OECD Working Papers on Insurance and Private Pensions

Selected studies on insurance and private pensions policy prepared for use within the OECD and addressing such policy issues as risk management, governance, types of investments, and benefit protection. This working papers series has been discontinued; it is superseded by ‘OECD Working Papers on Finance, Insurance and Private Pensions’ available via: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/20797117.


Managing Investment Risk in Defined Benefit Pension Funds

This paper inquires into the forces that drive the practice of risk management at defined benefit (DB) pension funds in Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States in the aftermath of the perfect pension storm. First, pension funds‘ risk management is grounded in the context of the development of modern risk management in the financial industry more general. Second, focusing solely on single-employer sponsored DB pension funds this research critically examines the impact of recent changes in the regulatory and accounting environment for pension funds and their sponsors thereby explicitly taking into account the specific governance context in which pension funds are situated. The aim of this research is, first, to provide a better understanding of the investment risk management of DB pension funds thereby contributing to the theory of financial decision-making. Second, by conducting this analysis on a cross-country basis, this research aims at contributing to the comparative analysis of pension funds. This paper argues that the risk-taking capacity is a central element of DB pension funds. The empirical results suggest that in general risk management has become much more sophisticated but that it is often driven more by regulatory and accounting issues than by the pension fund‘s specific risk profile. Furthermore, changes to the regulatory and accounting standards increasingly impede the risk-taking capacity of DB pension funds. This research draws on in-depth interviews with market participants within the pension fund industry and their advisers.


Keywords: investment, defined benefit, governance, pension fund, regulation
JEL: J32: Labor and Demographic Economics / Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs / Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions; G23: Financial Economics / Financial Institutions and Services / Pension Funds; Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
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