A slowdown in improving life expectancy may result in £310bn being wiped from the UKs collective defined benefit (DB) pension deficit, according to analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Figures released today by the firm show that the deficit of DB pension funds stood at £530bn at the end of April 2017 - a £30bn increase since the previous month.
However, it was found earlier this year that life expectancy is improving at a slower rate than at the start of the century, and if this trend continues, PwC believes the deficit could be cut to £220bn.
"That puts a fuller funding situation within reach for many pension funds, without relying on excessive cash contributions to repair deficits in the short-term," PwC global head of pension Raj Mody, said.
"For example, if assets grew by an extra 1% a year than otherwise assumed when working out deficits in the first place, that on average would cover pension liabilities without the need for company cash contributions."
This research comes on the same day that Mercer released findings that reveal £2.5bn could be shaved off FTSE350 pension scheme liabilities, as a result of stalling mortality improvements.
However, the consultancy firm found that schemes are anticipating life expectancy to be improving over the long-term, meaning that pressures on DB pension deficits are likely to continue to increase.
"While, in the short-term, life expectancy increases have slowed, medical research, application of past breakthroughs, innovative use of technology and potential for lifestyle improvements all mean that lifespans will continue to increase," Principal at Mercer, Glyn Bradley, said.
In addition, the analysis highlights the difference between the requirements of companies and pension scheme trustees, with the latter using 'prudent' mortality assumptions when calculating assets, in comparison with corporate accounts which use 'best estimate' ones.
Bradley continued: "Employers and trustees should continue to pay attention to improvements in mortality and use the latest data to ensure short-term improvements are not over-stated.
"Given the long-term direction of life expectancy, all companies and trustees should be investigating how they can remove the financial risk that it poses to their financial health, either through asset allocation, the use of bespoke longevity hedges or the more streamlined longevity solutions now available."
Sign up to our free newsletter here and receive a weekly roundup of news concerning the actuarial profession