ACTUARIAL POST FOR THE MODERN ACTUARY APRIL 2021
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Use your multi-disciplinary experience, strong analytical skills, commercial outlook and understanding of corporate finance within this superb role offering a number of challenging and strategic duties.
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EDITOR’S NOTE Having just passed the one year anniversary of the first lockdown we partially leave the third one behind and look forward to more restrictions being lifted over the coming months and eventually, we fervently hope so at least, to a return to a more normal way of life. Staying with the theme Mohammed Khan and Luke Kendall from PwC look at the impact of Covid-19 on the Insurance Industry, so far. Two of our regular authors turn their attention to the Gender pensions Gap with Fiona Tait and Dale Critchley giving their own unique insight on the topic. Other subjects touched on are as diverse as Bitcoin’s and the environment through to confronting home insurance fraud through claims data. As usual we trust you will enjoy this months Spring edition of the magazine and we look forward to welcoming you back next month.
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Movers & Shakers
Covid’s Impact on Insurance
DB Tansfer Values
Tait’s Modern Pensions
NEWS APRIL Ignoring climate change risks savers retirements A new climate change strategy published by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) calls on scheme trustees to act now to protect savers from climate risk. The new strategy comes ahead of proposed regulations which will require trustees of larger schemes to maintain oversight of, and make
mandatory disclosures in relation to, climate risks. Beyond these proposed requirements, the strategy outlines TPR’s expectations that all scheme trustees will comply with existing requirements to publish their statement of investment principles (SIP) - including their policies on stewardship and financially
New tax year heralds raft of changes for peoples finances Kate Smith, Head of Pensions at Aegon explains each of the changes below: Freezing of the pension lifetime allowance at £1,073,100 “Announced at the recent Budget, this change is significant and will affect more people than you might think. A million pounds sounds like a huge sum but the reality is that for someone aged 65, it will buy an income of around £26,100 a year increasing in line with inflation* before tax. After basic rate tax, this equates to a monthly income of £1,950**. READ MORE
material environmental considerations - and implementation statement. The regulator says these disclosures represent compliance with the basics on climate change. Where schemes do not comply, and it is appropriate to do so, TPR will take enforcement action. READ MORE
FCAs final guidance on DB transfers Commenting on FCA’s finalised guidance on what information and support trustees and employers can provide to members without potentially falling into regulated advice, Ryan Markham, Partner and Head of Member Options, Hymans Robertson, says: “We are pleased to see that the FCA has listened to the industry and softened its stance on what would be viewed as ‘advice’. This is a big relief given the wording in the consultation was detrimental to member education and informed decision making. While the consultation published previously by the FCA looked generally helpful in its aim to help
drive up advice standards across the board, it contained highly contentious wording which was of concern to trustees and sponsors of DB schemes. In particular it suggested that trustees providing personalised illustrations showing conversion of DB pension through a READ MORE
NEWS A thousand pension dippers a day falling into MPAA tax trap More than 1,000 pension savers every working day became subject to the strict Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA) last year by taking their first taxable pension payment from a defined contribution fund, analysis of HMRC figures by retirement specialist Just Group reveals. The 260,000 pension savers who took a taxable pension payment in 2020 brings to 1.6 million the number subject to these stringent tax rules in the five years since they were introduced. Most people taking a taxable flexible payment from their pension do not use the free, impartial and independent Pension Wise guidance service created to help inform them of their options READ MORE
A year on from first UK lockdown One year on since the first UK lockdown, Phoenix Group unveils the extent and nature of vulnerability among its customers during the pandemic, and outlines some of the measures the long term savings and retirement specialist has been taking to support those facing challenges. Phoenix wanted to understand the challenges its customers may be facing and undertook research among Phoenix Life and Standard Life Assurance customers to find out more in August 2020. This showed that almost two-thirds (63%) of its customers across the group were displaying one or more characteristics that could signal potential vulnerability. This is
considerably higher than the FCA figure of 46% recorded in February 2020 (reported by FCA this year). Riffat Tufail,Vulnerability Lead at Phoenix Group, said: “It’s been a year like no other and it’s no surprise that more people are showing signs of vulnerability as a result. The need for support has vastly increased and become much more obvious. It’s brought home the fact that we all have the potential to be vulnerable at one or more points in our lives and vulnerability can impact almost all areas of a customer’s life, each effect reinforcing the other. For some, this may have been the first serious experience they have had of facing READ MORE
