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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

DB pensions to shell out nearly a third of a trillion pounds by 2021

Defined benefit (DB) pension schemes in the UK are set to pay out almost one-third of a trillion pounds over a three-year period for the first time ever, Mercer has predicted.

High transfer values ©iStock
High transfer values ©iStock

The consultancy firm said the record figures between 2019 and 2021 will be due to a large number of active and deferred members transferring the value of their entitlement to another arrangement.

A rapidly growing buy-in and buy-out market is also expected to be responsible, with Mercer forecasting “unprecedented premium volumes” to be paid to insurers.

The firm predicts the result of these payments to lead to aggregate private sector DB schemes being better funded with a lower risk profile.

“A third of a trillion pounds is a huge sum of money and shows how the UK’s DB pension landscape is changing rapidly,” Mercer partner, Andrew Ward, said.

“There is potential for an emerging consolidator market – how this will impact the amount paid by DB schemes depends on how new offerings are received by scheme sponsors and trustees.”

Mercer said 2018 has been a record year for premiums paid to insurers for buy-ins and buy-outs, with more than £20bn of DB obligations insured, and that 2019 should be similar.

The firm revealed that many transactions in this market are strictly scheme investments, but tend to be irreversible in nature, so are included in the overall amount paid by schemes.

“Better funded and increasingly mature pension schemes have taken advantage of excellent pricing from insurers in 2018,” Ward continued.

“Mercer expects the buy-in and buy-out market to smash the record again in 2019 as well-organised schemes take advantage of attractive pricing from insurers.”

The firm also highlighted how aggregate transfer values of around £20bn for the whole of 2018, based on data for the first three quarters, will be far more than the £3bn annual average.

“Overall, Mercer forecasts DB schemes will pay around £90bn in premiums to insurers over the next three years,” Ward added.

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