Purple Book – Defined Benefit universe unmoved during pension revolution

by Alan Collins   •  
If this year’s Purple Book is anything to go by, you could be forgiven for thinking nothing much has happened in the world of pensions. On the same day that the Office for National Statistics confirmed an upturn in the number of people saving in workplace pension schemes for the first time in many years, the Pensions Regulator/Pension Protection Fund “bible” of DB schemes confirmed, well, nothing much really. The inexorable trend of DB scheme closures continued, with 32% of schemes now closed to accrual (up from 30% last year).  I suspect bigger jumps are ahead, especially with the cessation of contracting out in April 2016. The report correctly highlighted recent deteriorations in DB scheme funding levels, estimating that scheme funding levels will have dropped around 8% since March.  This offsets improvements over the previous 12 months. The average asset allocation of schemes was virtually unmoved with around 35% in equity, 45% fixed interest bonds, 5% in property, 5% in cash and 15% in other assets (including hedge funds). 2013 was a busy year for buy-ins and buy-outs, with a 30% increase in the number of deals completed.  However, the early part of 2014 seemed to indicate a return to normal levels, with 40 deals completed in Q1. One point of solace for those of us in the DB consulting world is that the decline in the number of DB schemes has slowed, with 2.5% less schemes now in the “universe”.  At some points recently, the rate of decline has been around 5% a year.

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