Defined benefit (DB) pension scheme sponsors in the UK are engaged in a last-minute push to gather information needed to account for the effects of a recent ruling on equal pension payments for men and women.
The ruling on “guaranteed minimum pension” (GMP) payments from Lloyds Bank’s DB schemes in October could pose problems for thousands of schemes across the UK.
Two leading actuaries with knowledge of the issue said the fact that the ruling had come close to the year-end reporting deadline – plus the complexities of estimating the additional liability – had put finance directors under intense pressure.
Aon consultant actuary Simon Robinson told IPE: “Virtually every pension scheme in the UK is having to do this calculation in two months. I wouldn’t say it is an impossible calculation but the data you need to do it accurately is incredibly [complex].
“We have a model that estimates it pretty well but even that model is not simple to run. It is a significant piece of work. If you have a big business with lots of different benefit structures in its scheme, the model has to be run for each of those sections.
“In practice, there just isn’t the manpower to do it, let alone the cost for businesses to do it.”
It is also likely that differences will emerge between International Accounting Standard 19, Employee Benefits (IAS 19) and the US’s generally accepted accounting practices (US GAAP) in terms of how the additional liability is recorded on company and pension fund accounts.
Willis Tower Watson’s IAS 19 expert Andrew Mandley added: “The impact is in the range of an additional liability of 1-3% of the defined benefit obligation, which is a small percentage of a very big number.
“It is blowing every issue out of the water in terms of what the accounting numbers will look like. We have to deal with this significant, late-in-the-day, difficult-to-quantify liability as at 26 October.”
He added that, although auditors were clear that most companies must treat this as past service cost under both US GAAP and IAS 19, US GAAP offered some scope to amortise the expense rather than post it directly in profit-and-loss statements.