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Pension schemes confident of meeting payment obligations

30 April 2020

Savers can be confident their workplace pension schemes are standing up to the operational challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic with a majority now saying the crisis is having little of no impact on their day-to-day operations, a survey carried out by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) shows.

The PLSA conducted two separate surveys of its pension scheme members. The first was open for responses as the closure of schools and places of work came into effect from 20th-25th March. The second was open from 8th-18th April. They found schemes are overwhelmingly confident of meeting their payment obligations.

KEY FINDINGS

  • All pension schemes surveyed (100%) report they are confident (85% very confident, 15% fairly confident, 0% not confident) they can meet their payment obligations to members over the coming months.
  • 99% of schemes say contingency plans are coping and almost two-thirds (62%) said Covid-19 is having little impact on the day to day running of the scheme (up from 39% in March).
  • Where schemes are experiencing issues or concerns, these relate to the pressures of remote working including difficulty serving member requests (33%), as well as a shortage of staff (22%).

In our latest survey more schemes are confident about the strength of their scheme sponsor/employer than in the first survey which was conducted at the start of the lockdown (45% are not concerned at all, compared with 29% in March). However, a significant number of DB schemes are experiencing some funding concerns (37% of DB schemes who said they were experiencing some kind of impact).

Many schemes have had to change their operational processes, such as the receipt of communications from either members or employers (50%), their contractual decisions e.g. signatures for trustee/investment decisions (49%), processes to mitigate the risk of members being scammed (23%).

REACTION OF SAVERS

Half of schemes say they have not seen any change in the volume of member queries with some reporting fewer calls (17%). A third of schemes say they have seen a modest increase in member enquiries.

When it comes to changes in savers’ behaviour, most schemes surveyed say they have not seen any (74%). Roughly one in 10 say there has been an increase in savers accessing their website/apps (11%), with few stopping (1%) or levelling down their contributions (3%).

Among those who say they have experienced an increase in member queries, most say member queries have increased by 0-15% (83%), while five respondents (17%) say that their member queries have increased by between 16% and 25%.

General queries prompted by Covid-19 (89%) and queries prompted by seeing something in the media (25%) are seen to be the main reasons for the increase in member queries.

Only one scheme reported seeing an increase in suspected scam activity. However, savers are still wise to be especially vigilant – financial criminals have been known to ramp up activity during times of heightened anxiety, such as during the financial crisis.

Nigel Peaple, Director of Policy & Research, PLSA said: “The lockdown has created substantial pressures on many organisations but I am pleased to say that our survey finds that all the schemes which responded said they were confident of meeting payment obligations. Encouragingly, as the lockdown has continued, initial concerns among some schemes have tended to ease.

“We hope that this news will be reassuring to pension savers. Our members are focussed on looking after people’s savings so they can have an adequate income in retirement. Against an incredibly challenging backdrop for workers, employers and especially those providing vital care, people can take some comfort knowing their pension savings are secure.”

Download the full report.

NOTES TO EDITORS
Two separate surveys of PLSA members were conducted: 20th-25th March (100 respondents) and 8th-18th April (114 respondents). Some questions were repeated to allow comparisons as the situation has developed.

Over half of overall respondents represent defined benefit (DB) only schemes (52%), while two in five (41%) represent both DB and defined contribution (DC) schemes. DC only schemes are represented by 7% of respondents.

Around one in five represent Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) (20%), with a similar number representing Master Trusts (17%).

Scheme size ranged from less than 1,000 members to over 1 million members. Most schemes represented are small i.e. a third less than 5,000 members (31%) and around three-fifths 25,000 members or less (59%). Around a quarter (21%) have between 25,000 and 100,000 members, and one in five (19%) have more than 100,000 members. Four respondents represent schemes with more than a million members.

Mark Smith, Senior PR Manager
 020 7601 1726 |  [email protected]k

Steven Kennedy, PR Manager
 020 7601 1737 | 07713 073024 | [email protected]