Reference Portfolio

The university’s long-term target rate of return for the Pension and Endowment portfolios is 4% real (i.e., 4% after inflation). The Reference Portfolio is intended to meet this target return over the long term with an acceptable level of risk.

The Reference Portfolio is developed jointly by UTAM management and the university’s Investment Committee. It is then recommended to the university administration, which must approve it for the Endowment portfolio and recommend its adoption for the U of T pension plan – subject to approval by the Pension Committee. The Reference Portfolio is reviewed annually, but significant changes are expected to be infrequent. There is no Reference Portfolio for the short-term working capital portfolio (EFIP), but its target return is equal to that of one-year Canadian T-bills + 0.5%.

The Reference Portfolio must have the following characteristics:

  1. Risk and return attributes consistent with the objectives of the Pension and Endowment portfolios
  2. Simple asset mix – public market asset classes only
  3. Passive investing approach – no active strategies
  4. Easy to implement – no need for a large investment team
  5. Low cost – can be deployed without significant expense

The current Reference Portfolio consists of 60% equity exposure and 40% fixed income exposure. The equity exposure is further divided into allocations to five categories: Canadian, US, International Developed Markets, Emerging Markets and Global. The fixed income exposure is split between Canadian Corporate Bonds and Canadian Government Bonds. The Reference Portfolio weights to each category along with benchmarks are shown below.

Reference Portfolio Asset ClassBenchmarkReference Portfolio Weight
Global EquityMSCI ACWI Net Total Return Index*60%
Fixed Income40%
Canadian Corporate BondsFTSE Canada All Corporate Bond Total Return Index20%
Canadian Government BondsFTSE Canada All Government Bond Total Return Index20%
* The currency exposure in the Global Equity benchmark is 50% hedged for the developed markets component and unhedged for the emerging markets component.

The Reference Portfolio shown above was approved by the Investment Committee, the university administration and the Pension Committee in 2019. The transition to the new Reference Portfolio was still in progress at December 31, 2019 and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2020.