UK - The Department for Education Northern Ireland DE(NI) has gone live with a new pensions administration system provided by Capita Hartshead.

The system is the culmination of an 18-month project, during which Capita Hartshead developed Hartlink, its proprietary administration system, to provide the specific functionality required to administer the NI Teachers' Pension Scheme.

Capita Hartshead is providing a "hosted" service, whereby DE(NI) has access to Hartlink and its associated systems.

The system will be used to administer the pension benefits of more than 56,500 members of the Teachers' Pension Scheme in Northern Ireland.

The contract runs for seven years, with the option for a three-year extension.

Mike Addenbrooke at Capita Hartshead said: "We were able to use our experience of working with the Teachers' Pension Scheme in England and Wales to provide DE(NI) with a system that can deal with their specific operational requirements."

Elsewhere, MetLife Europe announced that sales in the first half exceeded total sales in 2009, driving assets under management to £1.2bn (€1.4bn) as at the end of November this year.

The retirement and savings group, which launched in the UK in January 2007, is now firmly established in the growing unit-linked guarantee retirement products.

Research from consultants Towers Watson shows sales of unit-linked guarantee products from all providers hit £445m in the first six months of 2010, a 34% increase on the first half of 2009.

Exceeding £1bn assets under management ahead of target has enabled MetLife to accelerate plans for product launches and increased recruitment.

Meanwhile, a Royal Society of Arts (RSA) report claims British private pensions would be 50% higher for the same amount of contributions if the UK were to adopt "collective defined contribution schemes".

Such schemes, which are run in the Netherlands and Denmark, involve member contributions being collected into a central pension pot, rather than many individual ones, while members' pensions are paid out of this collective pot, rather than from a third-party annuity provider.

This model allows the scheme to take higher risk with its investment strategy and reduces costs through economies of scale and greater efficiency.

In addition, members are not at the mercy of annuity rates when they come to retire.

The RSA report quotes a US study, by Beth Almeida and William Fornia, that found that it cost 83% more to purchase the same pension using an individual DC pot as it did from a collective fund.

The Dutch pension fund APG and the Danish ATP schemes have expressed interest in providing such schemes in the UK, although legislative changes would be required to enable such schemes to be promoted to the UK market.