'It certainly feels like the next 10 years will be “now or never” in terms of tackling the problems of coverage and adequacy'

'It certainly feels like the next 10 years will be “now or never” in terms of tackling the problems of coverage and adequacy'

Maurice Whyms, President of the Society of Actuaries Ireland (SAI) on the future of the pensions industry in Ireland

What's your name?

Maurice Whyms

What position do you hold?

Senior Consulting Actuary, Willis Towers Watson & President of the Society of Actuaries in Ireland

How long have you held the position?

6 years with WTW and heading into second year as President of the Society.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

In the day job I provide advice to trustees and companies on a wide range of issues relating to the management of their pension schemes.

What is your professional background?

I qualified as a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries in Ireland in 1990. I am also a CFA Charterholder and a QFA.

Tell me about yourself away from work?

I am usually quite active in my spare time. I like many different sports and trying new things which can be a great way to get the family out and about as well. Next up is a bog run out West!

Tell us something very few people know about you?

I like creating games and challenges and over the years have organised various treasures hunts mainly for family and friends. Good chance to be creative, although I’ve been known to get a bit carried away at times like the Game of Thrones themed treasure hunt around Howth complete with Whitewalkers – great fun!

You are speaking at the Sunday Business Post’s National Pensions Summit What to you think of the speaker line-up and conference focus?

With the Pensions Roadmap and its wide-ranging proposals, this is obviously a very important time for the development of pension policy in Ireland and the agenda and the mix of experienced speakers cover many of the key issues that will shape future pension provision.

While the agenda covers both DB and DC provision, with strong emphasis on the latter given this is where the future lies, we should not forget the issues associated with the cost of our unfunded pension sectors (i.e. State pensions and Public Service pensions) and the need to ensure these pillars of our system are also sustainable for the future.

What challenges do you see for employers and trustees for the future of pensions in Ireland?

The objective for many of our defined benefit schemes in the coming years will be to achieve an orderly run-off in the face of some very stiff headwinds, in particular in the form of the current low interest rate environment. It is a challenge to deliver benefit promises, while maintaining a balancing act between affordable funding and risk reduction and it is one that will continue to require a very hands-on approach from trustees and employers.

On the defined contribution front, we have grappled with how to engage people with saving for retirement and the new proposals around auto-enrolment linked to behavioural nudging should help.

While the big-ticket challenges around getting more people to save (coverage) and getting people to save more (adequacy) are very much in the spotlight, there are other important practical implementation and administration issues that perhaps don’t receive as much attention such as how we will deal cost effectively with a growing population of deferred members in the future. Greater rigour in assessing the work involved in operating detailed provisions of our regulatory framework will be essential to ensuring a cost effective pension system. In particular, I believe every feature of our new auto-enrolment system should be subjected to a detailed cost-benefit analysis before launch, to ensure auto-enrolment will work and will work well.

Where would you like to see the pensions industry in 10 years time?

It certainly feels like the next 10 years will be “now or never” in terms of tackling the problems of coverage and adequacy and one would hope that the key initiatives in these areas will be well established by then.

It would be great to have a more streamlined and simplified pensions system in 10 years’ time and to have achieved a position where pension savers take far more interest in their retirement provision than they do today. Other countries have shown it can be done, but it won’t be easy.

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