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Executive summary

In this year’s statistics release we've provided a textual description of the collection methods for the data contained in the Microsoft Excel (XLSX) files at the end of the page, together with information on what is covered by each of the different files.

  • Files 1, 2, and 3 are based on schemes with 12 or more members (with the exception of table 1 in file 1, which is based on all schemes with two or more members).
  • File 4 is based on all schemes with two or more members
  • File 5 is based on schemes with 2 to 11 members.
  • File 6 shows relevant effective date information.

You can view and download the files in data tables.

Key findings

  • The total number of DC schemes has reduced by 40% since we took ownership of the pensions register.
  • The total number of DC schemes with 12 or more members has also reduced by 40%.
  • However, the number of schemes with 5,000 or more members has increased by 50%.
  • For the first time since the statistics have been produced the majority of DC schemes with 12 or more members are not open to new members.
  • The number of members has again increased significantly, with 2.3 million new members. Of the 6.9 million DC members of occupational schemes around 70% (4.7 million) have joined since automatic enrolment began.
  • DC schemes with 12 or more members account for 8% of the total universe of DC trust schemes, but more than 98% of the memberships.
  • The vast majority of members (circa 95%) are in schemes being used for automatic enrolment.
  • Of those members in schemes being used for automatic enrolment 80% are in master trusts.
  • The value of assets has increased more this year than in previous years. The total value of reported assets is now £33.5 billion.
  • Total contributions are higher this year than they have been previously, at £3.6 billion, an increase of 32% since last year.
  • In addition to these contributions a further £860 million has been transferred in from another pension scheme.
  • Over £1.4 billion has left schemes, more than two thirds of which has been transferred to another pension scheme.

The landscape

The table below represents the private pension landscape in the UK, showing at a high level the different forms of employer-sponsored provision available within the private sector, and giving an overview of the size of each type of provision[1].

This statistics release focuses on the areas marked as DC (trust) and DC memberships of hybrid dual-section schemes. We do not include data on assets held in DC sections of hybrid schemes as we do not collect this information.

There are many varieties of hybrid schemes, but they can broadly be classed as either mixed benefit or dual-section.

  • A mixed benefit scheme is one offering one set of benefits which has elements of both defined benefit (DB) and DC schemes, such as a DC scheme with an underpin on a DB basis.
  • A dual-section scheme has two sections, one offering DC benefits and the other offering DB benefits.
DB Hybrid: mixed benefit[2] Hybrid: dual-section DC (trust) DC (workplace contract)
Schemes 5,240 240 980 34,730 2,500
Open schemes 800 30 470 27,000 2,270
Total memberships 7,492,000 83,000 5,455,000 5,695,000 N/A
Total active members 1,255,000 30,000 1,151,000 3,883,000 4,174,000

(Sources: The Pensions Regulator's data based on scheme returns, 1 January 2016, ASHE[3] 2014 (published February 2015). Please note: the annual survey of hours and earnings reports 3.6 million active members of DC trust-based schemes and 190,000 active members in schemes where the type was unknown.)

DC work-based personal pension schemes, also known as contract-based schemes, are excluded from this release. These types of schemes consist of:

  • group personal pensions (GPPs)
  • group self-invested personal pensions (GSIPPs)
  • group stakeholder pensions (GSHPs)

DC contract-based schemes are subject to a different regulatory framework from DC trust-based occupational schemes. We work jointly with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the regulation of contract-based schemes. Whilst contract-based schemes are obliged to register with us, they provide significantly less information than trust-based schemes. As a result, the above table is able to provide a figure for the total number of contract-based schemes. Furthermore, in order to provide landscape context a figure is sourced from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the total number of active contract-based members. Beyond that, all types of DC contract-based provision, both group and individual, are outside of the scope of this statistics release.

Pensioner members are not included in this data release. This is because our figures for pensioner members do not necessarily represent the number of members who have retired but remained in the scheme. Therefore, we cannot be confident that the number of pensioner members represents the total number of retirees from that scheme, including those who transferred out.

The first three files of this statistics release, file 1: schemes, file 2: memberships, and file 3: finances, refer to occupational DC trust-based schemes with 12 or more memberships (with the exception of table 1 in file 1). These schemes account for 8% of the total universe of DC trust schemes[4], but more than 98% of the memberships.

File 4: automatic enrolment schemes refers to all schemes with 2 or more DC members.

File 5: micro schemes is concerned with schemes of 2 to 11 memberships. File 6: effective date information includes information on the effective dates[5] for data submitted on memberships, contributions and assets.

For the most recent year (January 2016), 98% of schemes have an effective date for their membership data after 1 January 2013 and this represents 99.9% of members.

For contribution data, 91% of 12-plus member DC schemes (those which have 12 or more members and are not hybrid) have provided information whose effective date is 1 January 2013 or later, and this covers 99.9% of reported contributions.

For asset data, 89% of relevant schemes (those which have 12 or more members and are not hybrid) have provided information whose effective date is 1 January 2013 or later, and this covers 99.4% of reported assets.

