80% of DB Sponsors Interested in Risk Transfer

Eight in 10 defined benefit (DB) plan sponsors expressed interest in pension risk transfer products.

A survey by the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute found, of the nearly 400 DB plan sponsors surveyed, one in five were unfamiliar with pension risk transfer products, and another 50% were only somewhat familiar with pension risk transfer products. Plan sponsors more familiar with the products were more interested in them, as were plan sponsors with frozen DB plans.

The survey found half of the traditional DB plans were still open to new participants, while 36% of plans were partially frozen and another 14% were fully frozen. Plans with more than $250 million in assets were more likely to be open to new participants than smaller plans (69% vs. 47%). The research revealed only 6% of plan sponsors said they plan to freeze their DB plan within the next two years. 

The majority of plans sponsors surveyed (55%) use a liability driven investment strategy (LDI) to mitigate the financial risk of their DB plan. Other employers said they considered or implemented risk settlement options like lump-sum payouts and group annuity buyouts.

Among DB plan sponsors not very or not at all interested in pension risk transfer, the top reason is lack of knowledge. Other reasons given by plan sponsors for not considering a pension risk transfer product include using another method to address the risk, purchasing costs of annuities, and potential negative perceptions by stockholders.

“There is a misconception that the cost of transferring the risk through an annuity would be prohibitive but recent analysis by Mercer found that it was slightly cheaper for a plan sponsor to purchase a buyout for the retiree portion of its plan than it was to keep it in-house,” notes Alison Salka, senior vice president and director of the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute (see “DB Sponsors Should Not Be Reluctant to Transfer Liabilities”). “We expect the growing impact of DB plans on balance sheets is going to drive more CFOs and others in finance to learn about and consider pension risk transfers in the future.”