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No ‘knee-jerk’ movement in pension funds – MH&C survey

14 May 2020 / Regulation Print

No ‘knee-jerk’ movement in pension funds – MH&C

A full 71% of pensions trustees say they have not adjusted their investment strategy as a result of the coronavirus crisis, according to a Mason Hayes & Curran survey.

MH&C pensions partner Stephen Gillick said in a webinar this morning that this situation contrasts sharply with the 2008 financial crash, when there were ‘knee-jerk’ investment reactions, which resulted in many schemes losing value at the time.


Gillick said he had seen well-thought-out reaction to the crisis in terms of pensions, and a less chaotic movement than in 2008.

The Pensions Authority has also flagged the need to avoid knee-jerk reactions, he said.

Gillick said he was pleasantly surprised that there hadn’t been a swift shift to blue-chip stocks, and that ethical funds were still popular.

He predicted further mergers in the pensions market, following the Aon and Willis Towers Watson deal in March.

KBC Bank has also signalled that it is entering the market to offer a standalone pensions service.

And 86% of those pensions’ experts surveyed believe that pension auto-enrolment will now be either mothballed or delayed for several years.

Potential delays

But scheme members should be warned about potential delays in fund switches, which may take longer than agreed service levels, because of the current period of market volatility.

Pension trustees should also identify potential conflicts of interests during the virus crisis, if they are also making business decisions because of their role in a company.

Scanned versions of letters of wishes are very important, and should be retained for seven years after death. 

Data protection issues

They also should be wary of using external email sources such as Gmail, when sharing pension documents, because of data protections issues.

Updating letters of wishes online may not be permitted by scheme rules.

Claims and other matters may be executed electronically, but deeds of amendment or deeds of substitution will require a physical signature, the webinar heard.

Pension trustee meetings have largely taken place on schedule during the virus crisis, thanks to technology, the survey found. 

But pensions trustees should be communicating with their service providers in terms of ensuring business continuity, he warned.

Real test

The virus crisis has been a real test of business continuity plans for pension schemes and providers, he said, but many organisations were already on a crisis footing in anticipation of Brexit timelines.

Much of the groundwork was already done, in terms of governance and risk management, Gillick said. 

GDPR preparations also meant that matters have proceeded more smoothly than might have been the case some years ago. 

The virus has shown certain strengths in the system, but there are probably some weaknesses that will come through as well, the webinar heard.


Gillick also flagged some confusion around whether employers are permitted to take pension contributions from COVID-19 wage-subsidy scheme payments.

The corresponding British legislation, in contrast, did provide more detail for pensions and an ongoing 3% contribution.

Gazette Desk
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