The overall health of defined benefit (DB) pension schemes improved in Q4 2019, according to Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM). Its DB Health Tracker - a monitor of the current health of UK DB pension schemes – has found that a typical DB pension scheme1 could “expect” to pay 96.5% of accrued pension benefits as at 31 December 2019, in their “expected proportion of benefits met” (EPBM) metric.
11 Feb 2020
The quarterly analysis, which takes into account the risk that a sponsor might default and the impact that would have on scheme’s members, found that 3.5% of accrued pension benefits would not be paid on average across their scenarios.
How manageable a pension scheme’s deficit is depends on a number of factors, not just its size. This includes the strength of the sponsor, the size of the deficit relative to the size of the assets, the quality of the investment strategy, and the economic and demographic risks in the scheme.
John Southall: "There was an overall increase in our EPBM metric for a typical scheme of around 2.8% during Q4 2019, compared to the previous quarter. This was mainly driven by an increase in interest rates and positive asset performance over the period."
John Roe: "When global recession risks receded over Q4 2019, Gilt yields rose more than US and German government bonds as Hard Brexit fears dissipated. In 2019, we saw structural downward pressure on long-dated UK inflation when comparing it to the US equivalent. In Q4, this contributed to 30-year index-linked Gilt yields rising approximately 0.4%, one of the biggest three-month increases in the last decade.
GBP strength from October onwards detracted from growth assets exposed to overseas currencies and, in turn, will have hurt marginal demand to de-risk, as fewer schemes reach the position to do so. The impact on Sterling would have cancelled out most of the Q4 gain on global equities for an unhedged UK investor.
With Brexit risks now perceived as more balanced, a key question for defined benefit schemes is whether to retain the overseas currency exposure that hurt their funding levels in Q4 but cushioned the blow back at the time of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Generally, in the risk management of our own multi-asset portfolios, we retain significant overseas currency exposure, in part to help benefit our investors in scenarios where the UK suffers a negative shock and their job security or sponsor security might fall."
The value of an investment and any income taken from it is not guaranteed and can go down as well as up; you may not get back the amount you originally invested.
The philosophy underlying LGIM’s approach is that schemes should focus on long-term success, defined as the assets outlasting the liability cashflows. Schemes face many hurdles to achieving this goal including covenant risk. LGIM calculated EPBM for a typical scheme as the average proportion of benefits met across the lifetime of the scheme over many different economic scenarios of the future.
Established in 1836, Legal & General is one of the UK's leading financial services groups and a major global investor, with over £1.2 trillion in total assets under management* of which 39% is international. We have a unique and highly synergistic business model, which continues to drive strong returns. Legal & General provides powerful asset origination and management capabilities directly to clients, which also underpin our leading retirement and protection solutions. We are a leading international player in Pension Risk Transfer, in UK and US life insurance, and in UK workplace pensions and retirement income. Our purpose is to improve the lives of our customers and create value for our shareholders. Through inclusive capitalism, we are investing in long-term assets, such as real estate and infrastructure, that can help build a better society for the future.
*as at HY 2023
Legal & General Investment Management
LGIM is one of Europe’s largest asset managers and a major global investor, with total assets under management of £1.16 trillion1 ($1.47tn, €1.35tn, CHF 1.31tn). We work with a wide range of global clients, including pension schemes, sovereign wealth funds, fund distributors and retail investors.
For more than 50 years, we have built our business through understanding what matters most to our clients and transforming this insight into valuable, accessible investment products and solutions. We provide investment expertise across the full spectrum of asset classes including fixed income, equities, commercial property, and cash. Our capabilities range from index-tracking and active strategies to liquidity management and liability-based risk management solutions.
1 Data as at 30 June 2023. Data combines assets under management by LGIM in the UK, LGIMA in the US and LGIM Asia in Hong Kong.
Assets under management include securities and derivatives positions
*as at HY 2023