We live in strange times. Some trustees will need to consider whether now is the time to act.
For some schemes, the stars may align to mean that a full buy-out becomes more affordable, for example because movements in credit spreads help pricing. Low interest rates could help some employers take the opportunity to borrow or issue debt to "solve" their pension problem. We have seem projects stall but a good number are continuing.
For those cases where unfortunately sponsor insolvency occurs, unless funding is below PPF levels buy out will most likely be the solution required, with less than full benefits likely to be secured.
We have previously written about the use of regulated apportionment agreements in the growing economic crisis, but there are other situations where trustees ought to be considering whether now is the time to act.
Taken together, the possible pricing opportunities and the chance of weakening employer covenant and cash in particular may mean that there is a window of opportunity for some schemes such that now might prove to be the time when the highest percentage of liabilities can be secured. Examples of schemes in this situation could include those with no real covenant, or those where there is a high prospect of insolvency. In extreme cases, there might even be a duty to act and terms of any previous agreements with sponsors and third parties should be checked.
Such decisions will not be taken lightly, and schemes will usually need to be well advanced in buy-out preparations in order to take advantage of potentially short term pricing movements.
Even if this is not the case, schemes where trustees hold strong contribution or winding-up powers may well need to consider whether the time is right to exercise them (and if not, why not, as well as in what circumstances they might do so). This is an area where legal advice may assist.
Market volatility making bulk annuities more affordable