Good news for DB pension holders… plus several caveats

19th April 2022 by RetireEasy

Positive news for some savers this month: the aggregate surplus of the 5,215 defined benefit schemes in the Pension Protection Fund (PFF) 7800 Index increased from £133.6bn in February to £176.4bn at the end of last month: an increase of £42.8bn.

This means that Section 179 liabilities (the level of assets needed to secure PPF-level benefits with an insurer) were 111.4 per cent funded in March, up from 108.4 per cent in February and the highest it’s been since June 2007.

However, the figures disguise some differences between schemes: there were 3,307 plans in surplus and 1,908 in deficit at the end of March. The aggregate shortfall of the schemes in deficit at the end of March was £62.9bn, an improvement from £83.1bn in the previous month.

Looking at the figures in finer detail, the total assets of all 5,215 schemes dropped during the month from £1,732.2 billion to £1,721.5 billion. However, this was more than offset by a fall in liabilities – from £1,598.6 billion to £1,545.1 billion.

PPF Chief Financial Officer and Chief Actuary Lisa McCrory said: “Scheme funding levels continue to be impacted by the increase in bond yields, which have moved to reflect expectations that the Bank of England’s policy rate will be higher in the coming years than it has for the previous decade,” she added.

Buck UK’s head of retirement consulting, Vishal Makkar, added several cautionary notes: “With more than 3,300 of the 5,215 plans in the PPF index ending the month with a funding surplus, the thoughts of many administrators may turn to other goals,” he said. “The recent Spring Statement offered no major shake-ups for pension plans, with nothing new in terms of requirements or regulations for trustees. Unfortunately, the Chancellor has also offered little relief when it comes to the current cost-of-living crisis.

“The rising cost of living remains a significant concern for scheme members and an increase in National Insurance contributions could well be an additional issue for those who have not yet reached retirement.

“Rising inflation could also impact most program sponsors and will likely affect the final planning of many programs this year. A combination of inflation and accompanying interest rate hikes could make 2022 will be a challenging year for DB plans as they grapple with a rapidly changing investment landscape.


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