ABI launches pension insurance guide as market grows by 50 per cent

Bulk Insured Pension companies (commonly known as ‘buy-out firms) reported a 50% increase in funds under management, of £22 billion to the end of 2008, according to new figures released by the ABI today. The pensions of over half a million people are now covered by these funds. Responding to the increased interest, the ABI has produced a guide for trustees and companies explaining how Bulk Insured Pensions work. The guide is available to download at www.abi.org.uk.

A Bulk Insured Pension is the term for the purchase of a long-term insurance policy by the trustees of a Defined Benefit (DB) pension scheme to cover and protect scheme members’ pension rights.

There are two main changes for members of a scheme which becomes fully covered by an insurance policy. Firstly, their pension guarantee moves from a sponsor’s promise to a contract with an insurer. As well using a company with experience in managing pension risks there is also the reassurance that insurers are regulated by the FSA and are required to hold large amounts of capital to meet their liabilities. Secondly, members are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), giving consumers a higher level of protection.

Commenting on the launch, Peter Vipond, the ABI’s Director of Financial Regulation, said:

“Trustees and corporate sponsors have never faced such a challenging environment. Recent comments from the Pensions Regulator, that companies must fund pension deficits before paying dividends, reflect fears over the sustainability of final salary pension arrangements. The ABI’s guide will help trustees understand the range of insured options available.

“While Bulk Insured Pensions currently make up only a small proportion of total pension funds, there is increasing interest in the opportunities they provide. This is good news for those with DB pensions, as there would be no change in the pension promise. The obligation to pay their DB pension promises simply moves from the corporate sponsor to an insurer.”

– ENDS –

Notes for Editors

1. Enquiries to:
Jonathan French 020 7216 7392 (Mobile: 07958 330 480)
Malcolm Tarling 020 7216 7410 (Mobile: 07776 147 667)
Erfan Hussain 020 7216 7411 (Mobile: 07712 841 184)
Kelly Ostler-Coyle 020 7216 7415 (Mobile: 07968 364 302)

2. The purpose of an insured policy depends on the solution chosen by the trustee but can be a full buy-out, in which all aspects of the scheme are transferred, or insuring against a specific risk to the scheme, such as increased longevity.

3. If an insurer becomes insolvent, members receive 100% of the first £2,000 and 90% of the remaining amount of their pension, with no upper limit. Under traditional DB schemes, covered by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), insolvency of the corporate sponsor means scheme members (who have not retired) receive 90% of pension payments, but are subject to an upper limit, currently set at just below £32,000.

4. The ABI document Defined Benefit Pensions: Information for trustees about the Bulk Insured Pensions business is available on the ABI web site, www.abi.org.uk.

5. The ABI is the voice of the insurance and investment industry. Its members constitute over 90 per cent of the insurance market in the UK and 20 per cent across the EU. They control assets equivalent to a quarter of the UK’s capital. They are the risk managers of the UK’s economy and society. Through the ABI their voice is heard in Government and in public debate on insurance, savings and investment matters.

6. An ISDN line is available for broadcasts.