CMI notes over 50 thousand excess deaths in second wave During the coronavirus pandemic, the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) is publishing frequent UK mortality analysis through its mortality monitor. The latest update covers week 8 of 2021 (20 February to 26 February) based on provisional England & Wales deaths data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 9 March 2021. The key points of this update are: The number of deaths registered in England & Wales in week 8 of 2021 was 949 higher than if mortality rates had been the same as in week 8 of 2019; equivalent to 8% more deaths than expected. The corresponding figures for recent weeks were 47% more deaths than expected in week 5, 27% READ MORE
MOVERS & SHAKERS The latest moves and appointments from the actuarial marketplace Hymans Robertson promotes new Head of DC Provider Relations
Mazars appoints actuary James Isherwood as Partner
Hymans Robertson has promoted Shabna Islam to lead its master trust research and manage the firm’s relationships with DC product providers. With almost 15 years’ experience in the pensions industry, Shabna joined Hymans Robertson in 2006 and is a qualified actuary. Shabna has an in-depth understanding of both the DC and DB markets, specialising in provider selection exercises, implementing new pension arrangements, pension scheme design and member communications. Commenting on her new appointment, Shabna said: “We’ve seen the rapid rise in prominence of master trust pension schemes in the last few years, and its stepped up a gear even more in the last 12 months. I’m thrilled to be leading our specialist team in this rapidly growing area and look forward to working with, and advising, our clients about . READ MORE
LCP announces 15 new partner promotions
Mazars, the international tax, audit and advisory firm, has appointed James Isherwood as Partner in the insurance actuarial team, based in London. James has joined the team from Boston Consulting Group and will focus on further growing Mazars’ presence in the insurance sector, while expanding the team to provide holistic consulting and audit solutions to insurance companies. In addition to providing expertise in the life insurance sector, he will provide detailed knowledge and expertise on IFRS 17 implementation, Solvency II, technological change and actuarial READ MORE
Commenting, Stephen Davies, Managing Partner at LCP, said: “All our new partners have demonstrated exceptional levels of service across a wide range of service areas, helping navigate clients through particularly tough times. We
Hymans Robertson name Head of Non Traditional Risk Transfer Hymans Robertson, the leading pensions and financial services consultancy, has promoted Kieran Mistry to Head of Non-Traditional Risk Transfer. In this new role Kieran will lead the firm’s advisory service supporting DB pension scheme trustees and sponsors considering new and emerging risk transfer options, including superfunds, capital backed solutions and alternative insurance products. Since joining Hymans in 2014, Kieran has advised many pension funds ranging in size from under £10m to over £5bn on their risk transfer and endgame strategies. In recent years, Kieran has increasingly focused on supporting schemes considering READ MORE
are delighted to welcome them to the partnership and look forward to what their passion and dynamism can bring to the firm as we continue to grow and develop.” Two of our partners promoted are in LCP’s
Covenant team, which has grown in size and stature as a result of the impact of Covid-19 struck and the changes coming in the Pension Schemes Act 2021 and the funding code. They are: READ MORE
CITY DEALINGS Keeping up to date on acquisitions, mergers and the dealings of companies in the city
Willis Towers Watson in AXA Pension longevity swap Willis Towers Watson has announced that it was the sole adviser to the AXA UK Group Pension Scheme on its £3 billion longevity swap with Hannover Re to manage longevity risk in the Scheme. The longevity swap is a market first, with over 95% of the 16,000 members covered being non-pensioners. READ MORE
UTMOST GROUP TO ACQUIRE QUILTER INTERNATIONAL READ MORE
Shelly Beard, Senior Director for Transactions at Willis Towers Watson and lead adviser, said:
“It’s always a pleasure to work with a client that embraces innovation in the way AXA and the Trustees do. This is the third longevity swap we have partnered with the Scheme on over the last 6 years.
Aviva announces 53m bulk annuity deal with General Motors
Aon appointed by London Borough of Southwark Pension Fund
Aviva have announced it has completed a £53 million bulk purchase annuity transaction with the General Motors (VACPF)* Pension Fund. The sponsoring employer, General Motors Company, is a global vehicle manufacturer.
Aon has announced that it has been appointed by the London Borough of Southwark Pension Fund to provide investment advice.
Aviva will insure the defined benefit pension liabilities of 1,392 members, removing the investment and longevity risk of these members from the Fund. The members will see no change in the amount of benefits which they are paid as a result of the transaction. READ MORE
The £1.9 billion London Borough of Southwark Pension Fund is part of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) and has over 25,000 members. Aon already provides both actuarial and governance advice to the fund. Duncan Whitfield, London Borough of Southwark’s Strategic Director of Finance and Governance, said: “We have worked with Aon for some READ MORE
SOLVENCY II & BEYOND
IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY The pandemic has had an undeniable effect on individuals, businesses, society and the wider economic environment. In this article, Mohammad Khan, Leader of General Insurance for PwC UK and Luke Kendall explore the extent to which the insurance industry has been impacted by COVID-19 and consider what the future may hold. YE20 Performance
favourable impacts observed across the different insurance sectors. Whilst general insurers have suffered significant losses across property and commercial lines - including significantly more business interruption losses that went to court - there has been a partial offset from motor and home insurance policies, with reduction in claim frequency due to lockdown regularly cited.
