Global Report: Global Survey of Retirement Plan Accounting Assumptions

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1 Global Report: Global Survey of Retirement Plan Accounting Assumptions August 2013 This report presents the results of Aon Hewitt s global survey of accounting assumptions used for employee benefit plans at 2012 year-end. The results of this survey may be useful to companies when setting preliminary assumptions for 2013 year-end and budgets for In addition, companies should consider the following: At 2012 year-end, we noted that discount rates in most countries had declined from However, the yields on corporate bonds have since risen to varying degrees in the countries with large pension liabilities (i.e., Canada, the Euro Zone, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States). Any planning for 2013 year-end or budgeting for 2014 should take those movements into consideration. In the United Kingdom, the increase in bond yields mentioned above is due, in part, to increases in inflationary expectations. Plan sponsors expecting to increase their discount rate also should re-examine the assumptions they are using for pension indexation. The average expected rate of return on plan assets in many countries continues to decline as a result of lower expected returns for individual asset classes (in part due to lower inflationary expectations) and increased allocations to fixed-income investments. For plan sponsors using International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), this decline will not affect their 2013 expense because the revised IAS 19 (IAS 19R) does not call for this assumption to be used. We are seeing companies, especially those with closed or frozen plans, establish a glide path as part of their investment and risk policy, with a view to automatically adjusting the risk level in the plans as market conditions vary. The glide path typically sets a specific asset allocation the investment manager must follow based on predefined triggers such as the funded status of the pension plan. If such a policy is applied, plan sponsors using U.S. GAAP should consider how the asset allocation in the relevant plans may vary when setting an assumption for the expected rate of return on assets. Most countries in which defined benefit plans are prevalent have mortality assumptions that recognize anticipated future mortality improvements. In the United States and Canada new, but preliminary, mortality improvement assumptions have been released, but they are not expected to be finalized until We currently anticipate that plan sponsors will be adopting these new assumptions for 2014 year end. For that reason, companies may want to assess the impact these preliminary assumptions will have on their retirement liabilities. Copyright 2013 Aon plc 1

2 An increasing number of companies are reducing the obligations and the risks related to their retirement liabilities by means of settlements such as lump-sum windows and annuity purchases. These companies are increasingly willing to incur one-time settlement charges, if any, to reduce the impact pensions will have on their future financial performance. In the United Kingdom, companies have been using additional ways to reduce the financial risks related to their pension plans, such as buy-ins and longevity swaps. Buy-ins are when the pension plan purchases an annuity contract as an investment but retains the ultimate obligation to pay benefits. Under IFRS, buy-ins are generally treated as investment decisions and not as settlements. While the treatment is less clear under U.S. GAAP, we have, in general, not seen buy-ins trigger settlement accounting under U.S. GAAP either. Longevity swaps are contracts between the pension plan and an insurance company under which the insurance company agrees to take on the risk related to retirees living longer than is currently expected. The 2011 revisions to IAS 19 are effective for Employers reporting financial results using IFRS should note that 2012 pension disclosures must be recast so that they reflect the changes to IAS 19. This is necessary for 2013 year-end and any interim reports prepared this year. In addition, these employers will need to consider certain implementation questions regarding the new standard and subsequent guidance issued: IAS 19R requires plan administration expenses that are investment-related to be recognized in Other Comprehensive Income rather than the income statement. Plan sponsors will need to identify which expenses properly fall into this category. IAS 19R requires that the entire change in the pension liability due to a plan change be recognized in expense in the period it occurs. (Prior to the revisions of IAS 19, only the vested portion was recognized immediately, with the nonvested portion being recognized over time.) Plan sponsors will need to determine which actuarial assumptions should be considered "significant" and, therefore, require sensitivity analysis as part of the IAS 19R disclosure requirements. For interim reporting, plan sponsors will need to determine if the accounting assumptions must be reset to determine the net pension asset/obligation to be reported on the interim balance sheet as well as to determine the interim charge to Other Comprehensive Income, or if the assumptions from the previous year-end may be retained. (Note that interim measurements, other than for significant one-time events, will not change the expense for the year as that is determined as of the beginning of the year.) Recent guidance about how to account for employee contributions to pension plans may change how these contributions are recognized in pension expense. The recent IASB Exposure Draft on amendments to IAS 19 suggests that only those contributions that are related solely to the employee's service rendered in the period may be recognized as a reduction to service cost; all other employee contributions are to be treated as negative benefit payments (as required under IAS 19R). If you would like an update on current economic indices, please contact your local Aon Hewitt consultant. Copyright 2013 Aon plc 2

3 Background Aon Hewitt conducted this survey of fiscal 2012 year-end accounting assumptions by gathering information from our consultants and clients. Note that the U.S. information is based on Aon Hewitt s annual survey of the S&P 500 companies. As in previous surveys, we have focused on four economic assumptions that companies select under ASC 715, FRS 17, IAS 19, and other accounting standards with similar requirements for assumption setting. The assumptions are: Discount rate; Expected long-term rate of return; Salary increase; and Pension increase assumptions (for certain countries only). The majority of the reported measurement dates are December 31, 2012, but we also have included measurement dates from the end of September, October, and November. The tables on the following pages show the average rate for each assumption as of the end of 2011 and Copyright 2013 Aon plc 3

