy
  • which factors you consider as a source of beta
  • how these sources interact and complement each other
  • which asset classes it covers
  • the objectives and risk return profile of your approach
  • how you implement your factor investing solution and the analysis methods you implement
  • how it interacts with or impacts the other asset classes you invest in
  • how it complements and your traditional passive management and any existing enhanced index approach you use

Fixed Income

The bedrock of pension fund investment with more opportunities than ever for obtaining exposure, the judges reviewing this bronze level award are generally impressed by entries that demonstrate:

  • the reasons you include fixed income in the long-term and size of your fund’s commitment
  • successful use of traditional instruments
  • successful use of newer fixed income products
  • the different mandates you construct based on geography, style, product and / or sector and their risk return profile
  • innovative concepts to deal with low and negative interest rates
  • the role fixed income plays and how you integrate it into liability matching, hedging strategies and indexation solutions
  • whether you invest internally or externally or a mix of both
  • whether you adapt any active management to your fixed income

Practical issues, including success stories running fixed income portfolios can serve as useful case studies to strengthen entries.

In-house Investment Team

Internal versus external asset management for one or more asset classes has long been a divide within institutional investment and often depends on resources, so entries could address the issues underpinning the reasons for having an internal team. But the focus of the award is very much on:

  • the structure of the team
  • the team’s objectives in meeting its ‘client’s’ needs
  • the team’s core competences
  • how the team implements its strategy
  • how the team interacts with other  internal teams
  • cost, value for money and risk factors versus external asset management


This award allows a wide range of topics across all areas of a pension fund’s activities, some of which are rarely covered in entries, such as IT systems, personnel strategies, risk control operations and management. But it is a popular and very competitive category.
Entries should highlight in detailed fashion as clearly as possible:

  • the real innovation involved
  • the context in which it was developed and the resulting benefits
  • how the concept is implemented practically

In addition, entrants should cover how and why they believe their innovation will potentially benefit their European pension funds.

Long-Term Investment Strategy

As this is a gold level award, the judges’ expectations are demanding. You should make full use of the entry form beginning with a high level summary of the fund’s history and overall objectives within the Overview & Investment Strategy area.
In addition, the entry should show:

  • a detailed explanation of your long-term investment objectives
  • a detailed account of your long-term strategy and asset allocation model

Particular detailed attention should be paid to:

  • clarifying your current strategy
  • how often your regular long-term reviews take place
  • integrating your long-term risk models, budgets and management
  • how successful it is
  • how it has changed over recent years with a minimum period of five years
  • your vision of the evolution of your investment strategy to meet your long-term objectives in your next review period of three to five years
  • your historical benchmarked results and detailed analysis of the outcomes of your strategy, supported by performance figures, to attain your pre-set targets
  • any long-term changes you have introduced if current performance deviates too far from your pre-set targets
  • any innovative concepts or models you have developed or are developing to meet your long-term objectives

Passive Management

For this silver level category, the judges would like to see how you approach your passively managed mandates to ensure the most efficient returns.

There are many innovative approaches to passive management that pension funds use. These could include:

  • enhanced index strategies
  • mutual fund strategies
  • use of other derivatives such as futures
  • use of exchange traded funds
  • use of index funds
  • dynamic indexing strategies
  • enhanced portfolio construction

How you implement these could be part of your strategic asset allocation, the basis for tactical adjustments or form creative overlays. Your entry should outline your approach to these or any other innovative passive management solutions you have devised.

Portfolio Construction

This is one area where pension funds have developed innovative and varied approaches to structuring portfolios to meet their particular needs. A strong portfolio construction entry should outline your overall long-term objectives and then look at how your portfolio is built, using examples where possible, covering:

  • the asset allocation strategy being implemented
  • the constraints imposed
  • the risk budgeting and control aspects
  • use of any overlays and tactical management

You should then endeavour to describe how all these aspects combine to successfully meet the desired outcome. For this, you should consider:

  • how robust the assumptions you used were in practice
  • ·how the portfolio you put in place has had to change over time
  • the success of the fully constructed portfolio at overall fund level