In the life insurance sector, the direct impact of such a sharp rise in mortality is partially offset by Whilst commentators have examined the impact a favourable effect on annuity business and any of the pandemic on the insurance industry during associated mortality reserve releases. However, the pandemic, the year-end reporting cycle the extent of any favourable impact is highly provides us with a good opportunity to take dependent on the underlying business mix of the stock and examine the varied impacts across the insurer. market. How did the insurance industry weather Unlike other industries, where financial the storm? performance has been significantly adversely affected, an observer of the recent public In our view, 2020 showed the insurance industry announcements by insurance companies might what the “art of the possible” was. have been surprised to note that, despite such an unprecedented year, the financial performance of Like many businesses, most of the insurance some companies has remained robust. What lies industry sent their staff home to work in March behind the numbers? What does the future hold? 2020. For many insurers this was a significant Why have some insurers been more impacted operational change. Initially insurers had to focus on providing laptops and on how to use than others? potentially limited bandwidth and online systems. The year-end reporting cycle has brought to light not only the adverse impacts on insurance Insurers (rightly) focussed on ensuring customers companies, but also some of the offsetting could call to make a claim, their claims could be processed and renewals could be placed to
provide continuity of cover. We would observe, given the scale of change, insurers did a great job. There was very little customer detriment during 2020 across the general, health and life insurance sectors, which is remarkable given the transition required in the three weeks following the work from home edict issued by the Government and testament to the huge effort undertaken by the industry.
Many insurers have accelerated their transformation programs - both to improve the digital customer experience and also to automate and take cost out of their businesses. This was highlighted in the recent PwC Global CEO survey which showed that CEOs wanted to increase investment in digital transformation, but were also planning operational efficiencies in response to uncertain economic growth.
The industry quickly adapted, and during 2020, many insurers made significant improvements and accelerated changes to their online platforms. Indeed, Lloyd’s of London was able to launch their online underwriting platform - much more rapidly than potentially it would have occurred without the pandemic. This acceleration of change was similar to many other industries significantly accelerating their technology and digital customer experience.
The needs of customers (and their behaviours leading to claims) have changed. There will no doubt be a surge in driving when lockdown finishes; UK holiday bookings will significantly increase in late-2021 if Government restrictions lift; working from home part of the week will likely become more normal for jobs where this is possible; and customers will continue using technology more for everyday activities.
The pandemic has also shone a light on the ability for a minority of policies to have an immediate and significant impact both operationally and on profitability. For example, the FCA test case ruling on Business Interruption claims resulted in a receipt of huge volumes of claims overnight, whilst others found themselves on the hook for claims relating to specific sectors as a result of over concentration or loose policy wording. As a result, many insurers have sought to tighten existing policy wording and have taken steps to improve their claims handling systems.
How will this impact insurers? Those that do not continue to transform themselves may find themselves left behind, with a reduced customer base open to nimble competitors and potentially new entrants, who are lower cost and focussed on a better customer experience. Increased potential fraud (which always increases in a recession); cyber risks (with more people working from home); and operational risks will also be an ongoing challenge.
As it so often does in times of uncertainty, the insurance industry has remained robust. It has continued to meet the needs of policyholders and Notwithstanding the challenges, many insurers return a dividend for investors.The pandemic has have seen their customer and employee also accelerated much needed change in some engagement scores improve in the last year, as areas and brought flexible working to sectors of insurers have gone the extra mile to pay claims the industry where it was never thought possible. despite the existence of exclusions and have fully Whilst there will continue to be significant embraced flexible working. challenges ahead, it is clear that the insurance Outlook for 2021 and beyond sector is in a good place, but must use this as a The post COVID world will be very interesting. platform to further evolve and remain relevant in a changing and increasingly digitised world. 1. https://www.pwc.co.uk/ceo-survey.html
by Mohammed Khan, General Insurance Leader, & Luke Kendall, Snr Manager PwC UK
MEMBER REQUESTED DEFINED BENEFIT TRANSFER VALUES
by Hélène Galy Director of the Willis Research Network Background and numbers Every member in a private sector defined benefit scheme has the right to request a transfer value at least once a year. This is essentially a calculation of the cash value of the promised retirement income from the scheme. Interest in transfers from defined benefit schemes has greatly increased since the Pension Freedoms were introduced. The proceeds can now be taken however the member chooses with complete flexibility, making them more popular. Figures from the FCA show that around 90,000 clients received transfer value advice between October 2018 and March 2020. It is likely that at least as many requested quotes but did not go on to take advice. Many of these quotations would be for members aged 55 and above, looking at their retirement options. Transfer values have been growing due to falling interest rates and consultant Lane, Clark and
Peacock (LCP) recently showed that average transfer values have now broken the £500,000 barrier, They also estimated that around 21% of those that requested a quotation actually went on to transfer funds. Advice Specialist independent financial advice is compulsory for all transfers of over £30,000. Members simply cannot transfer without documentation that shows this advice has been provided. However, with increasing perceived risk and rapidly rising insurance costs, 46% of these specialist advisers have withdrawn from the market in the last year alone as recently evidenced in this article from International Adviser. This leaves a reduced pool of specialists able to provide the compulsory advice needed. Costs Given the increased costs to advisers and the reduction in supply, members have seen the costs for this advice increase.
