Royal London saw its new group pension business decline over the first half of 2018 as the rollout of auto-enrolment (AE) drew to a close, according to its interim results.
Published today (16 August), the results showed sales were down by 30% to £1.8bn as of 30 June 2018 from £2.5bn in the first half of 2017. The provider had been expecting lower sales of workplace pensions in 2018 due to a smaller pipeline of schemes as staging concluded for the final employers.
Around 86,000 people joined Royal London's group pension schemes during the first six months of 2018.
It comes after Royal London had a 32% increase in new group pensions sales in H1 2017 to £2.5bn, while over 2017 new sales were up 12% to £4.4bn from 2016.
Royal London chief executive Phil Loney said: "Sluggish economic growth and the ending of the AE roll-out provided a challenging backdrop for pensions and investment companies in the first half of 2018."
However, the provider's overall new pensions sales remaining broadly stable at £5.4bn compared to £5.5bn in H1 2017, achieved against a "challenging market background". This was largely driven by a 23% increase in the firm's new individual pensions and drawdown sales to £3.6bn.
The interim report said: "The strong performance demonstrates our ability to provide compelling propositions to support customers continuing to accumulate pension savings, and also simultaneously provide solutions for those closer to retirement with ambitions to prepare effectively for the next phase of their life."
The firm's asset management business grew from £114bn funds under management at the end of 2017 to £117bn in H1 2018, and attracted £2bn of net inflows from institutional markets compared to £1.2bn in HY 2017.
According to the report, Royal London's group pension scheme had an accounting surplus of £85m at the end of June, up from £1m the same time last year and from £47m in December 2017.
Loney also called on the government to save the proposed pensions dashboard project, after reports last month the secretary of state was preparing to end its support.
"The industry has already shown its commitment by spending time and money preparing a prototype dashboard," he said. "We need [the] government to take a lead, both in ensuring that state and public sector pension data is available and also in requiring all pension schemes and providers to supply data. Only the government can do this.
"It is time to put the consumer first and press ahead with the dashboard project, and we stand ready to work with the government to drive this project forward."
By 8 August, over 125,000 people had signed an online petition calling for the government to retain its support for the dashboard project. At the time of publication today, the figure had risen to 142,000.
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