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UK roundup: Auto-enrolment, DWP, Sembcorp, SEI

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  • UK roundup: Auto-enrolment, DWP, Sembcorp, SEI

UK – Large UK employers have seen opt-out rates of below 10%, according to research by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).

Releasing the first official statistics on the success of auto-enrolment since the policy was launched last year, the department said that, while only 9% of employees opted out across the 50 companies surveyed, workers who had previously opted out were more likely to do so again.

Of the 42 companies that provided detailed data, more than half opted workers into pension saving as part of their employment contract prior to the launch of auto-enrolment.

"Here, because participation rates were already 90% on average, only 7% of workers were automatically enrolled," the research said.

"The average opt-out rate among this small group was 16%, with large variation across these employers."

However, it added that despite the higher-than-average opt-out at the companies, participation nonetheless increased by 6 percentage points to 96%.

KPMG's UK director of pensions Andy Seed said that while the figures may "look like great news", the real test of auto-enrolment's success would come with the staging dates for smaller employers.

Seed argued that smaller companies could not be compared with the larger employers providing data in this instance.

"They're the businesses with the largest employee numbers, established pension schemes and the deepest pockets when it comes to communications and employee engagement," he said.

The point was accepted by the DWP, which noted: "The results cannot be applied to the whole population of employers, particularly as medium and smaller employers will have different characteristics to larger employers, such as lower existing participation levels in workplace pensions."

Pensions minister Steve Webb nevertheless saw the positive in more than 400,000 workers being auto-enrolled thanks to the reform.

"These figures show people really value the chance to save into a workplace pension, as they know they will also get money from their employer and the taxman, too," he said.

In other news, SEI has been appointed as fiduciary manager for the pension fund of utility Sembcorp.

The mandate will grant SEI "full discretion" in de-risking the £95m (€110m) defined benefit scheme, the fiduciary manager said.

Stephen Hands, chairman of trustees at the Sembcorp Utilities (U.K.) Ltd Pension Scheme, said: "We decided to appoint a fiduciary manager because we were keen to find a solution that would provide an active approach to managing the funding level.

"We recognise the benefits of delegating and have already spent considerable time with SEI designing our journey plan and agreeing to trigger points, in order to have the best chance of meeting our funding objectives through de-risking."

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