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Corporate pension scheme advice

Taking control of your defined benefit pension scheme

Increasing regulatory, compliance and reporting requirements are putting pressure on defined benefit pension sponsors and trustees. It is causing many organisations to consider whether their pension structures are fit for purpose.

As defined benefit schemes mature, cost and risk control becomes increasingly important. There will be greater regulatory scrutiny to ensure the sponsor can continue to meet its pension obligations.

We can help you develop and put in place a clear, integrated long-term funding and investment plan. We'll make sure your defined benefit scheme will meet the expectations and demands of the trustees.

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Supporting you on your pensions journey

In an ever-changing economic and regulatory environment, sponsoring a defined benefit pension scheme brings a range of challenges. That might be cost and risk management, or ensuring that both your and your employees' needs are met.

Formalising your defined benefit strategy

The regulatory burden placed on pension schemes has increased in recent years. For the most part, responsibility for compliance lies with the trustees. But where does the employer fit into this?

The trustees may decide on a course of action that meets the regulatory criteria and their objectives. But that may not be ideal, or fulfil the employer's intention.

The employer, as the party responsible for providing funding, should be involved in formalising the future direction of its pension scheme. It should work with the trustees to develop a preferred corporate pension strategy.

Our Pensions team can help employers looking to take this step and align with trustees on the long-term strategy of the scheme.

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Member engagement

Technological change and evolving consumer preferences are affecting member attitudes and expectations. Pension schemes need to keep pace. They need to treat members as consumers to maximise the quality of engagement.

They need to ensure that communications are engaging and accessible, and that employees understand their benefits and options. Members need to make informed decisions that support their long-term objectives as well as their employer's.

Our research shows that members have a preference for:

  • Empowerment: giving a choice of benefits
  • Flexibility: offering the ability to adjust benefits
  • Trust: ensuring benefit security and transparency
  • Communications: engaging through preferred channels and providing a deeper understanding of the scheme
  • Convenience

We can help deliver stronger, better quality communication campaigns for pension scheme members.

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Fiduciary management

Fiduciary management involves delegating some or all of the day-to-day investment decisions and implementation.

Some of the reasons for adopting this approach include a focus on high-level strategic decisions; being able to implement ideas more quickly; access a wider range of asset classes and secure better value investment management arrangements.

These benefits must be weighed up against the potential downsides which include being more difficult to assess the value you are getting and greater governance requirements; potentially higher costs and challenges in comparing how you are to the traditional model and the high exit fees which may apply.

Our Pensions team can give employers an overview of the investment managers in the market, their investment principles and performance track record. We can help you determine if any change in the investment model is appropriate.

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Liability management

Central to a strong, integrated funding and investment plan is the effective management of assets and liabilities. Creating a suitable investment strategy for the evolving risk profile of the scheme and that is aligned with the employer's risk appetite is one side of the coin.

The other is managing liabilities and how these evolve over time. Employers may be able to reduce cost and risk by considering settlement options such as the buy in or buy out of liabilities or developing member benefit options.

We can support you to identify and deliver suitable liability management options tailored for your pension scheme membership and benefit structure. We help you assess how the outcomes of these liability management exercises might impact the costs and risks associated with your pension scheme.

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Globally mobile employees and their pensions

Many sectors of the economy now operate on a global basis. As a result, there is a demand for key employees to work outside of their home country to support the development of the business.

Pension provisions though, are not harmonised across the globe or within the EU. This creates complex tax challenges for employers and their employees to navigate.

This creates a more fundamental challenge for employers. They want to avoid seeing employees facing the challenges of fragmented pension benefits which are complicated to access after having made international moves in support of the organisation.

We have deep experience in helping employers and employees navigate the different international pensions available. We help them make optimal and consistent choices.

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Our corporate pension scheme solutions

Whatever your issue, we have the expertise and experience to support you.

Developing your defined benefit pension strategy

An effective pensions strategy balances the commitments of the trustees and the employer, as well as meeting all regulatory requirements. All stakeholders must be clear on the outcomes you want to achieve, the risks you want to mitigate and the way you will meet your objectives.

