CFOs Have Bleak Picture of Canadian Pensions

May 2, 2006 ( - A survey from the Conference Board of Canada and Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that 61% of chief financial officers (CFOs) believe the Canadian pension crisis is widespread and likely to continue beyond a few years.

This is a significant increase from the 43% of respondents who said the same in 2005, the Conference Board noted in a press release.   Only 20% of respondents had such a bleak picture of Canadian pensions in 2004.

Meanwhile, 19% of respondents said the pension crisis is widespread but not likely to become permanent, compared with 23% in 2005, according to the release.   Only 15% of those surveyed believed the crisis is not widespread, but isolated to relatively few organizations, compared with 25% who believed the same in 2005.

In an attempt to address the crisis, 41% of respondents with defined benefit plans said they made a change in the last 24 months or plan to make changes in the next 12 months.   Those changes included reducing early retirement benefits (27%), reducing the normal retirement benefit accrual rate (26%), reducing other benefits (39%) or increasing required employee contributions (50%).

In addition, a concurrent survey of human resource executives found that 67% believed the crisis to be widespread and likely to continue beyond a few years.   However, while agreeing on the pension crisis situation, HR executives differed from the CFOs on the biggest challenge. CFOs believed the biggest challenge to be an aging workforce, while HR execs believed it is getting employees to pay attention to pension issues.

The survey included responses from 187 organizations.   Survey results will be published this summer.