An executive summary of an Executive Summary – Purple Book 2009

Alan Collins

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If, like myself, the prospect of trawling through the 2009 Purple Book published by the Pensions Regulator and the Pension Protection Fund (the PPF) is a research step too far, you will most likely have turned to the Executive Summary.

Being short of time, I was then less than pleased to see the Executive Summary running to around 10 pages.

So having now briefly digested the aforementioned the following provides my executive summary of the Executive Summary –

– the end date for the reporting period was 31 March 2009 (the nadir of recent pension scheme funding dates with the combination of low gilt yields and pre-bounce equity markets).

– 37 percent of scheme members were members of open schemes at 31 March 2009, down from 44 percent at 31 March 2008;

– Aggregate Technical Provisions funding levels fell to 70.3 percent at 31 March 2009, representing a total shortfall of £329 billion;

– the level of corporate liquidations in Q3 2009 was over 50 percent higher than at the low-point in 2007, though not as severe as in the recession of the early 90s;

– average allocation in equity fell from 53.6 percent oto 46.4 percent (this may of course be due to the fall in equity values rather than any “tactical” shift);

– there was a marked rise in the long-term risk to the PPF between March 2008 and June 2009, as measured by the PPF’s Long-Term Risk Model;

– PPF expects to collect £651 million for the 2008/9 year. The average levy paid is unchanged at 0.08 percent of scheme assets.

– 564 schemes had their levy 2008/9 capped (it will no doubt be interesting to see how this figure changes in due given the reduction in the cap to 0.5% of scheme assets for 2010/11);

– the total number of contingent assets in place has risen by 30 percent from 452 in 2008/9 to 587 for 2009/10;

– Liability Driven Investment (LDI) strategies continued to take root. The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) survey data indicated that 26 percent of schemes had implemented an LDI strategy by 2009 up from 23 percent in 2008; and

– to end on a subject dear to our hearts here at Spence and Partners Limited as specialists in managing schemes during PPF assessment periods (and our sister company Dalriada Trustees Limited), there were 240 schemes (covering 201,000 members) in the PPF assessment period as at 31 March 2009. Also in the year to 31 March 2009, the PPF paid out a total of £37.6 million in compensation payments to eligible members.

Finally for a brief update of subsequent events (from a corporate perspective, though same could be said for scheme funding) –

While we spent late 2008 telling companies your FRS/IAS is not going to be as bad as you think (thanks in most part to sky-high corporate bond yields), we are now in the process of telling the same individuals the exact opposite. “Surely the funding level must be better this year?” – “Err, No” (thanks to higher expectations for long-term inflation and a correction in bond yields have more than offset the equity bounce in most cases). Further details of this were set in in an earlier article on the current state of play for accounting under FRS17 and IAS19.

Alan Collins

Post by Alan Collins

Head of Trustee Advisory Services at Spence he provides actuarial, funding and investment advice to trustees and sponsors of ongoing defined benefit schemes.