DB Pension Costs Could Be Reduced By More Than £500m Per Year

31 January 2017

  • Consolidation of defined benefit (DB) pension schemes could cut costs by £500M a year
  • Combining consolidation with benefit simplification will reduce costs even further
  • Savings could exceed £10 billion over DB schemes’ lifetime
  • With deficits now equivalent to £83,000 for every member of remaining DB schemes, ‘doing nothing’ is not an option

Consolidating defined benefit (DB) pension schemes could cut employers’ costs by £500m per annum collectively, according to JLT Employee Benefits (JLT), a leading UK pensions and employee benefits consultancy. Scheme consolidation is one of the recommendations JLT is making following publication of its latest white paper titled, How do we get out of this Pensions Black Hole?’, which attempts to find a lasting settlement on ballooning DB pension deficits.

The £500 million savings would result from a reduction in administration and investment costs , as well as lower actuarial, covenant and legal costs, by consolidating the 5,500 smaller DB pensions schemes with less than 5,000 members to 500* larger schemes as proposed by the PLSA. This would equate to total savings of £10 billion over 40 years, which is the estimated time by which all DB pension schemes will have closed entirely.

Further savings could be achieved by simplifying benefit structures, with many DB scheme currently having different benefit categories and, within each category, different tranches of benefits. While the exact savings would be scheme-specific, they could have a material impact, including:

  • simpler administration, with reduced chances of error;
  • far greater opportunity to adopt a 'self-service' approach to member requests thanks to greater automation; and
  • savings on buy-out and buy-ins, because simpler schemes are more attractive to insurers.

In the last ten years, the gap between the assets and the liabilities of DB pension schemes has almost doubled. The total deficit is now £900 billion which is the equivalent of £83,000 for every member of the remaining 5,800 or so DB schemes. In 2016 alone, the deficit per member has jumped by 14%.

To address this pensions ‘black hole’, JLT’s recommendations, detailed in its report, in addition to consolidation of DB schemes, include:

  1. Simplify complex benefit structures, by introducing regulations similar to those for conversions of Guaranteed Minimum Pensions (GMPs)
  2. Remove all barriers to liability management exercises
  3. Allow the use of CPI for increases to pensions, past, present and future
  4. Change bulk transfer regulations, to allow transfers to new schemes without member consent in circumstances where transfers are in members’ interests

John Wilson, Head of Technical, JLT Employee Benefits, comments: “With the prospect of millennials being the first generation to have worse pensions than their parents, the chance to try and escape this pensions ‘black hole’ and to address the intergenerational unfairness of legacy DB pension schemes is an opportunity not to be missed. Therefore, all stakeholders, including employers, trustees, members, policy makers and the pensions industry, should act together and explore the options for achieving a lasting DB settlement.

“All stakeholders stand to benefit. Members of legacy DB pension schemes would see greater sustainability of past pension promises, which may be lower than original expectations, but are more likely to exceed PPF benefit levels. Trustees of these schemes would become less dependent on sponsoring employers. More generous contributions could become available for employees in respect of current workplace pension arrangements. Companies would have more resources available for research, investment, and business activity. Overall, the economy would receive a boost.”



* Research assumptions: The estimated total running cost for all private sector DB pension schemes with less than 5,000 members is £1bn p.a.. The calculations assume the cost savings if all schemes with less than 5,000 members merged to form schemes with 5000+ members, therefore incurring similar costs to those incurred by such larger schemes. As schemes would be segregated, the valuation costs of the merged schemes and the levies they pay would not change.

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JLT Employee Benefits

Corinne Gladstone, PR Manager JLT Group | T: +44 (0)20 7895 7705 | M: +44 (0)7799 340658 | E: corinne_gladstone@jltgroup.com

Emily Cullen, Smithfield Consultants | T: 020 7903 0641 | E: ecullen@smithfieldgroup.com


About Jardine Lloyd Thompson

Jardine Lloyd Thompson is one of the world’s leading providers of insurance, reinsurance and employee benefits related advice, brokerage and associated services. JLT’s client proposition is built upon its deep specialist knowledge, client advocacy, tailored advice and service excellence.

JLT is quoted on the London Stock Exchange and owns offices in 41 countries with more than 10,600 employees. Supported by the JLT International Network, it offers risk management and employee benefit solutions in 135 countries.

For further information about JLT, please visit our website www.jlt.com.

About JLT Employee Benefits

JLT Employee Benefits is one of the UK’s leading employee benefit providers offering a wide range of benefit and pension services, including administration, actuarial and pension consultancy, investment, Self Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) and Small Self Administered Schemes (SSASs) administration, flexible benefits, healthcare, benefit communication and financial education.     

JLT Employee Benefits employs over 2,200 professionals throughout the UK and in 2015 had revenues of £167.4m in UK & Ireland.

Pensions and employee benefits companies within the JLT Employee Benefits group of companies include: JLT Benefit Solutions Ltd, Profund Solutions Limited, JLT Wealth Management Limited, JLT Investment Management Limited and Independent Trustee Services Limited. JLT Employee Benefits is part of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group plc.

About REBA

The Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) is for employers offering reward and benefits as part of an HR strategy to engage talent and drive success. We share intelligence, experience and ideas to help members save time, money and effort whilst pursuing best practice and developing their professional careers.

REBA runs regular conferences and networking events and produces regular in-depth benchmarking research and insight reports for reward and benefits managers.

For further information about REBA, please visit www.reba.global

Corinne Gladstone
PR Manager Corinne_Gladstone@jltgroup.com +44 (0)20 7895 7705