Bulk annuity transactions - insurer financial strength and beyond

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1 Bulk annuity transactions - insurer financial strength and beyond More and more defined benefit pension schemes are securing liabilities through a buy-in or buy-out contract in order to manage their costs and risks. As part of any transaction, the trustees and sponsoring employer will want to carry out due diligence on the chosen insurer. continue

2 Introduction A buy-out or buy-in reduces or removes certain risks from a pension fund, but it introduces new risks associated with the reliance placed on the insurer s ongoing financial strength and working practices. A key responsibility for pension scheme trustees during a buy-out or buyin is to ensure that the transaction is in the best interest of members and does not expose them to any undue risks. The relative financial strength of insurers may also influence the choice of provider, particularly where other significant factors, such as pricing, do not materially differ. Trustees can take some comfort from the protections in place for bulk annuity transactions. However, these protections do not cover the full amount of benefits and if the selected insurer became insolvent then, in the case of a buy-out, members would receive lower benefits and, in the case of a buy-in, the liability to meet the balance of the cost would fall back on the scheme and ultimately to the sponsoring employer. Trustees should be able to clearly demonstrate that they have considered the security and stability of the insurer, as well as their investment strategy, structure and risk controls, before entering into a deal. Whilst insurers are subject to strict regulatory controls and the chance of default is generally considered to be very low there have been cases where bulk annuity insurers have ceased their operations. In such cases to date policyholders have not lost money but the potential for disruption and loss does exist if an insurer ceases to carry on business. CLICK to find out more ABOUT US

3 Introduction A buy-out or buy-in reduces or removes certain risks from a pension fund, but it introduces new risks associated with the reliance placed on the insurer s ongoing financial strength and working practices. A key responsibility for pension scheme trustees during a buy-out or buyin is to ensure that the transaction is in the best interest of members and does not expose them to any undue risks. The relative financial strength of insurers may also influence the choice of provider, particularly where other significant factors, such as pricing, do not materially differ. Trustees can take some comfort from the protections in place for bulk annuity transactions. However, these protections do not cover the full amount of benefits and if the selected insurer became insolvent then, in the case of a buy-out, members would receive lower benefits and, in the case of a buy-in, the liability to meet the balance of the cost would fall back on the scheme and ultimately to the sponsoring employer. Trustees should be able to clearly demonstrate that they have considered the security and stability of the insurer, as well as their investment strategy, structure and risk controls, before entering into a deal. Whilst insurers are subject to strict regulatory controls and the chance of default is generally considered to be very low there have been cases where bulk annuity insurers have ceased their operations. In such cases to date policyholders have not lost money but the potential for disruption and loss does exist if an insurer ceases to carry on business. Trustees and sponsoring employers want to protect against the risks faced by bulk annuity insurers. An independent review is the best way to understand the financial strength of the insurers in the bulk annuity market. Our specialist insurance expertise, coupled with our pensions experience, makes us ideally placed to provide practical advice tailored to the specific situation and needs of each scheme. CLICK to find out more ABOUT US

4 How we can work with your Pension Advisors Insurers operate in a complex and changing regulatory environment. We can help trustees better understand this and interpret the complex financials. Our specialist skills and expertise make us uniquely placed to perform a thorough analysis of insurance companies capital structures, financial strength and risk management strategies. We can work with your advisory team to enhance your understanding and target your particular concerns and objectives. This ensures you receive joined-up advice on all the practical implications of the contract. Our jargon-free advice strikes the right balance between providing information overload and overly simplified results. Our Experience We have already carried out a large number of reviews of all the key insurers in the bulk annuity market, and have considerable experience advising trustees of pension schemes at every stage of the buyout process. Types of financial reviews

5 Types of financial reviews we offer We offer four levels of analysis targeting the specific needs of clients in different situations. These range from an informed summary designed to interpret publicly available information about the insurer to fully bespoke, in-depth reports focusing on specific issues and any particular concerns raised by the trustees. Each level builds on the analysis of the previous level to further develop your understanding. We can also get involved very early on in the process to explain the regulatory environment that insurers operate in. The appropriate level of review will depend on the specific circumstances of the deal, including factors such as the size and nature of the transaction, strength of the sponsoring employer covenant and the profile of the insurer. More detailed reviews may be appropriate where, for example, the deal involves an overseas insurer operating under a different regulatory regime. All levels of report explore the insurer s corporate structure, solvency position and the key risks it faces. We provide an understanding of the regulatory environment and explain the complex workings of insurance companies to allow trustees to question their approach, style and working practices. The four levels of analysis

6 The four levels of analysis We get involved very early on in the process to explain the regulatory environment that insurers operate in. We can provide an educational presentation to trustees who are going through a buyout which explains the regulatory environment which insurers operate in and highlights what trustees should be thinking about as part of the process An informed summary of publicly available information... An explanation of information from the insurer s report and accounts and regulatory returns. This allows any areas of concern about the insurer to be identified and whether a more extensive review is required.

7 The four levels of analysis We get involved very early on in the process to explain the regulatory environment that insurers operate in. We can provide an educational presentation to trustees who are going through a buyout which explains the regulatory environment which insurers operate in and highlights what trustees should be thinking about as part of the process An analysis of the publicly available information... An opinion on the insurer s financial soundness based on publicly available information. We meet with each insurer once a year and following significant events to discuss any areas that warrant further investigation based on publicly available information. Benchmarking of key assumptions against competitors. Analysis of risks insurer is exposed to.

8 The four levels of analysis We get involved very early on in the process to explain the regulatory environment that insurers operate in. We can provide an educational presentation to trustees who are going through a buyout which explains the regulatory environment which insurers operate in and highlights what trustees should be thinking about as part of the process Going beyond what is publicly available... A review of the insurer s investment strategy, sources of capital and Solvency II preparations. An investigation into the key risks and risk-management measures. A meeting with the insurer specifically to discuss the transaction in question.

9 The four levels of analysis We get involved very early on in the process to explain the regulatory environment that insurers operate in. We can provide an educational presentation to trustees who are going through a buyout which explains the regulatory environment which insurers operate in and highlights what trustees should be thinking about as part of the process A fully bespoke report... All elements of a level 3 report, with further research into areas of interest to the trustees or sponsor. For example, clients often request information about the insurer s administration arrangements and risk management processes.

10 Barnett Waddingham LLP is a body corporate with members to whom we refer as partners. A list of members can be inspected at the registered office. Barnett Waddingham LLP (OC307678), BW SIPP LLP (OC322417) and Barnett Waddingham Actuaries and Consultants Limited ( ) are registered in England and Wales with their registered office at Cheapside House, 138 Cheapside, London EC2V 6BW. Barnett Waddingham LLP is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is licensed by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries for a range of investment business activities. Barnett Waddingham Investments LLP and BW SIPP LLP are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Barnett Waddingham Actuaries and Consultants Limited is licensed by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in respect of a range of investment business activities.

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