MPs call for incompetent trustees to be banned from using LDI.

“More still needs to be done to address significant weaknesses in the ability of defined benefit pension schemes to manage risk, MPs say today, in a report that warns that their investments must never again be allowed to jeopardise the stability of the UK economy as they did during the events of September last year.”

That’s the message of the the Work and Pensions Committee’s Report on DB pension schemes with liability driven investments (LDI)  The report outlines a ‘missed opportunity’ to improve resilience. After the Bank of England spotted the potential risks of LDI use in 2018, the Pensions Regulator conducted a survey but neglected to look at small pension funds, which were the cause of September’s instability because of the nature of their arrangements.

TPR encouraged LDI to be used by trustees “not up to the job”.

The report concluded that there was also no system put in place to collect data on how LDI was used. It was not known that leverage grew, giving rise to systemic risk.

The Committee concluded that the weaknesses meant that LDI funds lacked the resilience to cope with the sharp rises in gilt yields, initially triggered by the ‘mini-Budget’ last year, leading to the Bank of England being forced to intervene to protect financial stability.

Setting out some key areas of change for the Government and TPR, the Committee questions why TPR encouraged schemes to use complex financial products involving LDI and relied on trustees to act as the first line of defence, despite its long-standing concerns that some of them were not up to the job, and its awareness that it did not have sight of what individual schemes were doing.

Calls for LDI to be restricted till governance is sorted out

The Committee called  for more systemic collection of data and for regulators to work together to analyse it to spot emerging risks.

It called on DWP to consider whether the use of LDIs should be restricted while the process of improving standards of scheme governance takes place.

Timms speaks his mind

Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:

“The turbulence around last year’s ‘mini-Budget’ exposed a lax approach to regulation.

Despite the dangers of the use of LDI being identified five years ago, there was a lack of focus from TPR and inadequate data. The use of leverage by DB pension funds grew, giving rise to systemic risk in a way that was not visible to regulators until crisis hit in September last year.

“Although the speed and scale of the rise in gilt yields was unprecedented, the consequences for DB pension funds should have been foreseen and TPR should not have been blindsided.

Gaps in regulation and the system for managing systemic risks must now be addressed to ensure that DB pension scheme investments never again threaten the stability of the UK economy.”

Key recommendations:

TPR to specify minimum levels of resilience to LDI risks
• DWP and TPR should explain how they intend to deliver on the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee recommendations that TPR should specify the minimum levels of resilience for LDI arrangements in which pension schemes invest and work with other regulators, to ensure that LDI funds maintain the resilience that has been built up

TPR to get LDI updates from trustees
• TPR should consider requiring trustees to report regularly on their use of LDI and develop a strategy for engaging more closely with schemes based on the results

DWP to publish response to 2018 consolidation response
• DWP should publish its response to the consultation on DB consolidation by the end of
October and work with TPR to improve the regulation of trustees and standards of
governance. (the DWP has attempted to publish this response three times and  been prevented from doing so by another department).

L plates for trustees till they past LDI risks test.
• Given the time it will take to consult on, legislate for, and implement measures to improve governance, DWP should consider whether the use of LDI could be restricted, for example, based on a test related to a trustee board’s ability to understand and manage the risks involved

Investment consultants should be directly regulated by FCA
• The Government should bring forward plans for investment consultants to be brought within the FCA’s regulatory perimeter

DB funding code should be put on hold
• In light of the FPC’s recommendation for TPR to take account of financial stability, DWP and TPR should halt their existing plans for a new funding regime, at least until they have
produced a full impact assessment for the proposals, including the impact on financial
stability and on open DB schemes.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in pensions. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to MPs call for incompetent trustees to be banned from using LDI.

  1. Peter CB says:

    TPR encouraged LDI to be used by trustees “not up to the job”.

    In my experience the use of leveraged LDI was in smaller pension schemes was mainly in schemes with a sole or a dominant professional trustee. Within my own limited environment, I know of 5 schemes (all small to medium sized) who had extended deficit recovery plans (typically over 10 years often with asset backed guarantees) where the Companies had no real enthusiasm for buy-out but who had decided to trust their legacy pension scheme (in some cases closed more than 20 years ago) to a professional trustee. In all of these Schemes the Trustee used leveraged LDI without explaining fully the risks to the Company -often with the simple statement I am hedging the Scheme’s liabilities.
    Needless to say the FD’s of these companies are now furious but where do they turn to to improve the management of their pension scheme?

  2. Bob Compton says:

    The key recomendations are eminately sensible, particularly the last on stalling the DB funding code.

  3. Derek Benstead says:

    It seems to me that the role of LDI depends upon the time horizon of the pension scheme. If it is already decided to wind a scheme up within, say, 5 years, then if there is a deficit, LDI is useful to fully hedge the buy out liability and convert a deficit which would otherwise vary with bond market movements to a deficit which is fairly fixed in cash terms. It seems to me this is very sensible.

    But if the time horizon of the scheme is long, whether because the there are still some active members, or the scheme is closed but weakly funded and therefore buy out is a long time away, then in those circumstances I think LDI is not warranted. The task here is to have the money to pay the benefits in full as they fall due. Risking leveraged losses in LDI undermines that task. LDI adds a risk which need not be taken.

    Too often I think advisers assume what the objectives are (e.g. interest rate hedging) without exploring other objectives and prioritising which objectives are most important.

    Interest rate hedging is misnamed, what is being hedged is not an interest rate but an actuary’s discount rate. If the discount rate is the SFO discount rate, then a discount rate which the trustees and actuary chose themselves is something which need not be hedged. An SFO discount rate need not be based on gilt yields and LDI is not needed to hedge its effects.

    On the other hand, a buy out discount rate is the insurer’s discount rate, not the trustees’ discount rate. If buy out is imminent then hedging the effects of the insurer’s discount rate makes sense.

  4. Peter CB says:

    I have for some time suggested that all pension schemes but particularly smaller closed pension schemes should manage their scheme on the basis of cash flow forecasts.
    Barring excessive transfers out or lump sum payments – both of which reduce the Scheme’s future outgoings, the payments out of the Scheme are predictable and can be forecast with a minimal number of assumptions – mainly inflation. Interest from bond type investment can also be assumed with reasonable accuracy as it can for some other asset types e.g. property, infrastructure etc. Also dividends from distributing funds and directly held equities on suitably diversified bases can also be reasonably approximated.
    If you then insert agreed contributions and the redemption proceeds from fixed term investments you then get a clear picture of the amount that needs to be realised from the capital stock of investments to meet the schemes outgoings.
    The pressures that puts on the remaining assets is then the only thing that needs to assessed against market value assumptions – but not forgetting the compounding effect of dividends reinvested in accumulation units..
    If you work off the cash flow for say six or nine years (two or three valuations) you can then insert the discounted broad brush actuarial assumptions for the longer term future. In the meantime scheme experience will take over from the significance of some of the assumptions, such as mortality risk.
    But then I am an accountant speaking!

Leave a Reply