Matching pension contributions rise in popularity

The number of pension schemes offering matching pension contributions for members has risen by around 100% in the past 10 years, according to research by Towers Watson.

Its FTSE 350 DC pensions survey 2014, which questioned 98 FTSE 100 and 241 FTSE 350 companies, found that 75% of respondents now offer matching contributions. However, while there has been a moderate increase in contribution levels, these have not kept pace with increasing longevity.

The research also highlighted how the types of pension schemes offered by employers has changed. Defined contribution (DC) pension schemes remain the most common pension in the FTSE 350, offered by 97% of this group.

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Over the past 10 years, the percentage of FTSE 350 companies that provide trust-based pensions has fallen, from 68% to 35%.

Meanwhile, no FTSE 100 respondents now use a final salary pension scheme as their primary pension. In 2005, one in five employers operated an open DB scheme.

Alongside their primary pension scheme, 80% also provide employees with share schemes, 14% offer other workplace savings options and 31% offer self-invested personal pensions.

Of the respondents that have automatically enrolled employees, 93% said no more than one in ten employees have opted out.

Pension scheme charges have fallen over the last few years, with the average now well below the 0.75% charge cap set by the government.

In 2009, 6% of FTSE 100 pension schemes had an annual management charge higher than 0.7%. In 2014, this has decreased to 0.3%.

Three-quarters (75%) of FTSE 100 companies offer annuity broking services to help retirees shop around for their best option at retirement.

Some 43% of respondents issue employees with countdown-to-retirement guides, while 66% offer pre-retirement counselling sessions.

Will Aitken (pictured), senior DC consultant at Towers Watson, said: “The results are relevant to any employer with a DC pension.

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“They illustrate how the pension market is moving from defined benefit to DC, from passive equity to diversified growth funds, and towards more flexibility in contributions and retirement.

“The flexibility offered by the Budget may push this trend towards flexibility further. If DC pension plans become saving vehicles, giving employers visibility of other savings vehicles alongside pensions may be a logical next step.”

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