Every pension scheme is different. Your strategy for meeting your promises to members should be tailor made for your individual circumstances.

We can help you develop a sound long-term pensions strategy that will be your road map for success. This will include:

  • A clear end goal and timeline
  • A funding and investment strategy that fits for your scheme risk profile
  • A defined schedule of activity
  • A framework to assess planning ideas
  • Suitable triggers for well-timed action
  • Ongoing review to ensure your strategy remains optimal

Actuarial and financing advice

Companies and trustees often take actuarial advice from the same advisor. This creates a risk if that advice is not fully challenged.

For example, Trustees may have a preference for 'advanced' funding which in turn may accelerate the pace of de-risking. This can create a 'trapped surplus' and may not fit with an employer's strategy. Furthermore, Trustees may want to ensure full security for their pension scheme members through a buy-in or buy-out but it will be important for the employer to consider if and when this transfer of risk happens.

We have worked with pension schemes of all shapes and sizes to help them develop tailored financing strategies, including getting ready for buy in and buy out transactions. Because we work with hundreds of leading businesses, we bring a deep-rooted knowledge of corporate strategy to this process. We can help map out a scheme financing journey in the best interests of trustees, sponsors and members alike.

Member engagement and support

Pension communications tend to be compliance led and technical in nature. As well as that, an employee's needs evolve as they navigate their pensions journey. Having a user-friendly set of supports in place means employees can access the information they need when they need it.

The changing pensions environment and the mix of defined benefit and defined contribution benefits creates additional complexity. For employees this can mean difficult at-retirement choices.

For employers, having appropriate before, at and in retirement support to help staff make lifelong pension decisions is becoming a priority.

We help companies manage the communication cycle. We ensure pensions providers deliver key messages to the workforce at the right time. We have the experience and insights to help you adapt and maximise the impact of your employee and member engagement.

Member options

Member options can create extra value for members. For optionality to be successful, members must feel supported throughout the process. They should feel empowered to make the decision that best meets their needs.

Member options include once-off option exercises and embedded options such as early retirement, pension increase exchange, enhanced transfer values and at-retirement transfer values.

Embedding more member options into the day-to-day operation of the scheme can have a significant positive impact on the long-term sustainability of the scheme. It can also better meet the needs of members.

Our team has experience planning and implementing employer-led, once-off member option exercises as well as working with trustees to embed these additional options as standard features.

Fiduciary manager selection

Choosing to adopt a fiduciary management investment model is a big decision. It's not the best model for everyone, so we help you decide if it is right for you. We can help with:

Go or no-go decision: We get to know your existing investment model and your investment beliefs. We advise you on what approach is appropriate for you.

Provider selection: We interact with Irish fiduciary managers on behalf of our clients and have first hand knowledge of their solutions. We will help you select the provider that meets your specific needs.

Fee negotiation: Unclear mandates and high fees can destroy the value of your assets. We work with managers to negotiate the best deal for you.

Ongoing oversight: Your fiduciary arrangement should be independently reviewed on a regular basis to ensure transparency around performance and fees. Benchmark your arrangements against the whole market. Consider whether your arrangement continues to fit with your overall pensions strategy.

We have the market knowledge and understanding to ensure you make the right decision on the best investment management approach for your scheme.

International pension support

Dealing with pension provision for globally mobile employees is complex and we consider the following steps important:

  1. Identify the key mobility corridors for your employees
  2. Identify where globally mobile employees will receive their retirement benefits: home country plan, host country plan or via an international pension plan
  3. Identify some of the key risks (e.g., tax issues, portability of pension benefits)
  4. Develop suitable mitigation plans and consistent HR policies to address the key risks

Our Pensions team can support employers in navigating the international pensions landscape and to put in place appropriate frameworks for dealing with globally mobile employees and the challenges that arise.

Contact us

Munro O'Dwyer

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 86 053 6993

Anna Kinsella

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 87 967 0910

Ross Mitchell

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 87 235 4460

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