Archive for October 2009

Laura Cumming

Another change in administration procedures coming up soon!
Earlier in the year the Registered Pension Schemes (Authorised Payments) Regulations 2009  came into force, forgiving the tax penalty on certain payments which were previously deemed unauthorised, e.g. payments made in error and payments of arrears of pension due after the death of a member.
From 1 December 2009 these regulations allow occupational pension schemes to commute trivial pensions, in certain circumstances, without any reference to the benefits a member may have in other unrelated pension schemes or contracts. This will be limited to pensions with a capital value of less than £2,000. The usual taxation procedures will apply.
Unfortunately these regulations do not apply to individual insured arrangements so sadly another blow to the ‘one size fits all’ regime affectionately known as Pensions Simplification!

Neil Copeland

Some of you may be familiar with Schrodinger’s Cat  . In feline terms it’s probably not as famous as McCavity, or even Mrs Slocombe’s pussy, but a couple of recent pension articles put me in mind of it.

I can’t pretend to understand the philosophical basis behind Schrodinger’s thought experiment – Descartes lost me at  “I think therefore I am”, but a tabloid summary would be as follows:-

Page 3 lovely,  Angie, 19,  from Ilfracombe,  says “A cat, along with a flask containing a poison, is placed in a sealed box shielded against environmentally induced quantum decoherence. If an internal Geiger counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously dead and alive. Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat either alive or dead, not a mixture of alive and dead. Poor little kitty.”

I don’t know what you make of that, but what it says to me is that Read more »

Neil Copeland

At first I thought that it was one of those mix ups you hear about in travel agents. You know the couple who thought they were going to Barcelona, Spain only to end up in Barcelona, Venezuela – how we laughed.

So when BBC Northern Ireland  reported that the New York Stock Exchange was establishing an office in Belfast my initial thought was that the Americans had accidentally left off their usual helpful Hollywood identifier.

You know what I mean. You’re watching Tom Cruise abseiling down the Eiffel tower, motorbiking under the Arc de Triomphe and dodging traffic on the Champs Elysee, when up comes a little subtitle – “Paris, France”. Just in case you thought it was Paris, Wisconsin, population 194. And 3 cats.

But for once, I thought, Belfast, Maine, might have been helpful. Indeed there is even a Belfast in upstate New York so I could see where the confusion might arise.

But when I clicked on the website there were a couple of characters looking extremely like Northern Ireland’s  First Minister Peter Robinson, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness peering back at me. You knew it was good news because Peter was giving us his best Gordon Brown style smile and he didn’t have his hands round Marty’s throat!

So it’s true the NYSE is establishing a bridgehead in Belfast. So I guess what the rest of Europe wants to know is “Why Belfast?” Read more »

Rachel Graham

My name is Rachel Graham, I am currently a 3rd year student at Queens University Belfast studying for a BSc in Actuarial Science, a four year degree course, with the third year spent in an actuarial working environment. Having studied Actuarial Mathematics and Actuarial Modelling in my second year at Queens I was keen to gain a better insight into the pension side of actuarial work during my placement year. Read more »

Martin Purvis

My name is Martin Purvis I joined Spence & Partners for a twelve month actuarial placement on the 1st July 2009. I am a 3rd year student studying Actuarial Science and Risk Management at Queens University Belfast. Studying such a specialised course left the very difficult task of finding not only a company that offered the services I wished to gain first hand experience of, but also choosing the right company for me. But I can honestly say that I have found a company that fulfils both requirements here at Spence & Partners. Read more »

Neil Copeland

Bank bailouts, bras and pension administration all have one thing in common – they are seen as necessary evils.

Professional Pensions reports that almost half of schemes interviewed are happy to say that they lack an honest relationship with their administration provider. Unfortunately the article doesn’t provide too much of an indication of what is dishonest in the relationship.

Given that I started my career in pensions administration I find this depressing, but not surprising. Read more »

Rebecca Lavender

In relation to our “Brussels sprouts a pension regulator” blog it has now been reported that the European Commission has drafted legislation to set up a supervisory body whose remit will include occupational pension schemes.

The proposed European System of Financial Supervisors will have powers to develop proposals for technical standards; resolve cases of disagreements between national supervisors where legislation requires them to cooperate or agree and ensure consistent application of technical rules.

These powers will be in addition to taking over the functions of the existing committee – Committee of European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Supervisors’ occupational pensions committee.

The Pensions Regulator is said to be working with the government throughout this restructuring, commenting that they are committed to ensuring any changes made are “fair and appropriate for the UK pensions market”.

Brian Spence

Excellent feature in investment consultant Simon Jagger’s Investment Bulletin on longevity swaps.

This is part 1 so look out for part 2 next month.

If you would like to consider this option or review any of your investment options contact Jagger & Associates, Actuaries & Investment Consultants on 0161 873 9350 or email

Brian Spence is a founder of actuaries Spence & Partners Limited and a director of independent trustee Dalriada Trustees Limited.  You can follow him at @briandspence or @PensionsEndgame on Twitter or link to him on LinkedIn.  Dalriada provides professional trustee services and Spence & Partners can provide support to employers in appointing an independent trustee.  Brian has written a series of articles on appointing an independent trustee.

Follow @SpencePartners and @DalriadaTrustee on Twitter.

David Davison

The Pensions Trust has at last drawn a line under the Scottish Voluntary Services Pension Scheme with plans to close it to all future benefit accrual from April 2010. The knock-on effect of this decision is to highlight how wholly unsuitable it was for the many small charities and not-for-profit organisations who were encouraged to take part.

It also leaves many questions unanswered. Why was there such enthusiastic encouragement to participate in a pension scheme of this type? Why were these small organisations not given very clear guidance about the potential risks that they were exposed to as a result? Had they been, would so many have blindly taken part?

And the biggest question remains: what is going to happen to other similar schemes with participants all equally ill-equipped to deal with final salary liabilities?

David Davison is a Director at Spence & Partners, independent actuaries and consultants in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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