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Pensions and Savings Conference 2023

January 15, 2024

Watch our flagship event's highlight video, featuring leading experts discussing current topical issues across the pensions and investment landscape.
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Pensions and Savings Conference 2023

Perspectives and highlights taken from WTW’s Pensions and Savings Conference 2023

In November 2023, our annual Pensions and Savings Conference was held at the Kimpton Fitzroy London, attended by over 200 senior pensions professionals and trustees.

During the conference, we discussed some significant changes in the views of the Government, trustees, sponsors and the industry as a whole over the last year. We also predicted the future trends that these changes will bring and highlighted ongoing risks and opportunities that trustees and sponsors should be aware of. Additionally, we provided practical suggestions on how schemes can plan to achieve their goals for 2024.

We had a great line-up of speakers from LawDebenture, Aviva Workplace Savings/Living Pension Steering Group, and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who shared their valuable insights.

Video transcript

WTW Pensions and Savings Conference 2023


BINA MISTRY: Back in July this year, the chancellor gave his Mansion House speech which had an unprecedented amount of pension coverage within it, potentially with significant changes to the regime we're all familiar with. There were two key underlying themes. First, that better returns and member outcomes could be achieved with greater investment in productive finance. And secondly, that this would be better achieved through fewer but larger schemes. So effectively, a push for consolidation.

ADAM BOYES: So in defined benefit space, the government committed to reducing the rate of tax on refunds of surplus, consulting about how to make the sharing of surplus and the access to it more simple, and to change the tone of the funding regulations and the code of practice that's coming to be more compatible with the productive finance agenda.

FIONA FROBISHER: I think we all know that investments, pension investments, could work harder than they do, and so that's something that we're looking at. The benefits for members are much clearer on the DC side.

RASH BHABRA: We really do welcome what's come out in the autumn statement and the direction of travel over the last few months.

MICHAEL CHATTERTON: I certainly agree that reduced risk aversion has been a theme both in the autumn statement and in the Mansion House speech in the summer.

MATT HOWSHAM: I think what we're seeing is the government's growth agenda is looking to encourage investors to invest in assets that drive growth. But in actual fact, the pensions industry on a whole is going in the opposite direction right now.

HELEN GILCHRIST: At WTW, we are passionate about helping employers, trustees, and individuals deal with this potential prospect of inadequate outcomes at retirement.

DALE CRITCHLEY: Really important to raise the standards for those lower and middle earners to get employers and employees paying a minimum 12%, which will generate that little bit more than the state pension to make a real difference to people's lives in retirement.

DEAN CHAPMAN: Now cyber is pervasive. I would argue that its tentacles reach far and wide. And actually when we consider the dependence of, again, our ability to operate freely within that cyberspace, again, I would argue that cyber is most certainly up there as one of the most significant risks moving-- well-- through 2023, of course, and most certainly into 2024.

FRAZER MORGAN: What we saw last year is not the only way an LDI crisis can happen, and the foundations of that crisis still exist. So if you haven't thought about how your scheme is invested or how your scheme is governed in that context, I would urge you to reconsider.

JAMES MOULAND: I'm actually quite excited about artificial intelligence, but consumer duty is all about avoiding foreseeable harm. With AI used inappropriately and used wrongly, there is foreseeable consumer harm, and that's what we need to avoid.

MONIQUE MATHYS-GRAAFF: But I'm here to speak to you about climate. We are beyond a crisis, and so that means we need to address climate risk today. Otherwise, indeed, we'll be hitting some targets but missing the point.

JENNY GIBBONS: Diversity matters. It matters across all walks of life, and it matters in pensions, and specifically, it matters in our trustee boards. Diversity is intrinsically and causally linked to board effectiveness, and therefore, it's linked to outcomes for members.

IAN ALEY: The recent proposals around changes to the pension industry from a pension de-risking perspective offer a number of opportunities. Firstly, for a number of schemes, thinking about what their long-term target is and whether that might change given the flexibilities that are potentially going to be introduced. And secondly, rather than necessarily target, a bulk annuity or run on the opportunity to use a super fund transfer as we saw the first case complete recently.

BINA MISTRY: So I think it's really important for sponsors and trustees to collaborate together to find their optimum solution because there's so much change on the horizon. It is a really exciting time for pensions.

ADAM BOYES: It's great to see DB funding in such better shape across the industry generally, and trustees not sleepwalking into the wrong solutions but actually thinking strategically and thinking what can we do best for our members.

RASH BHABRA: We're in a wonderful situation at the moment where the there's an alignment between the government's economic objectives and its view that pension schemes present an opportunity to help the government's growth objectives.

Some fantastic debates on pension policy and how pension policy might evolve to improve member outcomes, which is something which we at WTW are absolutely passionate about. So we've had a fantastic debate, lots of really great views, and looking forward to what the next six months, 12 months brings for our industry.


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