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UK roundup: Smiths Group, PIC, USS, National Audit Office

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Technology and engineering company Smiths Group has agreed a £130m (€151m) buy-in with Pension Insurance Corporation (PIC). The deal covers members of the TI Group Pension Scheme, one of several sponsored by Smiths Group.

The TI Group scheme has now insured roughly £1bn through a number of buy-ins since 2008, PIC said in a statement. This includes a £170m transaction with PIC in 2013, while the insurer also completed a £250m buy-in with another Smiths Group fund, the Smiths Industries Pension Scheme, in October last year.

Chris Surch, chairman of the TI Group pension trustees, said: “This is the second buy-in we have completed with PIC as part of our long term de-risking strategy. We have made considerable strides to completely de-risk the scheme and this remains our long-term aim.”

Mitul Magudia, head of business development at PIC, added that the insurer had experienced “a very busy start to 2017 and we expect progressive pensioner buy-ins of this nature and size to become more widespread”.

Elsewhere, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has appointed Ipreo Private Capital Markets to provide analytics and monitoring services for its private equity portfolio.

The £56bn pension fund – the largest in the UK – had a 22.8% allocation to private markets at the end of March last year, according to its annual report. This included 8.1% in private debt and equity.

New York-based Ipreo’s iLevel tool allows private equity investors and managers to “access, update, analyse, verify, and share” portfolio data digitally.

The move comes as USS is redesigning its private markets exposure to take a more direct role in its investments. Last week Credit Suisse confirmed an innovative arrangement with the pension fund, in which USS took a majority stake in a portfolio of loans to asset management companies.

The UK’s National Audit Office (NAO), an independent body tasked with assessing the financial impact of government policies, this week revealed the government “failed to understand” its obligations related to police and firefighters’ pensions.

The Pensions Ombudsman found in 2015 that people who retired between 2001 and 2006 were paid lump sums based on factors that did not accurately reflect their life expectancy or national pension scheme trends.

The NAO investigated the case due to the length of time it took to resolve. The Government Actuary’s Department (GAD), which was responsible for the errors, challenged the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction through UK courts, delaying a judgement for years.

More than 34,000 retirees have shared in £711m compensation for the GAD’s “maladministration”.

“During the period this issue arose, there was a lack of independent oversight of the schemes by parties outside government or representation from scheme members,” the NAO said. “This was addressed in April 2015 through the introduction of pension boards with independent oversight and representation from pension scheme members.”

The GAD has reformed its processes to ensure these errors do not happen again.

Finally, JLT Employee Benefits has estimated that the aggregate funding position across UK defined benefit schemes improved significantly during January.

Total assets grew to £1.5bn at the end of the month, JLT calculated, while liabilities reduced to just under £1.8bn. This shrank the aggregate deficit to £263bn from £434bn at the end of December 2016.

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