Rothesay Life, one of the UK’s largest pension insurers, and Scottish Widows have seen a total of £1.06bn (€1.2bn) in two separate buy-in deals this month.
Rothesay has insured the defined benefit liabilities of the ESAB Group (UK) Limited Pension & Life Assurance Scheme through a £255m bulk annuity transaction, while Scottish Widows has completed a £805m buy-in with the Electricity North West Group of the Electricity Supply Pension Scheme, sponsored by Electricity North West.
Rothesay’s insurance policy covers all 900 members of the scheme, 220 of which are deferred. The scheme’s members accrued pension benefits while employed within the ESAB Group, a global manufacturer of welding and cutting equipment, and a subsidiary of Colfax Corporation.
Robert Careless, chair of the scheme’s trustee board, said: ”The recent significant improvement in the funding position of the scheme, along with the support of the employer, gave us the opportunity to take this decisive step to successfully remove the volatility of the scheme’s funding level and improve the security of members’ benefits.”
The transaction is structured as a full scheme buy-in which is expected to move to buy-out in future, at which point the scheme will be wound up, according to a statement by Rothesay.
Cleo Taylor, business development director at Rothesay Life, said the transaction reflected the strong demand the firm is seeing for long-term security from pensions schemes.
The scheme’s trustees were advised by Mercer and Pinsent Masons on the process of choosing an appropriate insurer and negotiating terms. Rothesay Life was advised by Linklaters.
As for Scottish Widdow’s deal, the buy-in was a “significant step” on the group’s longer term de-risking journey and is expected to provide additional security and stability to scheme members, according to a statement.
Malcolm Sugden, the schemes’ chair of trustee, said: “The group’s funding level has improved significantly in recent years and this transaction allows us to lock in some of that positive performance providing security to our members and other stakeholders.”
The scheme’s trustees were advised by Aon and Sackers, with support from the Aon scheme actuary and the KPMG investment team.
Aon has now advised on all the Electricity Supply Pension Scheme bulk annuity transactions completed.
Scottish Widows was advised throughout the process by Herbert Smith Freehills.
Hymans Robertson: Master trust report shows ‘positive returns but early signs of concern’
The Annual Master Trust Default Report, the third launched by consultancy Hymans Robertson, has revealed that despite the positive returns for 2019, some concerns remain regarding providers’ investment risk profiles.
Michael Ambery, head of provider relations at Hymans Robertson, said: “In 2019 money has continued to pour in to the master trusts and it would be fair to say that it has been a remarkable year for the vehicle.”
With the completion of regulator’s provider authorisation process, the introduction of responsible investment requirements and tightening legislation around the statement of investment principles there have been some significant milestones, he noted.
The report shows, however, that many providers have not materially changed their investment risk profile from previous years, and that there are still following three clear phases of defined contribution (DC) investment:
- Growth – when taking on risk in exchange for higher returns is preferable;
- Consolidation – when a more cautious approach is adopted; and
- Pre-retirement – when any risk should be significantly dialled down.
“It also shows that although members have continued to enjoy positive returns in each of these phases, there are some early signs of concern emerging. For example, some providers are potentially limiting returns by being too over-cautious in the early stages of a DC savings journey when volatility should be accepted,” Ambery explained.
He said, on the other hand that “some are taking unnecessary levels of risk at the point of pre-retirement, when any unexpected downturns could significantly impact returns”.
Alongside all of this, for any investment strategy to work, Amberey believes it is essential that DC members remain informed and up-to-date around their chosen retirement age, what this choice means in practice and, should they wish to, how to change it.
Opperman retains pensions minister job
The UK’s department for work and pensions (DWP) has confirmed Guy Opperman has been re-appointed as pensions minister.
The MP for Hexham was re-elected with an increased majority of 25,152 in last week’s election.
In his role as pensions minister, Opperman has urged pension schemes to sign up to a framework to reduce transfer times between defined contribution plans.
Opperman has also said the government will consider legislation to make schemes simplify statements if they do not do it on their own.
He has been a firm backer of the pensions dashboard, which the Money and Pensions Service is taking the lead on.
The landslide majority of prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to put the pension schemes bill back on track.
Opperman was first appointed parliamentary under-secretary of state at the DWP on 14 June 2017.
David Everett, partner at pensions consultancy LCP, said: “Confirmation that Guy Opperman has been reappointed as pensions minister is encouraging for a post in which continuity over the years has been sadly lacking.”
He believes, however, that “with the prospect of a major reshuffle the other side of Brexit whether Opperman will be around to steer the pension schemes bill through parliament and to engage with all the consequential regulations yet to come remains to be seen”.