David surveys the scene in the aftermath of the Budget. David is editor of Pensions Insight and Engaged Investor
History is littered with tales of unintended consequences. And when some future academic is penning the history of pensions policy in the 21st century, the ramifications of George Osborne’s audacious Budget-day move to free up retirement savings will loom particularly large.
In this particular instance the lack of prior consultation means that there was no chance to assess the consequences, intended or otherwise.
The ramifications go far beyond the world of pensions, profound though these are. As economist John Kay points out in his interview, the shift from annuities will depress demand for gilts, one outcome the Treasury probably didn’t plan. And Osborne has deprived the UK’s life companies of a massive chunk of probably their most reliable source of business.
Meanwhile, US asset managers, like BlackRock, have already spied the opportunities for rich pickings in a reformed retirement savings environment – the impact of 19 March’s announcement will alter the balance of power within the City of London.
And while the focus of those who dreamed up the policy (see Total Liabilities) was undoubtedly on defined contribution savers, more of those unintended consequences can be spied in the defined benefit universe.
DB schemes have yet to see an upsurge in applications since Budget day
A straw poll of delegates at PI’s Trustee Chair Summit, which took place a couple of days before this issue went to press, indicated that DB schemes have yet to see an upsurge in applications since Budget day. Other research suggests that DB savers tend to be a more prudent bunch than the industry sometimes give them credit for.
The industry has until 11 June to give its views on whether DB scheme members should be prohibited from shifting their assets into DC plans to take advantage of the new flexibilities – it would run against the spirit of the Budget if Osborne’s own government closed down the option. And it seems pension professionals largely agree that it would be a bad idea.
All of these issues and many more will be under the microscope at Workplace Pensions Live, our major annual conference, which is just a fortnight away. For full details log on to the Pensions Insight website.
I look forward to seeing you in Birmingham on 14 May.