Only 3% of final salary defined benefit (DB) schemes with assets of over £1bn are now open to new members according to Barnett Waddingham.
The consultant's Big Schemes Survey 2016 found 64% of these DB schemes were now closed to new members with a further 33% also closed to future accrual.
Over two-thirds (67%) of 160 schemes surveyed had a deficit on their company accounting basis. This is lower than last year when 75% of schemes were in deficit. Schemes with a lower or no deficit may be more able to secure their liabilities with an insurance company.
The remaining 3% of schemes still open to new members relate to large, private sector employers.
The average annual contribution made by sponsoring employers to fund their scheme deficit was around £97m. This is a slight increase from last year's £94m.
However, the variation in deficit contributions (DC) was substantial, ranging from the £1.5bn paid by BT down to around £3m.
The survey also found an increase in the asset allocation to pooled funds and alternative asset types such as derivatives, emerging market currency and hedge funds, with a corresponding reduction in equity investments.
Finally, the introduction of more pension flexibility in April 2015 has resulted in larger schemes having a significantly higher increase in transfer value activity than smaller schemes.
Barnett Waddingham partner Andrew Vaughan (pictured) said: "The private sector's big schemes are the industry's trendsetters and activity we are currently seeing now, such as the removal of longevity risk and liability driven investment strategies, will inevitability work their way down to smaller schemes.
"Many DB schemes will ultimately be looking to the insurance market to transfer risk through buy-outs or buy-ins, medical underwriting and longevity risk transfers. We have seen a significant amount of activity in these markets in the last year and we expect this to continue."
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