Defined Benefit  

Pension transfer stampede shows no sign of slowing down

Pension transfer stampede shows no sign of slowing down

Funds transferred out of pension schemes hit a record £10.6bn in the first quarter of the year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This figure is slightly above the volume registered in the last quarter of the year, when it reached £10.3bn.

The data did not specify the origin of the funds, but it is expected that the majority of these transfers are from defined benefit schemes.

The volume of DB transfers has been soaring, as savers seek to take advantage of sky-high transfer values and to move their nest eggs into defined contribution (DC) schemes in order to access their cash using pension freedoms.

HM Revenue & Customs data showed more than £14bn has been unlocked from defined contribution pensions since pension freedoms came into effect.

ONS also revised its figures for 2017, from £34.2bn to £36.8bn.

According to Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, the data shows the stampede to quit guaranteed DB pension schemes shows no signs of slowing down, with the first three months of 2018 setting another record for pension transfers.

He said: “We have witnessed a perfect storm for DB transfers in the UK, with a combination of the attractiveness of the pension freedoms, high transfer values and headlines about high-profile companies – most notably BHS and Carillion – going bust all undoubtedly influencing people’s decision to exit.

“The first quarter 2018 figure also likely includes a large number of transfers away from the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS).”

Steelworkers were given until December to decide whether to move their defined benefit (DB) pension pots to a new plan being created, BSPS II, or stay in the current fund, to be moved to the lifeboat Pension Protection Fund.

The scheme has about 130,000 members of which 43,000 are deferred, meaning transferring out of their pension was an option for them.

Since March 2017 and until the beginning of February, the scheme has processed 2,600 pension transfers equating to a total value of £1.1bn, according to data revealed by the scheme trustees.

Mr Selby argued, however, that over time pensions transfer volumes should edge downwards, as the number of people with significant funds eligible for a transfer diminishes.

“But as things stand, he said we remain in the eye of the storm.

Mr Selby said: "“Those who have decided to move their pot away from the security of defined benefit will now need to take a much more active role to ensure they get the retirement they want.”

maria.espadinha@ft.com