Consultancy XPS has carried out scenario analysis showing a reduction in liabilities by up to 5% across the defined benefit (DB) universe, equivalent to around £90bn (€97bn), from the potential long-term impact of COVID-19 on life expectancy.

This is the longevity impact on funding levels in the firm’s “global depression” scenario, one of five scenarios it has developed to model pension schemes against.

The scenarios also consider the potential long-term impact of COVID-19 on a scheme’s investments. In its global depression scenario the consultancy estimated that schemes’ funding could be hit by 13% due to investment losses.

At the other end of the spectrum, in XPS’s “minimal disruption” scenario, it saw no longevity impact on the funding level and a 6% boost from investments.

“Trustees are anxious for information on how COVID-19 will affect their scheme,” said Steve Leake, XPS head of demographics.

“As the answer relies on so many unknown factors, we believe it is necessary to consider a full range of potential scenarios and we have used an innovative combination of traditional actuarial methods and modern data science techniques to deliver a ground-breaking analysis of the economic and disease impacts on scheme funding over the long term.”

£5m deal shows small schemes’ ability to access bulk annuity market

The DB pension fund of Premaberg Holdings Limited, a UK manufacturer, has completed a £5m bulk annuity transaction described as “a major step” towards fully settling the plan’s legacy obligations.

The deal, which is a buy-in, covers 50 members, of which around 80% are pensioners in payment.

The transaction was struck with Just Group and completed using Mercer’s streamlined quotation service, which monitors buy-in pricing.

Ruth Ward, principal in Mercer’s risk transfer team, was lead consultant on the deal, and said it demonstrated that “smaller schemes can and do achieve successful bulk annuity transactions, despite continued high demand from much larger schemes”.

They have to “work harder” to get insurers’ attention, however, she said, citing preparation and following a streamlined process as key ingredients in Premaberg’s case.

Jo Richardson, chair of the trustees, said: “We’re delighted to have secured our members’ DB pensions through this bulk annuity transaction. The ability to regularly monitor actual insurer pricing was invaluable, allowing us to quickly take advantage of improved market pricing earlier this year and transact firmly within our price trigger.”

Widening of credit spreads earlier this year in response to the pandemic-fuelled economic shutdown improved the affordability of bulk annuities.

The Premaberg deal is not the first bulk annuity transaction for a small pension scheme this year. Earlier this month, for example, the Superannuation Scheme for a farmers’ cooperative secured the benefits of all its 120 members via a £13m buyout with Legal & General.

A spokesperson told IPE the Premaberg pension fund had £5.2m in assets under management.

More work urged on drawdown decision-making

Online pension provider PensionBee is calling on the pension industry to do more to support those accessing or considering accessing defined contribution (DC) pensions.

It made the call in connection with report and research it commissioned to understand the barriers and challenges faced by those aged 55-70 making plans to access, and at the point of accessing, their DC pension.

Findings from a survey of 961 people included that more than a quarter (27%) of people who tried to access their pension did not go through with it because they were confused about which options were available to them.

PensionBee said the survey showed that people had a low level of understanding of how much they are able to withdraw, with around one third (34%) of participants thinking a sustainable withdrawal rate was 8% or higher and one in seven (14%) saying they did not know.

Another finding was that three-quarters of people have had to wait for four weeks or longer to access their pension savings, a third said the process took between one and two months, and 14% of people had to wait for five months or more.

Romi Savova, CEO of PensionBee, said: “Pension providers have a responsibility to support their customers, particularly during this time of economic uncertainty, and should offer easily accessible information to allow consumers to plan ahead for their financial future.

“It is now more important than ever for providers to develop straightforward and flexible products to help consumers drawdown simply and efficiently. The industry needs to come together and continue to innovate – it’s time to give back control to the consumer.”A

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