U.K. Report Sees Trustee-Sponsor Communications Breakdown

April 23, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new U.K. survey of pension plan trustees found that eight in 10 say their defined benefit programs will still be around in 10 years despite predictions of plan freezes within the next decade by half of employers.

A news report on Online Recruitment’s Web site said that was a key result of Aon Consulting’s survey of 250 defined benefit plan trustees.   More than half (52%) of the trustees polled thought their plan would last longer than 20 years.

According to the news report, the trustee poll responses were in stark contrast with the expectations of employers, as measured by Aon’s most recent employer survey in 2007. That survey showed that 50% of employers expect their DB pension to be wound up within ten years.

The conflict “suggests a significant communication gap between trustee boards and sponsoring companies,” the news report said. “While it seems to be a priority for sponsors to minimize or remove the effect of pension schemes on their financial results, this is not acknowledged by trustees.” 

When asked to rank the importance of issues facing their pension plan, trustees ranked pension wind-up as the least important issue.

Commenting on the survey results, Paul McGlone, principal and senior actuary at Aon Consulting said in the news report: “It is worrying that there is such a large expectation gap between trustees and employers over the longevity of pension schemes. It is fundamental for trustees and sponsoring employees to have a shared view as it impacts on how all of the big issues affecting pension schemes are addressed. Without a commonly shared view, there is unlikely to be agreement over actions, and there is a danger that one party takes decisions that are a hindrance to the other.”