Toronto, October 4, 2011 – RBC Dexia Investor Services and Grant Thornton said today that 83 percent of Canadian defined benefit (DB) plan sponsors trust when they retire their organization’s DB plan will have sufficient money to pay them, while only 5 percent say they recall hearing about underfunding problems or deficits in DB plans.
In another key finding, 31 per cent of respondents said they don’t know what percentage of their current annual income they will need to achieve their expected standard of living in retirement. And when asked how they expect to enjoy themselves in retirement, 59 per cent of respondents expect to do things, such as travel, that they currently are unable to do prior to retirement.
In an effort to discover potential disconnects between plan sponsor realities and those of the plan members, RBC Dexia Investor Services and Grant Thornton sponsored a national survey to gauge the views of Canadians that participate in, or are currently benefitting from, a defined benefit pension plan.
Despite the ongoing financial uncertainty and current interest rate environment, more than 80 per cent of DB plan members responding to the survey, both in the private (82 per cent) and public (84 per cent) sectors, remain confident of their plan’s ability to provide for them upon retirement.
“Belief in the promise of a competitive pension payout remains strong in the minds of Canadian defined benefit plan members,” said Scott MacDonald, Head, Pensions, Insurance, Financial Institutions Product for RBC Dexia. “Even with the well-documented and highly-publicized challenges DB plans have faced, this research shows that plan members both rely on and trust that their retirement income will be there when they are ready to stop working.”
Overconfident and under informed?
However, when asked what they recall reading, seeing or hearing about company or union pension plans in Canada, only 5 percent could recall hearing about problems, and only 4 per cent indicated awareness that DB plans are becoming more rare and being phased out. Only a very small proportion recall hearing that DB plans are converting to defined contribution (DC) plans (5 per cent), that the numbers of DB plans is declining (3 per cent) or that employers want to opt out of plans and reduce benefits (2 per cent).
Regina Baezner, Principal, Pension and Benefit Practice, Grant Thornton LLP noted: “Plan members remain in the dark about the issues and challenges facing Canadian defined benefit plans. The pressure for DB plans to keep members aware of the viability and health of their plans increases with every new high profile plan that struggles, particularly in a financial market with so much uncertainty and tumult. ”
Attraction and retention
Plan sponsors should note that offering a defined benefit plan still goes a long away to attracting potential employees. 58 per cent of respondents agreed that the pension and retirement package was an important factor in their decision to join their current organization. The percentage was even higher for those in the public sector as 63 per cent were drawn to an organization because of their retirement benefits.
Key to retirement
Plan members’ confidence in their DB pension plans is also reflected in how much they intend to rely on that income stream in retirement – 74 per cent say it is their primary vehicle for retirement savings. On average, members expect 55.7 per cent of their retirement income to come from their DB plan. They expect a further 17.2 per cent to come from government sources, such as Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or Old Age Security (OAS). Another 12.6 per cent is expected to come from Registered Savings Plans.
MacDonald added: “Plan members need to adjust their expectations or increase their savings to be able to enjoy their retirement while not earning a full income. It’s up to plan sponsors to help educate their members about the amounts that might be needed to enjoy a long and fruitful retirement scenario.”
Data for the DB pension member study was collected online between April 28 and May 16, 2011. The study is based on survey results from 879 Canadians who participate in an employer- or union sponsored DB pension plan. An additional 127 Canadians who are offered but do not participate in their employer or union-sponsored DB pension plans also responded. The participant data is weighted according to Statistics Canada data, to accurately reflect the composition of DB plan members by gender, region and public versus private sector.
About RBC Dexia Investor Services
RBC Dexia Investor Services offers a complete range of investor services to institutions worldwide. Our unique offshore and onshore solutions, combined with the expertise of our 5,500 professionals in 15 markets, help clients grow their business and sustain enhanced performance through efficiency improvements and robust risk management practices.
Equally owned by RBC and Dexia, the company ranks among the world’s top 10 global custodians with USD 3.0 trillion in client assets under administration.
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About Grant Thornton
Grant Thornton LLP is a leading Canadian accounting and advisory firm providing audit, tax and
advisory services to private and public organizations. Together with the Quebec firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton LLP, Grant Thornton in Canada has approximately 4,000 people in offices across Canada. Grant Thornton LLP is a Canadian member of Grant Thornton International Ltd, whose member firms operate in close to 100 countries worldwide. We believe strongly that our best work comes from combining outstanding technical expertise, knowledge and ability with exceptional client-focused service. A team-based approach defined by dedication to senior professional involvement in all engagements. That’s our service commitment, locally, nationally and— through our membership in Grant Thornton International Ltd—globally.
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RBC Dexia Investor Services Limited is a holding company that provides strategic direction and management oversight to its affiliates, including RBC Dexia Investor Services Trust, a trust company, supervised in Canada by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, and authorized to carry on business in the U.K. by the Financial Services Authority. All are licensed users of the RBC trademark (a registered trademark of Royal Bank of Canada) and Dexia trademark (a registered mark of Dexia Crédit Local) and conduct their global custody and investment administration business under the RBC Dexia Investor Services brand name.