So the country has spoken in a momentous and slightly surprising result! We now enter a period of extreme uncertainty while we wait to see what happens next. Markets don’t like uncertainty and we’ve already seen sterling fall to levels last seen 30 years ago but there is no need to panic. Our legal framework today remains exactly the same as it was yesterday and we have some time to decide what changes we’ll make and watch how negotiations go.
As far as pension schemes go, we can take comfort from the fact that funding is a long term proposition and we can afford to avoid any knee-jerk reactions. There may also be some opportunities for funding levels to increase, especially if we see a rise in gilt yields (which may be needed to attract international money into the UK coffers). Trustees can potentially take advantage of the expected volatility in markets to reach their investment objectives. Setting clear targets in advance and monitoring market movements will allow schemes to trigger investment switches whenever market conditions are favourable, locking in improvements as they happen without needing extensive discussions that lead to missed chances.
Trustees should consider how the vote might affect their own sponsoring employer. Some companies are very exposed to negative consequences from Brexit but others may well find it easier to export with a more competitive pound. Employers who do well out of the change may be able to pay higher contributions into their pension schemes and those who face particular challenges may need to renegotiate their Schedule of Contributions downwards. Schemes will need to think about whether their investment strategy still has the appropriate level of risk and, if not, how to rebalance the portfolio in a measured way.