Government announces DC pensions investment drive for business growth

By Jerome Smail

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Oct 31, 2018
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Autumn Budget 2018: The government will support defined contribution (DC) pension funds to invest in growing UK organisations and start-ups through the British Business Bank, according to the Autumn Budget 2018 statement.

The British Business Bank is the government’s UK-wide economic development bank aimed at making finance markets work more effectively for smaller employers. According to the latest Budget document, several of the largest DC pension providers in the UK have committed to work with the bank to explore options for pooled investment in patient, or long-term, capital.

The providers include Aviva, HSBC, Legal and General, Nest, The People’s Pension and Tesco Pension Fund.

Defined contribution pension schemes have a vital role to play in long-term financing for UK growth and innovation,” said the Budget document.

However, Kay Ingram, director of public policy at financial adviser LEBC, warned that this type of investment was unlikely to offer a suitable level of risk for the average pension saver.

She said: “While encouraging start-up capital investment is a worthy aim of the government, it is unlikely to be a suitable investment risk, except for the wealthiest savers. The higher returns possible from this type of investment come with higher risk of losses and are usually only considered suitable for those with surplus assets and capacity to wait for the investment to deliver, without needing access to their funds.”

Ingram added: “A more suitable proposal would be to offer these higher-risk investment opportunities to wealthier savers, who have funds in excess of the lifetime allowance for pension savings, [which is] £1,055,000 from next April.

“They are more likely to have the capacity to bear the risk of loss. If they were offered forgiveness of the 55% tax charge on funds in excess of the lifetime allowance in return for investing in patient capital, we believe many of them would take this up.”

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is due to publish a discussion paper by the end of 2018 that will explore how effectively the UK’s existing fund regime enables investment in patient capital. This will accompany ongoing work by the treasury in exploring the feasibility of a new long-term asset fund.

The FCA will also consult at the end of 2018 on updating the permitted links framework to allow unit-linked pension funds to invest in “an appropriate range” of patient capital assets.

Lorna Blyth, head of investment solutions at Royal London, said: “Pensions investments are long term-savings but pension savers currently can’t access longer-term investments such as patient capital.

“Any further help to allow pension savers to access patient capital and further diversify their pensions investments must be explored in the interests of maximising risk-adjusted returns for consumers. We welcome moves to consider the ability to hold these assets within a unit-linked pension fund.”

The Budget also announced that the Department for Work and Pensions will consult in 2019 on the function of the pensions charge cap to ensure that it does not “unduly restrict” the use of performance fees within default pension schemes while maintaining member protections.

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