Pension investments surge in 2016

Pension investments surge in 2016

New investments through pension funds surged to £17.4bn in 2016, a 24 per cent increase on the previous year, figures from Equifax Touchstone have revealed.

More than half of those were into self-invested personal pensions (Sipps), which saw single premium (i.e. non-transferred) inflows of £9.1bn.

That was up from £7.7bn in 2015.

Pension transfers, meanwhile, reached £16bn for the year, an 18.8 per cent increase on the 2015 figure of £13.6bn.

Of those, £7.6bn went into Sipps, putting total Sipp sales at £16.8bn, up from £14.4bn in 2015.

The data, which covered more than 90 per cent of the UK pension providers, put total pension investments for the year - including transfers - at £33.7bn.

That was an 18.6 per cent increase on the previous year.

Flexible drawdown sales also saw a major boost, particularly from single premium inflows, which jumped 87 per cent in the year to £1.6bn.

Transfers into flexible drawdown also increased, though more modestly, from £1.7bn to £2.5bn.

John Driscoll, director at Equifax Touchstone, said 2016 ended on a "high" following a weak third quarter, when inflows fell in what he said was a response to the Brexit vote.

"Strong stock market performance towards the end of the year prompted a recovery in investor sentiment, a trend which has continued into the New Year, indicating continued growth in pension investments in the months ahead," he said.

“For 2017, transfers will be an interesting area to watch; growing concerns around financing retirement will continue to drive people towards final salary transfers.

"Investor jitters around the security of final salary schemes following high-profile issues will also contribute to a continued rise in transfer volumes as more ‘insistent’ clients consider final salary transfers to access their savings."

Equifax's figures come at a time of change for the pension industry.

The introduction of pension freedoms in April 2015 - which among other things put an end to compulsory annuitisation - increased the popularity of both Sipps and flexible drawdown products.

The reforms also pushed up the number of people transferring out of a defined benefit pension scheme into a defined contribution one, particularly by offering better inheritance tax benefits.

The attractiveness of DB to DC transfers was further enhanced by record transfer values, a result of extremely low gilt yields in the wake of the Brexit vote and subsequent Bank of England interest rate cut.

The year also saw an increase in the number of people contributing to a workplace pension through auto-enrolment, as smaller businesses entered the regime for the first time.