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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Liability management on the rise as pension schemes mature

There has been a staggering change in attitude towards the implementation of liability management at defined benefit (DB) pension schemes in the UK over recent years.

Buyout now a “mainstream goal" ©iStock

Aon's latest Global Pension Risk Survey found that 65% of DB schemes in the UK are now closed to future accrual, up from 45% in 2015 and 53% in 2017.

It also found that a whopping 85% of schemes are now likely to implement a flexible retirement option for members, up from just 26% in 2013.

Aon senior partner, Ben Roe, said these exercises are gaining more acceptance and traction among trustee boards as schemes mature.

“More than half of the activity we see in this area is now instigated by trustees, in comparison to 2013 when it was almost entirely initiated by the sponsoring company,” he continued.

“Indeed, trustees increasingly regard a flexible retirement option as good governance, giving members better appreciation of the available at-retirement options and providing improved support.

“All of this is also having the secondary benefit of aiding the pursuit of funding improvements or risk reduction and helping to accelerate the scheme’s overall de-risking journey.”

There were 170 UK respondents to the survey, representing schemes of a broad range of sizes, from less than 500 members to over 10,000.

The findings show that a larger than ever proportion of schemes have buyout as their long-term goal, and that appetite to hedge longevity risk is also continuing to grow.

Almost half of schemes plan to make use of annuities or longevity swaps, up from 36% in 2017, with 76% of those schemes either already starting to do so, or intending to in the next five years.

Moreover, 40% of schemes now monitor buyout positions on a more frequent basis than just annually, compared with 33% two years ago.

Martin Bird, senior partner at Aon, said that maturing schemes, funding improvements, lower risk investment portfolios and attractive insurance pricing, explain why buyout as a long-term target has become a “mainstream goal”.

“Furthermore, the current capacity of the insurance and reinsurance markets also provides a favourable environment to achieve that goal,” he continued.

“We have already seen the completion of some very large annuity and longevity swap deals this year, as well as a continued flow of both small and medium sized deals. 

“We expect this increase in appetite from sponsors and trustees to secure members’ benefits in full to continue - and to see more situations where member options exercises complement buyout negotiations to achieve better outcomes for all.”

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