4 Discount Rate at Year-End 2012 The following table shows the survey results for the discount rate assumption for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal year-ends. Year-End Year-End Year-End Year-End Country 2011 Average 2012 Average Country 2011 Average 2012 Average Australia 5.29% 4.31% India 8.84% 8.35% Brazil Indonesia Canada Japan Euro Zone Mexico Austria Norway Belgium Philippines Cyprus Poland Finland South Africa France South Korea Germany Sweden Greece Switzerland Ireland Taiwan Italy Thailand Netherlands Turkey Spain United Kingdom United States The values above represent an average discount rate for all post-employment plans (pension, retiree medical, and termination indemnities), as well as in-service benefits such as long-service leave or jubilee awards. A comparison of a company s discount rate to the rates shown above should take into consideration: 1) the maturity of the company s plan(s) may differ from the maturities of the plans included in this survey; and 2) some clients use yield curves which may support a higher discount rate while others may only refer to yields of indices. Copyright 2013 Aon plc 4

5 Long-Term Rate of Return for 2012 The following table shows the survey results for the average expected long-term rate of return on plan assets used to determine expense for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years. Country 2011 Average 2012 Average Country 2011 Average 2012 Average Australia 6.84% 6.58% India 8.45% 8.43% Brazil Japan Canada Mexico Euro Zone Norway Austria Philippines Belgium South Korea Cyprus Switzerland Finland Taiwan France United Kingdom 7.81/ /3.96 Germany United States Greece Ireland Netherlands Spain For the United Kingdom, our 2012 year-end survey results produced an average expected return by asset class 7.76% for equities and 3.96% for corporate bonds. In many countries, the expected return remained relatively unchanged or declined slightly from 2011 to We expect this pattern to continue for The expected rates of return shown above reflect the asset allocations of the plans included in this survey. A comparison of your company s expected rate of return to the rates shown above should take into consideration that the asset allocation for your company s plan(s) may differ from the asset allocations of the plans included in this survey. Copyright 2013 Aon plc 5

6 Salary Increase at Year-End 2012 The following table shows the survey results for the salary increase assumption for 2011 and 2012 fiscal year-ends. Year-End Year-End Year-End Year-End Country 2011 Average 2012 Average Country 2011 Average 2012 Average Australia 4.27% 4.00% India 7.96% 8.57% Brazil Indonesia Canada Japan Euro Zone Mexico Austria Norway Belgium Philippines Cyprus Poland Finland South Korea France Sweden Germany Switzerland Greece Taiwan Ireland Thailand Italy Turkey Netherlands United Kingdom Spain United States In virtually all countries, we saw a downward trend in salary increase assumptions, likely due to low inflationary expectations and lower expected salary increases as a result of slow economic growth. The salary increase assumptions shown above reflect the situation of each company included in this survey. Your company s situation may differ from that of the companies included in the survey; hence, a different salary increase assumption may be appropriate. Copyright 2013 Aon plc 6

7 Pension Increase for Year-End 2012 The following table shows the survey results for the pension increase assumption for 2011 and 2012 fiscal year-ends. Note that the results are shown for those plans where a portion of the benefits paid to pensioners is adjusted annually and is correlated with current inflationary expectations. Country Year-End 2011 Average Year-End 2012 Average Euro Zone 1.85% 1.81% Germany Ireland Netherlands Norway Sweden Switzerland United Kingdom The pension increase assumption remained relatively flat from 2011 to For Switzerland, a significant portion of the plans in our survey reported no assumption for pension increases. These plans were excluded from the averages shown above. If you would like further information on accounting assumptions for defined benefit plans, contact your local Aon Hewitt actuarial consultant, Chris Christiansen in Norwalk, Connecticut ( ), or Kirsten Miller in Glasgow, Scotland ( ). Copyright 2013 Aon plc 7

8 About Aon Hewitt Aon Hewitt is the global leader in human resource solutions. The company partners with organizations to solve their most complex benefits, talent, and related financial challenges, and improve business performance. Aon Hewitt designs, implements, communicates, and administers a wide range of human capital, retirement, investment management, health care, compensation, and talent management strategies. With more than 29,000 professionals in 90 countries, Aon Hewitt makes the world a better place to work for clients and their employees. For more information on Aon Hewitt, please visit Copyright 2013 Aon plc This document is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The comments in this summary are based upon Aon Hewitt's preliminary analysis of publicly available information. The content of this document is made available on an as is basis, without warranty of any kind. Aon Hewitt disclaims any legal liability to any person or organization for loss or damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content. Aon Hewitt reserves all rights to the content of this document. Copyright 2013 Aon plc 8

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