Solvency II regulations have caused a shift in the timing of buy-in and buyout transactions, as well as asset sourcing, according to Aon Hewitt.
Bulk annuity deals have typically occurred in a "last minute frenzy" in early December, but recently these have moved into early January.
Aon said this is likely due to insurers needing to meet capital reserve requirements and manage year-end balance sheets since the introduction of the rules in January 2016.
Aon's senior partner and head of the risk settlement group Martin Bird predicted 2017 will also see fewer transactions towards the end of the year.
"Last year was the first year-end where insurers had Solvency II balance sheets for the whole year," he said. "We didn't see any insurers have any appetite to do a last-minute deal, because they all wanted some certainty around what that year-end position looked like.
"I don't think we'll see the burst of activity that we used to see."
Aon added bulk annuity deals are also being affected as insurers seek assets that give them a competitive edge while meeting the Solvency II requirements, which may result in a greater spread of pricing.
"The market feels very different to a couple of years ago, in terms of the pricing process," Bird said. "Insurers are now chasing after assets that have sufficiently attractive yield and give them a pricing edge, because it's quite a crowded market.
"They're after assets that will be deemed acceptable to go into their matching adjustment portfolios. That is more capital efficient and they have to hold fewer reserves than if those assets aren't deemed eligible."
These are likely to be long-dated illiquid assets such as infrastructure, property, mortgage-related securities and bespoke debt arrangements.
"The arms race at the moment is trying to find assets that have long duration and broadly matching cash flow profiles. Insurers are sourcing much more bespoke bilateral assets, where they go and negotiate more directly with the asset counter-party."
Bird added pension schemes should see some favourable opportunities to de-risk this year, as insurers hope to move assets they've secured during unsuccessful bids for deals.
"Pension schemes that are really well-prepared and have their pricing targets and governance lined up should not be afraid to sit and wait because there will be moments during the year where insurers will have their assets and capacity lined up to make a deal," he said
"If you've got all of your ducks in a row, then opportunities will emerge."
The number of defined benefit (DB) scheme members with benefits protected by an insurer will double by the middle of the decade, according to Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP).
Aviva Life & Pensions has concluded an £875m buy-in with its own staff pension scheme, following on from a similar transaction last year.
Just Group has completed a £74m pensioner buy-in with the UK pension scheme of a US-listed engineering business.
The Smiths Industries Pension Scheme has secured a £146m buy-in with Canada Life in its fourth bulk annuity and its sponsor’s tenth overall.
The Prudential Staff Pension Scheme has entered into a £3.7bn longevity swap with Pacific Life Re, insuring the longevity risk of over 20,000 pensioners.