UK annuities market could drop by 75%

The UK annuities market could decline by up to 75% after the government’s changes to compulsory annuity purchase come into effect from April 2015, according to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).


Its research, which questioned 1,208 respondents aged 50 to 75 who are looking to take their pension in the near future, found that 63% have asked, or intend to ask, an independent financial adviser (IFA) for financial advice about how they will access their pension pot.

Half of respondents have a pension pot of less than £40,000.

The certainty of a guaranteed income for life and tax efficiency were the most important factors for respondents when deciding how to manage their pension pot, while the least important factors were simplicity of the product and dependents’ security.

Jonathan Howe, insurance leader at PWC UK, said: “It was clear that life insurers were in for a shake-up following the recent annuity announcements, but our survey quantifies the scale of the effect on the life industry.

“People still want to invest a small part of their pension pot in an annuity, but it’s crucial that insurers offer innovative new products to satisfy customer demands and to fill the hole left by up to a 75% fall in annuity sales.

“63% of consumers have asked, or intend to ask, for financial advice from an IFA on how they will access their pension pot, which is likely to account for the low ranking in importance of having a simple product.

“However, the key point here is that many consumers may not have a big enough pension pot to justify significant advice fees, particularly as, since the retail distribution review came in last year, IFAs now have to charge fixed-service fees to customers.

“What we will see is an advice ‘black hole’: a supply gap between what consumers want and what they can get. The government’s free guidance will no doubt have its limits, and consumers will turn to their product providers for help in deciding what to do.

“This is a good opportunity for financial institutions to react to customers and to offer new products and services that suit their needs.

“Our survey shows that more than 50% of people still want to buy products offered by financial institutions, and given the key focus on guaranteed income for life, insurers’ expertise in the area of longevity risk will be key.”