For micro schemes:

  • 91% have an effective date for their membership information of 1 January 2011 or later, and this covers 92% of memberships.
  • 79% of schemes have provided contribution information, and 99% of these provided information with an effective date of 1 January 2011 or later.

Data collection

Pension schemes in the UK with two or more memberships are required to register with us. At the point of registration, an occupational scheme provides us with the following information:

  • their scheme name and contact details
  • their scheme status
  • membership information
  • details about the relevant employer(s), trustees and service providers

In addition to registration, we also operate a scheme return process.

The scheme return is how we collect information about occupational pension schemes. We are required to collect scheme return information from each scheme no more than once a year and no less than once every three years. The current practice is for DC schemes with 12 or more members to complete a scheme return annually and schemes with 2 to 11 members to complete once every three years.

Scheme returns are submitted using our online service, Exchange. This offers several advantages, one of which is that schemes can log in to alter their details at any time using the scheme maintenance process. We have a legal obligation to send scheme return notices to schemes annually or triennially as a reminder to update their details.

We ask for more information for occupational DC trust-based schemes with 12 or more memberships in the scheme return than for smaller schemes, such as scheme leavers amounts, default strategy and decumulation options.

For more information about the scheme return see below:

Footnotes for this section

  • [1] Our remit extends to all private sector pensions where an employer facilitates contribution payments, and therefore our figures exclude personal pensions where an individual has purchased a product directly from a provider and there is no direct payment arrangement.
  • [2] Also known as 'true hybrid'.
  • [3] Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, Office for National Statistics (Revised version released 26 February 2015): rounded estimate of number of jobs where employee has taken up a workplace group personal or group stakeholder pension. This excludes individual personal pensions.
  • [4] Where the universe refers to all occupational DC or hybrid schemes with two or more DC memberships.
  • [5] The term effective date in this context (and in file 6 generally) refers to the date supplied with the information by respondents. For instance, if a scheme counts its members on 1 April 2014, and then reports this figure to us on 1 May 2014, the effective date will be 1 April 2014.

Calculations

In most cases the data we show here is a direct summary of the data we hold. However, in some cases we've performed some simple calculations to provide more useful information. In such cases we've also included the direct data from which we made the calculations, in a separate tab in the file labelled 'calculations'.

Total schemes year on year

In order to create the time series of total schemes year on year we start with the total number of relevant schemes on the register as at 31 December 2015. We then use a table showing the total number of registrations each year, and the total number of schemes winding up each year. By removing the schemes established during 2015, and adding the schemes which wound up in that year, we create an estimate for the number of schemes as at 31 December 2014.

We continue this process back to 1997, the year when the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (OPRA), our predecessor, took responsibility for maintaining the pension schemes register. In the calculations tab the number of wind ups and registrations per year is shown dating back to 1988, as there is a significant peak in registrations in that year.

Market value of scheme assets

While the significant majority of relevant schemes have provided us with their market value of scheme assets, it's not completed by every scheme. Within the data files we've shown data for the amount of assets which have been reported to us, as well as the amount of memberships in schemes which have reported an asset figure.

In order to estimate the total amount of assets within these schemes we've calculated average assets per member for each scheme size and status banding (where size is based on the number of members) for those schemes who have supplied the information. We then apply the average to the total number of members in each segment, to extrapolate an estimate for the total amount of assets in DC trust schemes with 12 or more members.

Annual contributions (by employer and employee)

The issue for market value of scheme assets is also present for annual contributions. Within the files we've shown data for reported contributions and active members in schemes which have reported contributions.

We've used the same method to extrapolate an estimate for the total amount of contributions to trust-based DC schemes as for our estimate of assets in such schemes. The difference with respect to contributions is that we calculated the average, and the extrapolated estimate, using active members, rather than all members, as only active members are contributing.

The active membership figure could include members who were only active for part of the year.

Governance structure

The governance structure theme is designed to show both the number of master trusts, schemes with non-associated employers, a growth area following automatic enrolment, and also to separate out those schemes which have been created by employers (unbundled) from those which have been purchased from a pension provider (bundled), and have a single company providing all services.

The scheme return doesn't have a question which provides this split so we therefore made an estimate by analysing data provided on insurer / administrator. Where the same company is listed as both administrator and insurer we classed this as a bundled scheme, where the companies are different we classed them as unbundled, and if one or other data item is not present we labeled them 'unknown'.

This year we have started incorporating email addresses into this assessment, so if a scheme provides an individual’s name as their administrator, we then check the email address for that individual and if relevant we then assign that scheme to the appropriate company. This has resulted in identifying more bundled schemes and fewer unknown schemes.

In addition there has also been a change to the assumption made. Previously where a scheme did not provide an insurer name they were classed as 'unknown'. For the purpose of these statistics it is assumed that all bundled schemes will have an insurer, so where a scheme does not provide an insurer name it is classed as 'unbundled'.

Amounts leaving schemes

As with assets and contributions, the amounts leaving schemes has not been supplied by all schemes. In the data files we show information for the reported amounts leaving schemes, and the number of members in schemes which have reported their leaver amounts.