Real Assets & Infrastructure

Increasingly seen as distinct asset classes from real estate, infrastructure and other niche real asset classes such as timberland, forestry, agriculture, mobile transmission masts and utility transmission lines are regarded as having a special place in long-term portfolios alongside traditional real estate investments. Thanks to their distinctive and long-term nature, the overall impact infrastructure and other real assets can have in liability matching is significant. 
For this category, entries should focus on your infrastructure and/or other real assets in the main and avoid including any traditional real estate strategies or investments, even if these assets form part of a wider real assets portfolio. If there is a close relationship with your real estate investments, then you should ensure that your entry is heavily weighted in favour of the infrastructure and/or real assets investments. Judges would thus be keen to assess:
  • why you invest in infrastructure and/or other real assets and how they complement your traditional real estate and other asset classes in your overall portfolio 
  • the reasons for the level of your commitment
  • any restrictions either at institutional or regulatory level
  • examples of your investments, especially recent deals and activity
  • the types and sectors you prefer
  • your vision for their future role such as increasing your commitments
  • the costs of investing and running infrastructure and/or other real assets mandates
  • the mandates and types of vehicles used to obtain exposure
  • the risks infrastructure and/or other real assets investments incur and how you manage them

Real Estate

Always a core component of pensions’ portfolios, investing in rea estate now offers a range of opportunities. So, in addition to explaining the role real estate plays in your overall long-term investment strategy, entries could also show:

  • how the real estate portfolio is constructed using different strategies and / or styles
  • the current and maximum weighting and when you expect to reach this
  • how you implement these in line with your risk return expectations and limits
  • whether you invest internally, externally or a mix of both
  • how and why you choose your external managers
  • how you gain access to various different markets geographically and sectors
  • how you balance direct and indirect portfolios

Risk Management Solutions

This award applies to a wide range of pension fund activities and invites entrants to outline their approach to the often complex and technical issues in this field, by giving clear and as simple as possible explanations of their risk management strategies and policies, in whatever area, and show how these are key to success in the long-term.

Points to consider that you could and should expand upon in detail in your entry:

  • any novel approaches you have conceived in risk management
  • who decides your risk budgets and how these are calculated
  • how you implement your risk budgets in practice
  • the use of stress-testing
  • your approach to managing volatility in different asset classes
  • any risk trigger processes you use
  • practical solutions using overlays and other hedging techniques

Small Pension Fund

This silver award is for pension funds with maximum assets under management of one billion euros and seeks to demonstrate how small pension schemes devise innovative solutions to meet the challenges posed by their size and lack of resources that larger schemes may not encounter.

Most pension funds that enter this silver category use their country/regional draft for this award, although you can prepare a separate entry if you wish to, focusing on being a small fund with limited resources and how you manage both your investments and your members’ expectations. 

Sovereign Reserve Fund

This silver category is designed to differentiate national or public reserve funds from public pension funds serving a local community. There are different types of reserve fund in Europe and each country has its own reasons for their creation based on their macro-economic and demographic assumptions.

Those eligible to enter are funds created to:

  • act as the main pensions provider for first pillar pensions
  • build reserves to cushion the burden on national first pillar provision
  • provide emergency cover for second pillar public and corporate schemes
  • ·provide buffer or supplementary pensions income
  • cover any other area related to state pension provisions

This award will largely resemble a country/regional award. Ideally you should thus present a general overview of your scheme's activity in the past year or so, focusing on any areas you believe you excelled in or changes to your operations, composition and/or investment strategy that ensure your scheme continues to excel and succeed.

Specialist Investment Managers

While this award is primarily designed for pension funds outsourcing to external managers, it could also be relevant to in-house investment teams with a number of niche portfolios with specialist managers. Entries should include detailed accounts of:

  • the different niche markets you target
  • the role specialist managers play in your scheme’s overall long-term objectives
  • how the different mandates are structured within the overall portfolio
  • how you assess and manage the risk return profile of the niches
  • how you find the best in class managers for your needs
  • how your niche managers implement your strategy 
  • how you monitor their performance
  • any innovative concepts you have developed in running your niche portfolios
For further guidance or information, please contact: 
Robert Watson
Pension Funds Relationship Manager
+44 (0)20 3465 9327