Steven Catchpole Pensions Investment Director, Aviva Art by Victor Juhasz
Steven Catchpole

“Steven has combined strong technical expertise, collaboration, and considerable maturity to guide the Aviva pension schemes through a series of complex, high-profile, and transformational investment projects.” 

—Mark Versey, CIO, Global Investment Solutions, Aviva

After taking up colleague Ian McKinlay’s mantle in 2016, Aviva Staff Pension Scheme’s Pensions Investment Director Steven Catchpole seeks to achieve his goal of securing the retirements of others while managing the $20 billion fund.  As he looks to secure the well-funded, globally diversified fund, Catchpole is continuously evolving its liability-hedging strategies.

Catchpole and McKinlay previously worked together at PwC before switching to Cardano and the PPF, respectively. McKinlay then joined Aviva,  recruiting Catchpole to the firm in 2013. When McKinlay was offered the CIO role at Lloyd’s Bank Pension Scheme, he accepted it —but not before leaving the Aviva scheme in the hands of someone he could trust.

CIO: What are the accomplishments you are most happy to have achieved recently, and why?

Catchpole: One of the advantages of having an in-house team is to enable swift implementation of decisions. It is particularly pleasing when working quickly enables us to capture returns that we would otherwise have missed. In the past year we have tended to be on the right side of things and that gives the whole team a boost.

CIO: What would you be most excited to accomplish in the year ahead, and why?

Catchpole: I’ve got a few exciting things on the “to-do” list, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to hear what they are!

CIO: What’s the most rewarding aspect of being an asset owner?

Catchpole: I have always been motivated by a desire to make pensions more secure by improving the stability of a scheme’s funding position. This has primarily been through hedging liability risks such as interest rates and inflation. It just so happens that my career has coincided with a long period of ever-low yields, which has made that approach even more rewarding.

CIO: What’s the most challenging?

Catchpole: There are lots of challenges but they are generally what makes the job rewarding.

CIO: What are you most hopeful about in the future of the industry?

Catchpole: From a UK perspective, I hope that we will one day reach a position where an insolvent company doesn’t leave behind an insolvent pension fund. There have been some tailwinds recently that have helped, and a general trend towards better risk management—meaning that a pension fund’s fortunes isn’t dominated by movements in bond yields or the stock market.

CIO: What are you most cautious about?

Catchpole: It doesn’t feel to me to be a particularly great time to be making long-term investments. Long-term yields are extremely low and stock market valuations appear high and seem vulnerable to rising rates and geopolitical shocks. I worry that the generation of workers in their 40s and 50s may be disappointed by their retirement prospects.

CIO: As a leader, what are the most important aspects of the industry you hope to change over your career?

Catchpole: In the UK, we have seen a move from final salary to defined contribution (DC) schemes over the past 20 years. While DC schemes control costs for employers, they have passed many of the risks onto members who in most cases are not well placed to manage them. I hope that in my career I can play some role in helping more people achieve better outcomes in retirement.

CIO: If you had one piece of advice for your peers, what would it be?

Catchpole: I’ve always been a fan of the maxim “everything should be made as simple as it can be but no simpler.”

CIO: What are the biggest current trends you are seeing that have surprised you?​

Catchpole: I’ve been surprised by the sudden surge in interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aspects of investing and I think this is a welcome development. Pension funds have an important role to play in managing long-term risks, and I hope a greater collective focus will help us to achieve more.

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