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Joined-Up Pensions Policy in the UK: An Asset-Liability Model for Simultaneously Determining the Asset Allocation and Contribution Rate

Abstract: The trustees of funded defined benefit pension schemes must make two vital and inter-related decisions - setting the asset allocation and the contribution rate. While these decisions are usually taken separately, it is argued that they are intimately related and should be taken jointly. The objective of funded pension schemes is taken to be the minimization of both the mean and the variance of the contribution rate, where the asset allocation decision is designed to achieve this objective. This is done by splitting the problem into two main steps. First, the Markowitz mean-variance model is generalised to include three types of pension scheme liabilities (actives, deferreds and pensioners), and this model is used to generate the efficient set of asset allocations. Second, for each point on the risk-return efficient set of the asset-liability portfolio model, the mathematical model of Haberman (1992) is used to compute the corresponding mean and variance of the contribution rate and funding ratio. Since the Haberman model assumes that the discount rate for computing the present value of liabilities equals the investment return, it is generalised to avoid this restriction. This generalisation removes the trade-off between contribution rate risk and funding ratio risk for a fixed spread period. Pension schemes need to choose a spread period, and it is shown how this can be set to minimise the variance of the contribution rate. Finally, using the result that the funding ratio follows an inverted gamma distribution, shortfall risk and expected tail loss are computed for funding below the minimum funding requirement, and funding above the taxation limit. This model is then applied to one of the largest UK pension schemes - the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Published on 5th September 2011
Authors John Board, Charles Sutcliffe
Series Reference 2005-11