The government has given the green  light to a new form of defined contribution pension scheme.  At least, it is new to the UK.  “Collective defined contribution” (“CDC”) schemes are common in the Netherlands and Denmark but the idea of introducing this type of scheme into the UK has only relatively recently gained traction.  The fact that the Royal Mail wants to put such a scheme in place for its 140,000-strong workforce has provided the impetus for the government to consult on how CDC schemes would operate and be regulated.

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Defined benefit (DB) pension schemes promise their members a pension for life. However, while one member may live to age 75, another might live to age 95. When working out how much money a DB scheme needs to fund the benefits it has promised members, trustees (or rather their actuarial advisers) therefore have to make an assumption about how long, on average, members will live – a longevity assumption.

If that longevity assumption proves to be incorrect and the scheme has to pay benefits for longer than expected, the trustees will need to find additional money to fund those benefits. And usually they will look to the scheme’s sponsoring employer for that money.

Finding ways of managing a scheme’s longevity risk is therefore beneficial for both the trustees and the employer. One way of doing this is a transaction called a longevity swap. Between 2009 and 2018, nearly 50 pension schemes entered into longevity swaps, including schemes sponsored by Astra Zeneca, AkzoNobel, BA, BAE Systems, BMW, BT, Heineken, ITV and Rolls-Royce.


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Recent intervention by the Competition and Markets Authority could lead to increased competition in the market for investment professionals who provide services to pension schemes – which should be a good thing for the employers supporting those schemes.

Many occupational pension schemes use the services of investment consultants and / or fiduciary managers.  Broadly, investment consultants advise pension scheme trustees on how best to invest scheme assets – and fiduciary managers make investment decisions on behalf of pension scheme trustees.


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On 6 April, the quality requirements that pension schemes being used for automatic enrolment (“qualifying schemes”) must meet are changing.

DC schemes – what’s changing?

At present, for a DC scheme to be a qualifying scheme:

  • The employer must make a contribution of at least 2% of the worker’s qualifying earnings.
  • The total contributions paid

Superfunds are a hot topic right now in the pensions industry. A consultation on the regulation of superfunds has recently closed, and a response from the Government is expected in the near future. But what are superfunds, and why might they be of interest to an employer with a defined benefit (DB) pension scheme?

What is a “superfund”?

  • A superfund is an occupational pension scheme which will, at a cost, accept a transfer of assets and liabilities from a DB pension scheme.
  • It’s a relatively new concept – there aren’t currently any operational superfunds, although market entrants are actively seeking business.
  • The entity running the superfund will be aiming to make a profit and distribute returns to external investors.  The expectation is that this can be achieved through cost efficiencies, better access to investment opportunities and the pooling of risk.
  • They will be regulated by the Pensions Regulator (although the authorisation framework is not yet in place) and the intention is that they will be eligible for the PPF.


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You may have seen recent – sensationalist – media headlines like:

“’We’re coming for you’ – Amber Rudd’s warning for bosses reckless with employee pensions” (ITV News)
“Reckless bosses who put workers’ pensions in danger could be jailed for seven years” (The Mirror)
Seven-year jail terms unveiled for pension fund mismanagement” (The Guardian)

The

Moses, so we are told, was 120 years old when he died, and “biz hundert un tsvantsik” – [may you live] until 120 – is an old blessing. The joke it gave rise to is probably just as old: Harry is fed up with his noisy neighbour, so he confronts him: “May you live to 119!” he says to his neighbour. “May you live to 120!” he says to his neighbour’s wife. “Why the difference?” asks the neighbour. “After putting up with you, she deserves a year of peace and quiet.” is the reply.

Whilst pension scheme actuaries are not yet assuming that schemes will have 120 year olds, most scheme funding assumes that some pensioners will be receiving their pensions well into their 100s. This is the case even though the latest mortality tables show a slowdown in the rate of increase of longevity.


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The qualifying earnings bands for the purposes of automatic enrolment are due to increase on 6 April 2019. For the tax year 2019/2020, the lower qualifying earnings threshold will be £6,136 (instead of £6,032) and the upper qualifying earnings threshold will be £50,000 (instead of £46,350). The old faithful earnings trigger will continue to remain stable at £10,000.

Why is this important?

Since October 2012, employers have had to make arrangements for certain workers in the UK to be automatically enrolled into a pension scheme that satisfies certain conditions (a qualifying scheme). Very broadly, workers fall into one of three categories (summarised below).


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Employers and trustees who use a guarantee or charge to reduce their pension scheme’s Pension Protection Fund (PPF) levy may need to re-execute that guarantee/charge in order for it to be taken into account in calculating the scheme’s 2019/20 PPF levy.

The PPF provides protection for members of DB pension schemes whose sponsoring employer becomes insolvent. It is funded in part by an annual levy payable by DB pension schemes.


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