While the German pension fund association and PensionsEurope criticised the inclusion of the HBS in the assessment, Valkenburg said it made sense from “an efficiency point of view” to have pension funds calculate the HBS for the quantitative assessment and then use them in the stress test.But the actuary also argued that it was “very difficult to have a single framework for capital requirements” in the pensions sector, as schemes are “executing pension promises in very different ways”.He said using a single risk-free rate would work if all the pensions funds used stochastic evaluations, and the risks were modelled in the same way.But he said this was not the case in reality.“Using a risk-free rate to give a good estimate of the valuation of pension promises that are not fully guaranteed would lead to too high values if the risks are not modelled in the cash flows,” he said. Valkenburg said one of the most “valuable” aspects of the stress tests EIOPA will conduct among European IORPs will be the assessment of defined contribution (DC) plans.While industry group PensionsEurope has questioned whether the stress tests will yield any useful results regarding DC scheme members, Valkenburg stressed the importance of “informing members about how a stressed situation can impact them”.He added: “It is good to see DC is included in the stress tests for the first time because most new accrual of pension assets in Europe is in DC.”One of the goals of the stress test is to assess the impact on the macro economy, which, according to Valkenburg, will not be as great as the impact on individual members who “might have less money to buy a pension” on retirement.“This is important to be aware of, and, hopefully, we can help members to navigate through their lives and minimise the impact,” he said.The AAE issued a paper in February on decumulation in which it warned that the requirement to buy an annuity on the day of retirement might force people to buy at the wrong time.Valkenburg said the stress test might also highlight the problem of guarantees being much higher than the current interest rate. “Guarantees are very expensive, and they were given in times when stakeholders were not expecting a sudden change in the environment like we have seen in the past couple of years,” he said.Valkenburg expects guarantees to come down or be removed altogether in the wake of the stress tests, which he said would, in turn, highlight the problem of people having to work longer. The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) needs to “take another look” at using the holistic balance sheet (HBS) approach as a means of calculating capital requirements, according to Falco Valkenburg, chair of the Actuarial Association of Europe’s (AAE) pensions committee.Valkenburg said the HBS was “an interesting concept that should be explored further, maybe as part of pension funds’ risk management”, but he also stressed that the HBS concept was “quite new”.“Not even we at the AAE are fully convinced it will lead to something that can work in practice,” he said. EIOPA announced the details of its first stress test for occupational pension funds on Monday.
Adjunct professor La Mikia Castillo said it can be hard to find a space where she “fits in,” due to her Afro-Latina identity. Castillo works to bridge her two communities, since she thinks members of both face similar issues. (Sarah Johnson| Daily Trojan)Born and raised in South L.A., alumna and adjunct professor La Mikia Castillo strives to make a difference in communities in need by focusing on public policy and urban planning.“I grew up in a low-income community,” Castillo said. “It wasn’t until that I got to college when I realized that my community didn’t have access to the same resources as other communities.”Castillo received her bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego, where she said she noticed a stark contrast in access to resources among her peers.“When I began to see the disparities between what I had access to and what my friends from home had access to versus my peers in college, I realized that there was something wrong there and I wanted to change it,” she said. In college, Castillo learned that communities looked the way they do due to policies implemented by policymakers and urban planners, who decide which areas certain populations will be placed in. “I became a community organizer because I really wanted to work on organizing community members to learn what I had learned in college and use that information to change the community, to actually advocate for policies that would be positive for us,” Castillo said.As a graduate student at the Price School of Public Policy, Castillo founded the Black Student Association at Price after noticing that there was a need for black students to speak about issues that impact the black community. In addition, she was a board member of the Latino Student Association at Price.“[These groups] were very meaningful for me because as a person who identifies as black and Latina, sometimes it’s hard to find the space where I feel like I fit in, where I can be my whole self,” Castillo said. “I’ve always been involved in black student organizations and Latinx student organizations and then act as a bridge between them because I think that issues our communities face are so similar, that it makes sense for us to overlap and work together to address them through policy and planning,” Castillo recently worked as a national director at the National Foster Institute, where she worked on local, state and federal child welfare policies. She also helped empower foster youth by helping them understand how policy is created. “I would bring foster youth from across the country to Washington D.C. to meet with their Congress members,” Castillo said. “They would shadow them to learn about how Congress works, and they would then tell their own personal stories about what their experiences were like in the foster care system … They would also make recommendations for how they can address those challenges through policy.” Currently, Castillo teaches both of Price’s undergraduate social innovation and graduate social context courses at Price. In both classes, Castillo allows students to work together to solve challenges through social innovations and hands-on activities. “I know that there’s so much for [students] to contribute to the class, so if you would like to lead a session in the class, I want you to take the lead on that,” Castillo said. “I absolutely love when students take that opportunity to lead, and I think it helps them feel empowered that you have something to bring and something to offer, and your peers can learn from you as well.”This story is part of a mini-series highlighting Latinos at USC. It ran every week during Hispanic Heritage Month, which ended Oct. 15.
