UK DC alternatives exposure jumps by one-third in two years

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The proportion of UK pensions assets in defined contribution (DC) plans invested in alternatives such as property and commodities has grown significantly over the last two years, while exposure to developed equities has fallen, according to a report on the sector.

In its latest six-monthly FTSE DC report, asset manager Schroders said the pension schemes of companies in the FTSE 100 index had lifted their exposure to alternatives to 12% by March this year, up from 8% in March 2013.

Meanwhile FTSE 250 schemes had raised their allocation to the asset type to 9% from 5% over the same period, the study showed.

Exposure to developed equities, on the other hand, had fallen over the past 24 months, with FTSE 350 schemes’ exposure to these assets falling to 71% in March 2015 from 79% in March 2013.

This exposure consisted of 29% UK equities and 42% global equities, Schroders said.

Schemes of FTSE 100 companies had cut their allocation to UK equities markedly in the last six months alone, bringing it down to 25% from 29%, with total developed equity allocations down to 69% from 72%.

The survey threw light on shift towards fixed income that had been occurring over the last 12 months, Schroders said.

Among FTSE 350 schemes, fixed income allocations had doubled to 14% from 7% over the period, with the bulk of this growth having taken place over the last six months.

Almost a third of schemes in the survey now had a fixed income allocation of at least 20%, whereas a year ago, this had only been true for 3% of schemes, Schroders said.

Stephen Bowles, head of UK institutional defined contribution at Schroders, said he welcomed the growing diversification of DC pension scheme investment, noting that auto-enrolment had boosted pension scheme membership.

“This means an appropriate truly diversified defined contribution default strategy is more critical than ever before,” he said.

More than 5.2m people in the UK now had access to company pension schemes through auto-enrolment, with 4.5m of those belonging DC schemes, the firm said.

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