The UK’s defined benefit pensions market is anticipated to experience £80 billion in pension de-risking transactions in 2024, according to WTW.
According to the firm’s annual Pensions De-risking report, this is fuelled by a strong settlement market and notable increases in pension scheme funding in 2023.
It is anticipated that in 2024, insurers will purchase £60 billion in bulk annuity deals and £20 billion in longevity swaps, making it the biggest year ever for pension de-risking.
Last year, the trend of pension systems safeguarding their liabilities through insurance-led buyouts hit all-time highs, with bulk annuity transactions alone topping £50 billion.
WTW expects this to continue growing, with schemes modifying their investing approaches to obtain advantageous financial positions and getting ready to approach the insurance market this year.
WTW predicts other significant developments in the UK pensions de-risking market for 2024, including trustees considering non-price considerations like member experience and brand reputation when choosing insurers.
Additionally, it says that insurance companies will still back plans of all kinds, anticipating multibillion-pound deals for major pension plans and appropriate counterparties for smaller ones. In a crowded market, nevertheless, a customised quotation process will be necessary.
Furthermore, pension plans will begin investigating the superfund market in 2024, following the first transaction in 2023. While superfunds might not catch on with most investors, a few deals in 2024 might set the stage for future growth in this industry WTW says.
WTW director in pensions transactions Jenny Neale says: “It’s clear that funding improvements have turbo-charged the pensions de-risking market and, from a capacity perspective, we have already seen that the insurance market is capable of scaling up to meet demand. The attractiveness of these opportunities is also enticing new insurers to enter the market adding additional capacity, which we believe will be sufficient to meet requirements in the year to come.
“Despite the increased demand for de-risking, the Chancellor’s proposed Mansion House Reforms could give pause for thought for some pension schemes and their sponsoring employers.
“Whilst we expect buyout to be the long-term destination for the majority of our clients, we have seen a number of schemes with strong sponsors initiating a fresh review of their long-term target and more schemes may choose to seek value in running on their pension scheme and delaying their move to buyout if a change in legislation allows easier use of any surplus run by the scheme.
“If this is the case, it’s unlikely that these schemes would wish to run unrewarded risks and consequently could look to hedge their demographic risks through the use of longevity swaps.”