Aon Hewitt research: European pension schemes plan to de-risk

Pension schemes across Europe have placed de-risking at the top of the agenda, according to research by Aon Hewitt.

Its Global Pension Risk Survey 2011 found that five times more respondents than in the last survey published in 2009, indicated they are now viewing their scheme over a 20-year period to its eventual end.

Over half of respondents are looking to fund the deficit solely through employer contributions.

The survey also found there are fewer moves to change benefit design; those who wanted to change their benefits have already done so and the rest are looking to maintain benefits and to pay for them.

According to Aon Hewitt, risk is being taken in a more sophisticated way than in the past, with employers looking towards alternative asset classes to provide higher returns with lower risks.

A quarter (25%) of respondents have no policy regarding interest rate or inflation risk hedging.

Matt Wilmington, EMEA lead, global risk services at Aon Hewitt, said: “On mainland Europe, the ability to offer discretionary benefits is proving an effective safety valve both for employers to manage costs and for employees who are seeing fewer of their valuable defined benefit plans cut back – closed or frozen.

“In this respect, legislators in many European countries have been kinder to schemes than, for example, has been the case in the UK. 

“This coupling of an acceptance that higher employer contributions will be needed, along with an intelligent risk management strategy, could ensure that defined benefit plans across Europe are less of a problem for their sponsors than elsewhere in the globe.”

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