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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Era of defined benefit schemes coming to a close

Defined benefits (DB) pensions schemes are approaching “an endgame”, pensions consultancy Barnett Waddingham has said in its annual survey of the sector.

Continued closure of schemes ©iStock
Continued closure of schemes ©iStock

Barnett Waddingham said only 52% DB schemes remained open to future accrual of benefits - down by five percentage points over the year - and only 3% remained open to new joiners.

Its analysis covered UK schemes with assets of more than £1bn. It said a combination of encouragement from the Pensions Regulator, the continued closure of schemes and the ageing memberships of DB scheme “will be focusing the attention of trustees and companies on the endgame process”.

Around 95% of schemes experienced an increase in transfer value payments, and around a third saw an increase in transfer value payments of 200% or more - considerably higher than the 7% of schemes above this threshold last year.

This trend reflected an increase in the number of companies and schemes undertaking exercises as part of a structured endgame process focused on reducing balance sheet risk and cost.

Barnett Waddingham partner Andrew Vaughan said; “Companies have clearly decided that the future of pension provision lies away from DB pensions, but what does that actually mean for those companies managing a legacy DB pension scheme?”

He said the survey showed for the seventh consecutive year a decrease in the number of schemes remaining open to the future accrual of benefits. 

Mr Vaughan said: “The focus of companies should now be shifting to the endgame for their DB pension scheme - defining an achievable target and a clear strategy for how they are going to get there successfully.

“Efficient risk management of DB schemes over their remaining lifetime will now be the primary objective for companies – a stark contrast from the original purpose of operating a DB scheme.”

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