We extrapolated the amount of money leaving schemes for each reason using the same method as the extrapolation of market value of scheme assets.

It should be noted that where members or amounts are flagged as being transferred this means they have been moved to another workplace pension scheme.

Transfers into schemes

As with assets, contributions and leaver amounts, not all schemes have supplied relevant transfers in data. In the data files we show information for the amounts reported to be transferred in to schemes, and the number of active members in schemes which have reported transfers in.

We extrapolated the amount of money transferred into schemes using the same method as for assets, contributions and leaving amounts.

It should be noted that where members or amounts are flagged as being transferred this means they have been moved from another workplace pension scheme.

Relevant small schemes

We request information from schemes which we use to assess whether these schemes are relevant small schemes, which are subject to fewer regulatory requirements than other DC schemes. Schemes which were previously known as small self-administered schemes, or SSAS, will commonly be relevant small schemes. We ask schemes to confirm the following:

  • This scheme has no more than 11 members (YES / NO).
  • All members are appointed as trustees to the scheme or All members are directors of the company which is the sole trustee of the scheme (YES / NO).
  • The schemes provisions provide that any decisions to be made by the trustee(s) are made by unanimous agreement of the trustees who are members of the scheme / directors of the corporate trustee who are members of the scheme (as applicable) or the scheme has a trustee / corporate trustee has a director (As applicable) who is independent in relation to the scheme for the purposes of section 23 of the Pensions Act 95 and is registered on our trustee register (YES / NO).

Definitions

Governance structures

Master trust

A master trust is an occupational trust-based pension scheme established by declaration of trust, which is or has been promoted to provide benefits to employers which are not connected, and where each employer group is not included in a separate section with its own trustees. For this purpose, employers are connected if they are part of the same group of companies (including partially owned subsidiaries and joint ventures).

Industry-wide master trust

An industry-wide master trust is a master trust scheme which is only offered to employers within a specific industry.

Bundled / unbundled scheme

A bundled scheme is one where the majority of services are provided by a single company, and an unbundled scheme is one where services are provided by different companies.

Small relevant schemes (SRS)

A relevant small scheme is one or all of the following may apply:

  • All the members are trustees of the scheme and either the provisions of the scheme provide that any decision made by the trustees is made by the unanimous agreement of the trustees who are members of the scheme.
  • The scheme has a trustee who is independent in relation to the scheme for the purposes of section 23 of the 1995 Act (12) (power to appoint independent trustees), and is registered in the register maintained by the Authority (as defined in that Act (13)) in accordance with regulations made under subsection (4) of that section.
  • All the members are directors of a company which is the sole trustee of the scheme and either the provisions of the scheme provide that any decision made by the company in its capacity as a trustee is made by the unanimous agreement of the directors who are members of the scheme.
  • One of the directors of the company is independent in relation to the scheme for the purposes of section 23 of the 1995 Act and is registered in the register maintained by the Authority (as defined in that Act) in accordance with regulations made under subsection (4) of that section.

Decumulation options

A scheme offering a lifetime annuity is one where at the point of retirement the scheme purchases an annuity in the name of the trustees, and then facilitates payment of that annuity to the member. A scheme offering self-annuitisation will calculate an annuity payment for the member and make the payment to the member directly from scheme funds. Should the member use the fund they have built up to purchase an annuity in their own name then they cease to be a member of the scheme.

You can find the results of these two questions in file 1: schemes and file 2: memberships.

Scheme status

Open to new joiners and future service Closed to new joiners, open to future service Closed to new joiners and future service Winding up
New memberships are allowed to join the scheme. New memberships are not allowed to join the scheme. New memberships are not allowed to join the scheme. New memberships are not allowed to join the scheme.
Existing memberships (or employers) are allowed to continue contributing. Existing memberships (or employers) are allowed to continue contributing. Existing memberships (or employers) are not allowed to continue contributing. Existing memberships (or employers) are not allowed to continue contributing.
Funds continue to be invested. Funds continue to be invested. Funds continue to be invested. Funds continue to be invested.
Funds continue to attract charges. Funds continue to attract charges. Funds continue to attract charges. Funds continue to attract charges.

Member status

Active Deferred Pensioner
A scheme member who is currently paying in contributions. A scheme member who has ceased future service, but has built up benefits which remain in the scheme. A scheme member who is being paid a pension. An annuity has been purchased on their behalf in the name of the trustees of the scheme, or the scheme is paying a retirement income directly from scheme funds.
Funds continue to be invested. Funds continue to be invested. Funds can remain invested if the scheme operates a drawdown option.
Funds continue to attract charges. Funds continue to attract charges. Funds can continue to attract charges if the scheme operates a drawdown option.

The number of memberships does not equate to the number of individuals, as one individual can have multiple memberships.

In DC schemes which operate self-annuitisation or lifetime annuities, a member may have the option to purchase a joint life annuity. In this case, a nominated dependent will receive a proportion of the member’s retirement income for the rest of their life, should the member die before the dependent. Membership figures collected by us reflect those members who are relevant for calculation of the pension levy. As dependents are not included in this they are not reported to us and so dependents are not included in the statistics in this release.

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