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PPF: UK funds allocate more than half of assets to bonds

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UK pension schemes’ average allocation to bonds hit 50% for the first time at the end of March, according to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

Private sector defined benefit (DB) funds had an average of 51.3% allocated to fixed income at the end of the 2015-16 financial year, up from 47.7% the previous year, according to data from the latest iteration of the PPF’s Purple Book of defined benefit (DB) scheme data.

The average equity allocation fell to 30.3%, compared with 33% 12 months previously.

Since the Purple Book was first published in 2006, this figure has halved as pension schemes have sought to de-risk and diversify their assets.

However, the asset-allocation shift does not appear to have had an impact on the overall funding position of UK schemes.

The combined deficit of the PPF’s universe of pension schemes was £221.7bn (€260.7bn) on a section 179 basis at the end of March, the Purple Book showed.

At the end of October, this had risen to £328.9bn.

At a press briefing launching the Purple Book this morning, the PPF’s CFO Andrew McKinnon highlighted that average deficit recovery periods had changed little in the 10 years since the Purple Book was first published.

The Pensions Regulator was quizzed on the length of some schemes’ plans by the government’s Work and Pensions Select Committee earlier this year, after it emerged that one scheme had put forward a 23-year recovery proposal.

Alan Rubenstein, chief executive of the PPF, said “about three-quarters” of schemes had recovery plans of less than 10 years.

McKinnon said: “When we look back at what progress schemes have made over the last decade, it appears that many schemes are just treading water.

“The average recovery plan length, at around eight years, has barely improved, which brings home the challenge we now face.”

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