Find out more about the second phase of the Optimising Future Pension Plans project.

Principal researcher: Dr Catherine Donnelly

Lead institution: Heriot-Watt University

Collaborators: Baillie Gifford and Cameron Hume

Start date: May 2021

End date: April 2023


With the continual move from defined contribution (DC) pension arrangements, the need for individuals to optimise what they do with their pension savings has never been so great.   This has been made even more urgent by Pension Freedoms, sustained low interest rates and increasing lifespans.  Regulation aside, this potential crisis presents an opportunity for new thinking and innovation in the pension and insurance worlds, to deliver genuine value and cost efficiency in pension provision.

The new pension products and plans considered in this research programme are based on collective risk-sharing between customers or plan members.  Their objective is to pay a stable, lifelong income to all their customers or members, using guarantees and risk management to supplement the collective risk-sharing where appropriate.

I'm delighted to be leading this major research programme on pooled annuity funds and collective defined contribution (CDC) plans, in partnership with Baillie Gifford and Cameron Hume, and funded by the IFoA's Actuarial Research Centre.  With more and more pensions risk being borne by individuals, there is a pressing need to investigate collective risk-sharing solutions which can benefit everyone for their retirement.

We will provide quantitative answers to many of the questions around pooled annuity funds and CDCs. Our focus is on member outcomes: the ability of these structures to provide a fair, life-long and stable retirement income to their participants. As we present the research results over the next two years, we would love to hear feedback from actuaries and others with an interest in pensions.

Catherine Donnelly

Lead investigator 


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Events calendar

  • Spaces available

    We’ve all heard about the gender pay gap. Sadly, the gap doesn’t just exist with base pay.

    Research carried out by Legal & General in 2021 across the four million members in our Defined Contribution (DC) pensions, found that there’s a gender pension gap too, continuing the divide between men and women.

  • Spaces available

    As current global events continue to demonstrate, geopolitical tensions present significant risks to corporates of all sizes. However, these types of risk are often not given the discussion time it needs at the board level or executive committee levels, nor the resources required to anticipate, analyse and mitigate them effectively.

  • Spaces available

    At retirement, it has become very popular for those with Defined Contribution (DC) pensions to choose drawdown rather than an annuity, but drawing a sustainable lifetime income in this way is an impossible challenge for most people. We consider a Decumulation Pathway for the typical consumer, where a small part of the DC fund is set aside for any flexible access and legacy requirements. The bulk is then used to provide a lifetime income, utilising the pooling or insuring of longevity risk.

  • CILA 2022

    23 May 2022 - 24 May 2022

    Spaces available

    We continue to live in a world of global uncertainty. Survival depends on our ability to simultaneously navigate through the diverse root-causes, ranging from: the consequences of Climate Change; transitioning to Net Zero; increased inflationary pressures and supply chain issues; to self-imposed changes in regulatory requirements. CILA 2022 focuses on these challenges to ensure we continue to be informed and remain battle ready, as well as showcasing highlights of recent CMI outputs.

  • Spaces available

    In the spirit of fostering the IFoA’s vibrant, global community and enabling our members to participate, we have decided to hold our AGM virtually again this year. This allows for greater accessibility to this important annual event, and for greater accountability of our organisation.

    The Business of the AGM

  • The IFoA Conference 2022

    133 Liverpool St, London EC3A 7BX and Online
    22 June 2022 - 23 June 2022
    Spaces available

    We’re delighted to welcome you back to our first in-person conference since early 2020, also being delivered virtually in our first-ever hybrid event. The theme of our inaugural two-day conference is ‘Focusing on tomorrow’s actuary’ and will explore the contribution actuarial science is making to some of tomorrow’s biggest issues.