With the ban on contingent charging last year, where members were only charged if the advice was to transfer, members now, quite rightly, pay the full cost of advice regardless of whether this is to transfer or remain in the scheme. Advice to remain in the scheme is very valuable in its own right, but many members will not view it as such. Although many advisers will put in place a triage process and abridged advice to determine if full advice is suitable, members ultimately have the risk of paying large sums in advice fees, without having any idea whether they are likely to fall within a category where the FCA is clear that a transfer is highly unlikely to be in their best interests. Process A minority of schemes may appoint a selected adviser, or panel of advisers, to directly help members with this process. They may also secure discounted advice rates in doing so. This clearly provides the best outcome for the member if they are lucky enough to be in a scheme that follows this route. However, for the vast majority of members considering a transfer value, the process is very different. It essentially involves being handed a piece of paper, presenting them with the transfer value, which may look potentially life-changing at first sight and the scheme benefits. They are then instructed that advice is compulsory and are given direction to sites where they may be able to find an adviser or further guidance if needed. This presents many scheme member with a series of issues which they may have little understanding, or idea on, such as: ● The differences between the scheme’s guaranteed benefits and the transfer value ● How a transfer value is not just a potentially large sum of money, but needs to be used to provide, or support, a retirement income alongside everything they have ● How to find the specialist advice needed from the sites directed to
● What the advice process actually entails ● The likely costs of advice and the need to pay it regardless of the outcome ● The FCA’s viewpoint on who a transfer value is highly unlikely to be suitable for ● Any independent assurance on the quality of the adviser chosen This is a potentially difficult position for the member. They are left susceptible to poor or unsuitable advice, high costs, or in the very worst of outcomes, falling victim to a scam Issues for other parties involved Alongside the risks for members, the trustees bear growing risks in following this process. It is becoming more apparent that members may reach an unsatisfactory outcome given the lack of support provided, especially if unsuitable or overpriced advice is found. In addition, all experienced specialist defined benefit advisers desire members seeking transfer advice to have some genuine form of pre-education and understanding of the process. Ideally, members will also have some degree of self-awareness of their retirement position and the potential suitability of a transfer for them before seeking advice. Without this, it leads to added risk for advisers in not being able to provide suitable, high-quality advice. Summary In summary, there are many risks and issues in the current default process for the majority of schemes when dealing with member requested transfer values. These risks are apparent for all parties concerned. Given the popularity of the pension freedoms, the increasing size of the transfers themselves and the ever decreasing numbers of specialist advisers, these flaws are likely to increase further. To address this, a safe harbour process, containing free pre-education, member self awareness and suitably experienced adviser direction, before the abridged advice stage is even undertaken, should be adopted by schemes.
The Gender Pensions Gap Fiona Tait, Technical Director, Intelligent Pensions In the wake of International Women’s Day, I came across the OECD’s recent report ‘Towards Improved Retirement Savings For Women’. This is the latest report to consider the perennial problem of the gender pensions gap, with particular focus on the part played by retirement savings arrangements (pensions to you and me). The difference between the mean retirement income of men and women aged 65 and over currently stands at an average of 26% across OECD countries, however in the United Kingdom it is even higher than that at somewhere between 34% and 43%. There are many reasons for this gap, both economic and societal, and the report gamely provides an analysis of them all. Ultimately however, the greatest impact is down to the differences in work patterns between male and female employees. Women in the OECD have on average a career which is a third shorter than that of men and are much more likely to be working part time. On top of this they are paid less for the work they do, with the gender pay gap standing at 13%, a difference that, unsurprisingly, starts to appear between the ages of 24 and 35 when women are most likely to take a career break in order to raise a family. Third tier pension contributions are strongly correlated with earnings and so women tend to save lower amounts and for less time. The evidence also shows that when they do save, they tend towards more conservative investment choices and are less likely to enjoy strong investment returns. Pension scheme design cannot completely overcome this labour divide, but the report encourages policymakers and providers to look at the measures which could be taken to ensure it is structured to at least take into account the particular difficulties it creates. Possible solutions The authors of the report suggest 7 key considerations for pension policy and scheme design which would help to boost women’s retirement savings, most of which could be applicable in the UK: 1. Promote access to pension schemes In the UK, 23% of employed women do not meet the qualifying criteria for automatic enrolment, compared to only 12% of male workers. Abolishing the £10,000 earnings threshold would therefore allow significantly more female workers to start saving for their own retirement. 2. Encourage women’s participation In all 14 countries surveyed by the OECD, women scored less well in financial literacy tests and this lack of knowledge may be the reason why many do not engage with retirement planning. Targeted educational programmes can help women to appreciate the importance of regular saving and become able to recognise the level of contributions required to fund a comfortable retirement. 3. Improve the level and frequency of contributions Automatic enrolment has increased the numbers of people saving in the UK but it is generally accepted that they are not
