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

  • The Growth Mindset for Actuaries

    13 October 2021 - 8 December 2021

    Fully booked.

    This practical course is aimed at actuaries at any stage of their career who want to develop their own growth mindset and apply it to their work setting and personal or professional lifelong learning. The content of the course builds on the lecture given by Dr Helen Wright on Growth Mindset as part of the President’s 2021 Lecture series, and will be delivered over a period of 2 months, from mid-October to early December.

  • Spaces available

    The importance of biodiversity for finance, business and policy is being increasingly recognised. While many studies highlight the overall economic impact that biodiversity loss could have, it is much more difficult to quantify and understand the particular impact that is may have on individual businesses or communities. The management and measurement of these risks is a field where actuaries are well placed to contribute.

  • Spaces available

    The climate crisis and the degradation of our planet will affect societies everywhere. How we address these threats will require solutions that transcend borders. As a global profession, the actuarial community is well-placed to consider and propose effective risk management solutions to help manage the climate crisis.

  • GIRO 2021 Webinar Series

    8 November 2021 - 19 November 2021
    Spaces available

    Join leading experts to discuss key issues, emerging ideas and new research across the general insurance sector.

  • Spaces available

    This is a free webinar with an expert panel providing their views on the ongoing IFoA consultation for proposals regarding changes to the regulatory framework on climate change and sustainability.

    The regulatory consultation sets out, for feedback some proposed approaches that the IFoA are considering in relation to charter commitments under the UK’s Green Finance Education Charter (GFEC) and the regulatory framework, including the Actuaries’ Code.

  • Life 2021 Webinar Series

    22 November 2021 - 26 November 2021
    Spaces available

    Join leading experts to discuss key issues, emerging ideas, and new research across the Life insurance sector.

  • Spaces available

    Content will be aimed at all actuaries looking to understand the issues surrounding mental health in insurance and in particular those looking to ensure products and processes widen access for, and are most useful to, those experiencing periods of poor mental health.