The PLSA at 100: The Present
16 February 2023
In this series of three blogs, we’re celebrating our 100th anniversary by exploring the PLSA’s past, present and future.
Although we’ve gone through three name changes and numerous office moves over the last century, our core purpose of helping everyone to achieve a better income in retirement remains a constant.
From welcoming new pensions minister Laura Trott at our offices to announce plans to make Defined Contribution (DC) pensions “fairer, more predictable and better-run”, to unleashing Big Zuu’s pensions-themed rap on an unsuspecting world, we continue to innovate and help shape pensions policy, lobby on behalf of our pension scheme members and collaborate with other industry bodies to achieve our purpose.
Recent years have seen pensions and the PLSA weather the impact of several global crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic, a cost of living crisis and the financial turmoil following the September 2022 mini-Budget that hit defined benefit (DB) schemes’ LDI strategies particularly hard.
The financial fallout from the 2022 mini-Budget was a great example of how the PLSA brings together its skills and expertise to help our members and the wider financial services community.
We supported our members and engaged with regulators through the crisis, as the Bank of England intervened in gilt markets and schemes responded to spiralling collateral calls from LDI managers. Our policy and PR teams worked together to provide expert commentary to mainstream media and trade press, as DB pension schemes made headlines in daily newspapers. Now, in the wake of the market turmoil, we’ll continue to work with industry bodies, asset managers, advisers and schemes themselves to make sure that future changes to LDI rules are pragmatic and fit for purpose.
A wider remit
In a DC-driven pensions world, members now have more responsibility for their own retirement planning than ever before. Our name change to the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association in 2015 was partly driven by that shift, recognising that saving for retirement is about pensions, plus other sources of wealth and wider financial wellbeing.
Helping members understand how much they need to contribute to achieve an adequate standard of living in retirement, and being confident that their employer’s pension scheme can support them in achieving it, are important parts of our current policy work.
The Retirement Living Standards, which show members what they need to save for a minimum, moderate or comfortable standard of living in retirement, are now used by 28 major pension providers, employers and financial services organisations and is helping people to take more control over their retirement savings. Our Pension Quality Mark celebrates schemes and employers that go beyond the basics in terms of contribution rates, governance and member engagement.
We are also heavily involved in wider industry initiatives such as Pension Dashboards and the future of auto-enrolment, as well as our own policy priorities on pensions adequacy, all of which will provide much-needed support for members as well as their schemes.
Every type of pension
While DC pensions are now the dominant force in private sector workplace pensions, defined benefit (DB) schemes and the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) continue to be major forces in the pensions landscape and PLSA policy. We helped to create and drive forward the Cost Transparency Initiative which aims to standardise costs and charges for DB pension schemes, raise standards of governance with our annual voting and stewardship guidelines, collaborate with industry leaders on Made Simple Guides and provides market-leading training courses for DB trustees, to help make sure that schemes are well-run.
Enabling our members to learn and network at events has been one of the cornerstones of the PLSA over the last 100 year, and this year is no different. We’ve expanded our opportunities to bring the pensions world together with our first in-person Responsible Investment conference (following two successful years online), new DB, Trustee and Master Trust Forums, as well as our regular Investment, Annual and LGPS conferences.
But there is still so much to do if pension saving is to avoid a crisis of its own. As our Five Steps to Better Pensions report shows, more than 50% of the population won’t meet the retirement income targets set in the 2005 Pensions Commission – increasing to 62% of households with DC savings. Addressing that requires collaboration from politicians, regulators, financial services providers and schemes themselves. We believe that we are ideally placed to enable that collaboration to happen and help build new ways of working that make it easier for members to feel confident in their retirement prospects.
As we take on those challenges and prepare for the future of pension saving, the PLSA is evolving too. Read the next blog in this series to find out what our future looks like.
Read more about our history