saving enough. Creating more flexibility to allow additional contributions from employers and spouses would help to plug the gaps created by career breaks. While spouses can contribute to their partner’s pension in the UK, the tax relief is limited and some countries offer a more comprehensive sharing of pensions during the accumulation phase. 4. Adapt scheme design to match female career patterns Women who stop contributing during an early career break lose out on the investments which would benefit most from compound returns and leaves them vulnerable to the impact of ongoing charges. Offering low-cost and totally portable pensions, such as mastertrusts, is a positive step. 5. Improve investment returns Whether because of preference or lack of confidence, studies show that women tend to choose lower risk investments than men. This could be addressed by financial education and also by providing access to more adventurous default investment choices. 6. Increase women’s own benefit entitlement Pensions are often considered to be joint assets during a marriage, but not so often when it comes to an end. While most OECD countries allow the sharing of pensions in the event of divorce, the proportion of couples taking advantage of this remains low. In 2011-2012, a sample-based study indicated that only 14% of cases resulted in a split of pension assets in some manner. Making sharing the default option would increase the number of women leaving a marriage with a pension in their own right. 7. Increase levels of income in retirement Another default could be put in place when benefits are taken. The majority of annuities are purchased by men on a single life basis, most likely as this results in a higher initial income stream. In Canada and the Unites States however, married couples may only override the default joint annuity if both partners agree. Indexation options are also likely to benefit women with comparatively longer life expectancies. Many of these ideas are not new. The Pensions Policy Institute (PPI) raised the issue of automatic enrolment eligibility in 2019, and further pointed out that removing the Lower Earning Limit on minimum contributions would be of particular benefit to lower-paid women. The PPI also raised the issue of a carers’ top-up policy while the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) has previously called for more financial education and default options on both divorce and annuity purchase. Certainly there is no simple answer, and the impact of family life is always going to be present, if not necessarily always to the detriment of the female partner. The UK has come along way with automatic enrolment, but further changes are needed to ensure both men and women have a more equal opportunity to secure their own future.
by Fiona Tait Technical Director Intelligent Pensions
INNER WORKINGS TECHNOLOGY IS NOT THE PROBLEM, IT’S THE SOLUTION
by Tom Murray Head of Product Strategy LifePlus Solution, Majesco There has been a lot in the news recently about the difficulties involved in prosecuting pension scammers operating on the Internet. A large number of people have fallen victim to these scammers who advertise tempting offers on digital platforms, and the government seems powerless to stop it. Estimates put the amount of loss as high as £10 billion since 2015. Even the governor of the Bank of England has joined the chorus, stating that more people are at risk from financial fraud online than through the more regulated off-line media such as newspapers and television. It has led to calls to increase the level of regulation on tech platforms, making them responsible for the scammers advertisements that they host. Tech platforms are everyone’s bête noire at the moment. It is hard to defend them when, as the House of Commons Work & Pensions Committee was quick to point out, they are earning money from hosting scam advertisements and then making even more from publishing government warnings against them. This anti-tech approach is very dangerous. Taking the easy way out by finding a bogeyman to blame is not really looking at the problem correctly. The government has stated that technology platforms
have been failing pension savers. However, whether platforms have a duty towards pension savers in particular is a debatable point. They certainly don’t have as much responsibility as the government do, given its push to increase pension saving throughout the UK. Over recent years, it has been the government that has constantly trumpeted their view that individuals are best to decide for themselves what to do with their lifetime pension savings and therefore championed the pension freedoms approach. They washed their hands of telling people what to do with their savings but failed to really think through the dangers involved. Now that the level of pension scams has increased significantly, the government seems to want to blame the tech industry. A better approach would be to understand the problem at a more fundamental level and enlist technology firms to help solve it. In the first place, we have to recognise that the level of financial education is low across much of the population. Given the highly successful approach to increasing the number of pension savers through the auto-enrolment scheme, this means we now have a much larger pool of people with savings, making
an attractive target for scammers. Raising the interest of people in knowing more about financial services is a challenge, as they don’t need to make decisions about their pensions very often. Yet if the government stand back, then who is to take on the role? Independent financial advisers are available and have a much better ability to spot and warn against scams than technology firms. However, for a lot of people, the advent of the RDR and its fee-based approach made it difficult to justify employing an IFA, as the cost would use up a significant portion of their savings. The government seem to want to make tech platforms the policeman for financial fraudsters. This might work for outright theft but not for the more subtle scams. A more effective approach would be to work with technology firms to deal with the twin problems of poor financial knowledge among the population and inability to access / afford financial advice. Consumer portals that can guide consumers through their choices and help them to understand
complex financial products and risks can be a huge help for those who want to make their own decisions and tech platforms are well placed to deliver this education digitally. But a big part of keeping people safe will always be to encourage people to go to financial advisers when they wish to make key decisions about their money. Technology needs to be harnessed to enable financial advisers to reach more people and to be in a position to charge less per consultation. This is the only way that we can get to a point where the consumer is protected by people who truly understand the business. It is the government that needs to get the message out that people need to be wary of too-goodto-be-true investment offers on social media and to get people to seek advice from regulated providers. Blaming big-tech is easy, but when the government’s mantra is that people know best what to do with their own money is proven wrong, then the government needs to be a part of the solution and not just find others to blame. That’s why its policy should be less about blaming the technology companies and more focused on partnering with them to protect its citizens.
