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DB scheme deficits hampering investment prospects for UK businesses

Mounting defined benefit (DB) pension scheme deficits are restricting businesses’ ability to invest in their own development, according to a new report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and Mercer.

The research revealed that the weight of high levels of DB scheme deficits will have a negative impact on the financial performance of more than half of businesses surveyed over the next three years.

Detailing some of the factors that have acted to put pressure on DB schemes, Robin Fieth, Executive Director, ICAEW said: “DB pension schemes are under unprecedented pressure, the result of increasing longevity, difficult market conditions and a tough regulatory environment.

“The difficult market combination of low gilt yields and euro zone uncertainty is hitting pension schemes hard. Many companies face the stark pressure of ploughing considerably more cash into their pension schemes, being unable in practical terms to agree longer recovery periods with their trustees.”

The report also highlighted some of the methods companies are using to manage DB pension scheme risk. This includes closing their schemes to new members (93%), closing schemes to future accrual (51%) and investing in assets that more closely match liabilities (34%).

Mr Tayyebi, a Senior Partner at Mercer, argues that the majority of businesses are taking a proactive approach to DB risk management, despite the current volatility behind their pension schemes.

“Our survey confirms a strong recognition of the need to take action and progressively mitigate or reduce pension risk,” he said.

“Almost 80% of respondents either already have or expect to have a glide-path or journey plan of de-risking triggers in place over the next three years.”

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