Interviewing for a corporate pension trust role I was asked for my thoughts and concerns over the medium term – I found myself using an expression often used during relationship break downs – its not us, its them.
Most UK corporate defined benefit pension schemes are now closed to new members and the trustee role is one of supporting a defined membership. At present most schemes have the willing support of their employer – often because the company’s senior management team have a vested interest in seeing the scheme continue.
My concern is (hopefully) a few years out. By this time the company management team have no personal links with the scheme and the majority of employee members are retired. If longevity is under-estimated and the scheme needs additional funds from the employer there is a real risk that the management team, particularly if they are under pressure, may favour investing in the current business and existing staff over paying yet more money to a group of former employees who are all retired and have already had a good deal.
While this may not happen to the respected institution I was meeting my concern is that when it happens somewhere, there will be mounting pressure on all businesses from investors and other stake holders to do the same.