RETIREMENT PUZZLE BITCOIN AND THE ENVIROMENT For context,VISA uses about 200GWh each year, so around 0.25% as much as Bitcoin. As a different way of contextualizing Bitcoin’s use, it’s about ¼ as much as the entire UK.
Bitcoin’s recent extraordinary rally has brought it to the attention of investors. Simultaneously, the drive for sustainable investing and environmentally friendly (or at least neutral) investment continues to grow. Are they compatible? So what do the numbers say? It’s difficult to contextualise, so we show the figures for VISA, an alternative but more traditional form of digital currency, alongside it. How much Bitcoin is traded varies wildly (both trade amounts and price), so the numbers are quite unstable, but it’s now jumped to around $60bn per day , or around $22tn annually.VISA processes a much more stable amount, around $8-9 trillion USD per year, and Mastercard covers about $6tn. So more is now traded on Bitcoin than on VISA and Mastercard combined.
• The most efficient programs run at 19 gigahashes/joule • That would suggest at least c70TwH per year are used by Bitcoin • As corroboration, more sophisticated estimates put it at c80TWh
• That’s on a volume basis. On a transaction basis,VISA implements 65,000 transactions per second , whereas Bitcoin implements around 400,000 per day • On this basis,VISA is roughly 50,000 times more efficient than Bitcoin, which is not suited to small trades.
However, it takes a lot to power Bitcoin. For Bitcoin, we have to make a lot more estimates, but we can probably get the right order of magnitude if we assume most of the energy is used mining bitcoins (trying different random options to see if, when hashed (coded in a complicated way that means very similar inputs give very different outputs), the result passes some easily tested criteria (eg starting with ten zeros) • Currently, bitcoin mining software completes around 150 terahashes per second
• On a volume-adjusted basis, even with the price so high, that’s still around 200 times more energy per $ traded than VISA
Unfortunately that’s not all of it. Bitcoin miners tend to position themselves where energy is cheapest. That tends to mean China. Unfortunately, China also uses a lot of coal, and Bitcoin miners seem to use a disproportionate amount of coal. And the future is probably worse, for two reasons: • The price has jumped recently, meaning the pull of supply-demand probably hasn’t kicked in fully yet. We might expect more miners and higher electricity use • By design, each block takes more and more work- so each bitcoin is harder to mine than the last. We should expect the energy usage to continue to rise dramatically. There are mitigants. Bitcoin further incentivises cheap electricity, and could lead to more efficient computing or self-sustaining facilities. Right now though, there are some serious environmental concerns. If sustainability is a priority, Bitcoin may be one investment to avoid.
1. https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/bitcoin/historical-data/ 2. https://www.blockchain.com/charts/hash-rate 3. https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/charts/efficiency-of-bitcoin-mining-hardware 4. https://digiconomist.net/bitcoin-energy-consumption 5. https://usa.visa.com/dam/VCOM/download/corporate-responsibility/visa-2019-corporate-responsibility-report.pdf 6. https://usa.visa.com/dam/VCOM/download/corporate/media/visanet-technology/aboutvisafactsheet.pdf 7. https://www.statista.com/statistics/730806/daily-number-of-bitcoin-transactions/
by Alex White Head of ALM Research Redington
PENSION PILLAR THE GENDER PENSION GAP IS EVERYONE’S PROBLEM TO SOLVE by Dale Critchley Policy Manager Aviva International Women’s Day was used as a real positive opportunity to highlight some of the pressing financial issues associated with gender. Within the world of pensions, we have our own issue, the gender pension gap. A gap between the pension entitlement of men and women which exceeds the gender pay gap by some margin. To understand the gender pension gap, we have to start with the gender pay gap - the difference between the average earnings of men and women. The good news from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is that the gender pay gap is reducing. The gap between men and women working full-time is down to around 1% for people aged under 40. The bad news is that the propensity for women to work part-time and in roles that tend to offer a lower-than-average rate of pay means that the overall pay gap still stands at 15.5%. The full-time gender pay gap for over 40s - perhaps fuelled by the cohort of women returning to full-time work when children are older - stands at over 11%. Once we understand that the gender pay gap is the difference in hourly rates of pay, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the pensions gap is bigger. The UK’s private pension system is greatly aligned to paid work. Women are more likely to work fewer paid - and therefore pensionable - hours than men, due to part-time hours and career breaks, often to assume the lead share of caring responsibilities. Pension entitlement is hit with a double whammy. In defined benefit pensions lower hourly pay is multiplied by reduced years of service. In defined contribution schemes lower pay per hour, multiplied by a lower number of hours means the difference in pensionable pay can far exceed the gender pay gap. So, what’s the answer? It’s been suggested that women could choose to work longer or pay more into their pension to make up for contribution gaps created through caring. These are solutions, but ones which are far from ideal given they seek to address the symptoms rather than challenging the current system and root causes. People of all genders need to retain the choice to take time off work to prioritise caring responsibilities over income today or pension in later life. What schemes can do is ensure that people
