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The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) has today published the Purple Book 2023, which showed a significant improvement in the net funding position of the universe of defined benefit (DB) pension schemes it protects in the past year. 

The Pensions Universe Risk Profile, commonly known as the Purple Book, is now in its 18th edition and gives the most comprehensive overview of the risks posed by the schemes protected by the PPF.

It reported that the net funding position on a section 179 basis improved to a surplus of £358.9bn in the year to 31 March 2023, with more than 80 per cent of schemes in surplus. This increase was mainly the result of rising gilt yields driving down liability values. 

The report showed a year-on-year acceleration in the improvement in the net funding position, from 2022’s surplus of £193bn compared to a surplus of £47bn the year before that. Similarly, the aggregate funding ratio increased from 102.8 per cent in 2021 and 113.1 per cent in 2022 to 134 per cent in the year to 31 March 2023.

The number of DB schemes in the universe has fallen slightly from 5,131 to 5,063 over the year as result of schemes winding up, merging or claiming on the PPF.  The DB universe remains highly fragmented, with a long tail of smaller schemes. Schemes with fewer than 1,000 members make up 80 per cent of the total number of schemes but only around 10 per cent of total assets, liabilities, and members.

Schemes in the universe have continued to invest a large proportion (69 per cent) of their assets in bonds. While there was a small decrease in the proportion of assets invested in equities from last year (18 per cent compared to 19.5 per cent last year), this split between bonds and equities has been broadly stable since March 2020. While the proportion invested in private equities has risen to 29.5 per cent, the proportion of assets invested in UK-quoted equities has fallen to a new record low of 7.6 per cent.

Shalin Bhagwan, the PPF’s Chief Actuary and Interim Chief Financial Officer said: “Over the last year, there has been a material improvement in the aggregate funding position of the schemes we protect. Just as the PPF has entered a maturing phase, the wider defined benefit universe looks to be similarly moving into a new phase with many schemes accelerating towards buyout funding levels. This will likely further sharpen the focus on endgames and the options available to schemes. ”


About the PPF  

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) is a public corporation, set up by the Pensions Act 2004, and has been protecting members of eligible defined benefit (DB) pension schemes across the UK since 2005. The PPF is run by an independent Board and accountable to Parliament through the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions. It protects close to 10 million members belonging to more than 5,200 pension schemes. If an employer collapses and its DB pension scheme cannot pay members what they were promised, the PPF pays compensation for their lost pensions. The PPF is funded by a levy charged to eligible schemes, the return on its investments, assets from pension schemes transferred into the PPF and recoveries from insolvent employers. 
The PPF is one of the UK’s largest asset owners with £39 billion of assets under management. It also administers the Fraud Compensation Fund (FCF), the Government’s Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) and across both the PPF and FAS looks after nearly 440,000 members.  

For further press information contact:

PPF Press Office
020 8406 2107
[email protected]
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