LANCASTER – There’s no question a few jaws dropped last week when Lancaster, in the northernmost reaches of sprawling Los Angeles County, was named the region’s “Most Business Friendly City.” Among its top competitors for the honor were Burbank, with its glitzy entertainment studios and trendy shopping; Palmdale, with its aerospace industry and new commercial airport; and Santa Clarita, which boasts a vibrant film industry and dynamic local economy. But Lancaster – planted on the sands of the Mojave Desert – has no high-profile monuments to attract commerce and only in recent years is shedding its image as neighboring Palmdale’s stepsister. What it does have is low-cost land, special zoning that allows for tax incentives and credits, and a determination to create jobs and lure business. In 2006, the 30-year-old city crafted “Creating Quality,” a 23-page plan to improve Lancaster’s job market, work force, commerce and community. That effort, along with a business-friendly attitude in City Hall and lots of affordable land, proved to be the combination for investors in industrial, retail and other business development, Kyser said. Add to that the state enterprise zone designation, which allows Lancaster to offer tax credits to companies that employ certain disadvantaged populations, and redevelopment zones, which keep the increased tax revenue generated by upgrades in the specific area. The results already are visible, said Vern Lawson, Lancaster’s director of economic development and redevelopment. Right now, developers have more than 4.2million square feet of industrial and commercial projects in the city planning pipeline. Most of that’s been approved with construction either under way or set to begin next year. “We just go all out for businesses,” Mayor Henry Hearns said. “A few years back, we’d heard of a company that was in Pacoima that made recreational vehicles. We heard about them wanting to expand. Heck, we got in the car – two or three of us – and a year or two later we got them up here.” SYGMA Network Inc., a restaurant supply company and subsidiary of the Fortune 500 company SYSCO, opened a 230,000-square-foot distribution center two years ago on 20 acres near Lancaster’s Fox Field municipal airport. The attraction was the location for a company that covers California, Arizona and Nevada, human-resources director Rita Williams said. “I think the initial reason they looked here was that it was central for our business,” Williams said. The company, she said, offers some of the highest blue-collar wages in the area. Two facets drive City Hall’s effort to stoke Lancaster’s economic engine – improving residents’ quality of life and increasing the local tax base, Lawson said. Lancaster had evolved over the decades into a bedroom community, which takes its toll on residents who travel long distances to jobs. In fact, 60,000 commuters leave the Antelope Valley daily for jobs in the San Fernando Valley and other parts of Los Angeles. So the city set out an multiprong strategy to basically take commuters off the road and put them to work locally. First come the tax breaks, the easy permit process in City Hall, the Mayor’s Roundtable where business and city leaders problem-solve and, yes, the relatively low-cost land. Then the community rolled social issues including high crime and mediocre schools into the equation. The city took the bold step of creating a scholarship program where it pays college costs for locals seeking education degrees if they agree to teach in Lancaster for three years after graduation, Lawson said. The city also is working with its high schools and colleges to train workers for the jobs it expects to generate. Lancaster also is battling a growing street-gang problem and is boasting some success with its public-private task force. At the suggestion of a consultant, the city is working on redeveloping its deteriorating downtown with more upscale business to replace the gang hangouts, Lawson said. For those efforts, the judges in the friendly business competition lauded Lancaster for retaining a “family-focused hometown spirit,” even as the population topped 143,000. Lawson said the competition was tough, with Long Beach and Cerritos among the five other cities vying for the business-friendly title. “We were up against some of the most business-friendly cities in the nation,” he said. “This city has had to take a very aggressive role. Where the private sector is traditionally the leader, that hasn’t been the case because we’re geologically isolated. They don’t come to us unless we convince them to come to us.” firstname.lastname@example.org 661-257-5251160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “News flash: Lancaster is in L.A. County and it’s a great place to do business,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., which tallied the business-friendly vote. “It’s important for us to realize that Lancaster and Palmdale both have a lot of land, and a lot of people think L.A. County’s run out of land to build. You add that to the tax incentives and tax credits Lancaster offers, the climate in City Hall and you find a place that’s attracting business.” It was during a ceremony at the Beverly Hilton that Lancaster learned it had won the Eddy Award, which is bestowed annually by the LAEDC, a nonprofit business support organization. “It was kind of fun,” Kyser said. “They were jumping up and down, they were so excited.” The key to Lancaster’s success lies in its very precise strategy to ignite a stagnant economy.