have the information they need to make informed decisions about the effect those decisions might have on their pension, not just their take home pay. An employee who switches to 3 days a week for 6 years can see their DC pension reduce by 10%. A career break can mean a bigger hit to pension entitlement - and entitlement to state pension can also be hit if child benefit isn’t claimed. Employers can help with scheme design. ONS statistics on employer pension contributions show that overall, women who are members of pension schemes benefit from higher employer percentage pension contributions than men; a product of a greater number of women working in the public sector. But in the private sector, the proportion of employers paying least - less than 4% of earnings - is higher for women (54%) than men (49%). Calculating contributions based on basic pay would boost the contributions for women working part-time, as they currently see the greatest proportion of their pay disregarded in the calculation of qualifying earnings. Another change an employer can implement is the adoption of salary sacrifice for pension contributions. This results in pension contributions being maintained at pre-maternity levels throughout paid maternity leave. It would replace the current situation in which employee contributions fall to £1.56 per week in an automatic enrolment minimum scheme. However, the most effective way to close the gender pension gap sits outside of the pension scheme. Changes to the structure of parental leave benefits and more affordable childcare sit within the gift of both employers and government. This could help balance caring for children and a rewarding career by enabling caring responsibility to be shared. Once back to work, a family-friendly culture is essential to avoid carers being held back. The rise of remote working in a post pandemic world is surely an opportunity to help encourage a more flexible work-life balance for all parents. These solutions are far from exhaustive and it’s clear they don’t lie in the hands of individuals, schemes, employers, or government alone - they sit with everyone. And if we’re to make significant progress each needs to play their part.
CONFRONTING HOME INSURANCE FRAUD THROUGH CLAIMS DATA
The temptation and opportunity for consumers to commit application and claims fraud in the residential property insurance market continues to be front of mind for insurance providers. The COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in significant reductions in some forms of crime, including burglary – in fact, ABI data suggests home insurance claims for theft fell 44% in 2020 compared to 2019, and the value of burglary claims reduced by 30%.
what exactly the claim was for, the circumstances that gave rise to that claim and how it was settled. While insurance providers will hold this level of data for their own customers, when it comes to new risks, they are missing information, which creates gaps in their understanding of the market’s claims experience with that individual. Fundamentally, they have no way of putting a new claim in context with what may have happened in the past.
However, during periods of economic hardship individuals under financial stress may be tempted to exploit opportunities to commit fraud – whether that’s not declaring a past claim in order to secure a cheaper quote or exaggerating an accidental damage or weather-related claim. With claims losses related to climate change a key concern for the market, it is vital insurance providers know as far as possible, the risks they are taking on.
Access to claims data at a highly granular level from across the market could give them this context – showing a new claim as a ‘one-off’ or the latest in a series, as well as providing valuable insight for pricing.
To better understand fraud risk, at quote and claim, home insurance providers need to understand more about prior claims made by the individual before incepting a policy or paying out a claim. They need to understand when a past claim or claims occurred,
The threat this current lack of full market coverage claims insight poses is evident in our consumer research . We found that home insurance providers have a good record of retaining customers who have previously filed claims, with about seven out of ten choosing to renew with their provider following a claim. This is despite the fact that a majority of customers see their premiums increase after a claim based on our study .
However, the temptation to manipulate information at quote and claim is strong for a significant proportion of those surveyed: • Two in three consumers think it is acceptable to manipulate the information they provide when using price-comparison websites in order to get a lower quote for home insurance. • About half of consumers who have recently filed a claim are more likely to consider adjusting or exaggerating a future claim in order to get a larger pay out. • Nearly 9 in 10 consumers who had filed claims recently thought home insurance providers seek to avoid paying out on claims at least some of the time. • Consumers who have recently filed claims then seen the premiums increased are more likely to say it is acceptable to manipulate information Our research certainly suggests that more consumers are tempted to commit home insurance fraud than those who would not. This may stem from a commonly held but mistaken belief that insurance providers actively try to avoid paying out claims at least some of the time. The fact that consumers who have filed a claim recently are more likely to consider exaggerating a future claim suggests they may have been dissatisfied with the settlement they received and/or disappointed with a subsequent increase in their premium. Clearly the claims experience plays a major role in whether a customer decides to stay or go at renewal. Most consumers who file claims decide to stay with their current insurance providers. However, a poor claims experience was the reason
for switching for more than half of recent claimfilers and those who see their premiums increase are almost twice as likely to switch as those whose premiums do not rise . The market-wide use of a contributory database for home insurance claims could help insurance providers improve pricing, underwriting and claims processing, as well as reduce fraud risks. Transparency with customers over the use of past claims data to help price and manage claims, along with increased awareness of the consequences of fraud, could reduce the temptation to be less honest with the truth. It may also help reduce the dependence on customer supplied declarations. Ultimately, with more information at their fingertips, insurance providers will have an opportunity to provide cover more tailored to the risk. Bringing past claims data into the claims management process could drive how a new claim is handled. Insurance providers can quickly identify potential flags for fraud and claims not declared at quote that may warrant further investigation. Also armed with this knowledge, there is an opportunity to deliver a more tailored claims service to genuine customers based on their past experiences - the trauma of being burgled three times in the past five years or a kitchen ruined through an escape of water claim for example. A market-wide contributory claims database for the home insurance market could clearly play a very useful role in helping the market face the threats of fraud with new vigour while supporting a more empathetic claims service that could reap rewards in customer retention rates.
by Neil Slane, Snr Vertical Market Manager, Claims Insurance, at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, UK & Ireland
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LIFE REINSURANCE SPECIALIST Market Leader
LIFE SOUTH COAST / HOME
Global Reinsurance Business
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Use your excellent modelling skills to provide cutting-edge investment solutions across life and non-life insurance clients, developing propositions and ensuring effective delivery, within a market-leading team.
A fantastic opportunity for a reporting actuary to manage a small team, with oversight responsibility for business planning, reserving and reporting, Solvency II and other technical actuarial work, including ad hoc investigations.
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SENIOR LONGEVITY CONSULTANT
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Major Retirement Group
In this diverse role, you will support clients in understanding, quantifying and managing longevity risk with involvement in a wide range of projects such as Investment Strategy and ALM and Reinsurance & Risk Transfer.
Perform the modelling required to assess potential transactions to improve our client’s capital position, exploring how these transactions can be structured to provide additional benefits.
Create and maintain a plan of oversight activity for valuation periods, support the production of the Solvency II and IFRS valuation bases for base and required stresses, and assist in the annual demographic assumption investigations.
PROTECTION PRICING - FTC
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LIFE PENSIONS SOUTH EAST / AGILE
An 8-month, fixed-term contract, requiring substantial experience in protection pricing, working on product changes, analysing experience results and calculating the impact of assumption changes.
Lead the development and maintenance of actuarial systems, models and tools, improve traditional, platform-based models, and deliver systems change for projects, whilst managing dependencies with the wider IT processes.
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LONGEVITY RISK ACTUARY
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Use your experience across pricing, reporting and capital to take responsibility for the analysis and modelling of longevity risk, ensuring that appropriate controls and processes are in place.
In this key role, you will develop, market and transact innovative and client-led, risktransfer-based solutions. You will also manage and provide oversight for the pricing and governance process of live transactions.
An exciting opportunity for a Scheme Actuary, with client-facing experience, to be responsible for a portfolio of schemes, preparing and presenting advice to clients, and supporting new business opportunities.
ACTUARIAL INVESTMENT CONSULTANT
PENSIONS FLEXIBLE / HOME
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Leverage your PFaroe experience to develop and maintain funding and investment analytics and review the results underlying advice on asset allocation.
Join offices across the UK, taking ownership of actuarial work for nominated Trustee and Corporate clients in your assigned portfolio, and developing strong relationships with both internal and external stakeholders.
Qualified / Part-Qualified
INVESTMENT SOUTH WEST / FLEXIBLE
Seeking an investment actuary with defined benefit knowledge, and excellent communication and interpersonal skills, to be responsible for leading technical investment analysis and asset transitions.
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search & selection Global Head Pricing Performance & Analytics
Senior Actuary – Advisory Lead
General Insurance £Top End Package London
General Insurance Circa £300,000 + Benefits London
**Exclusive Opportunity** - Our Client seeks a Senior Pricing Actuary who has the capability to build out a pricing performance and analytics platform, across the business units. You will have excellent pricing skills, but more importantly the vision and innovation to harness emerging techniques and platforms, to create a best-in-class approach to pricing and monitoring.
**Exclusive** Reinsurance broking firm seeks a senior qualified actuary to join the team, focusing on developing an advisory arm to the business.You will have significant market experience, be well versed in all areas of actuarial – pricing, capital and reserving, and possess the commercial acumen to deploy these skills, in varying scenarios across the market. This is an exciting opportunity which requires further discussion.
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General Insurance Circa £85,000 Per Annum London
General Insurance £90,000 + Benefits London
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Lead Capital Actuary
General Insurance Circa £100,000 Per Annum London
General Insurance Circa £60,000 + Benefits London
A unique and reputable London reinsurer is seeking an experienced Capital Actuary. Deputy to the Head of Capital, you will be responsible for enhancing the capital modelling and management capabilities. Creative and influential role by being pivotal point of contact for stakeholders and providing business recommendations. Candidate will be nearly/newly qualified and must have Remetrica experience.
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