Retirement Savers in Defined Contribution Pension Schemes Missing Out on Higher Returns Reveals New Report

  • UK’s defined contribution pension schemes not investing in the UK’s fastest growing and most innovative companies
  • 22-year olds could see a 7-12% increase in retirement savings

Savers in defined contribution pension schemes are missing out on higher returns due to a lack of investment in some of the UK’s fastest growing and most innovative companies reveals a new report.

Retirement savings for the average 22-year old could be increased by as much as 7-12 per cent if schemes made a small allocation to venture capital and growth equity funds. This is according to The Future of Defined Contribution Pensions, a new report published today by the British Business Bank and global management consultancy, Oliver Wyman.

The report provides an in-depth assessment on the case for defined contribution pension scheme investment in venture capital and growth equity, identifies the key risks and challenges to access, and proposes potential solutions to overcome these.

Benefits to pension savers

The report concludes that defined contribution investment in venture capital and growth equity may be especially important for younger savers in their twenties, whose long-term saving horizon may allow them to benefit most.  According to data analysed, even for older workers, the potential increase in returns could be significant. For example, a 35-year old with £25,000 currently invested in retirement savings could see a six to 10 per cent increase in their lifetime retirement savings and a 45-year old with a £50,000 pension pot could see a six to seven per cent increase

Investing in venture capital and growth equity funds

Following auto-enrolment, over 70 per cent of employees now save into a pension with more than 90 per cent of active savers outside the public sector saving in a defined contribution pension scheme.

Typically, defined contribution pension schemes invest in listed assets, such as equities and bonds, and passive strategies, which are easier and cheaper to manage and trade. Many of the most innovative and highest growth companies are not publicly listed but instead receive their funding from private venture capital and growth equity funds. With defined contribution schemes currently only investing a small amount in alternative assets such as venture capital, the study concludes that pension savers may be missing out on opportunities for better returns. These low allocations have historically been due to the regulatory, commercial and operational environment in which DC Schemes operate. However, this report shows these can be overcome.

Keith Morgan, CEO, British Business Bank said:

“The aim of this study is to enable better long-term retirement outcomes for the UK’s defined contribution pension savers with a focus on commercial solutions that could be implemented in the private sector. It is incumbent on defined contribution pension schemes to consider how to include investments in the UK’s fastest growing and most innovative companies.”

John Whitworth, Partner, Oliver Wyman said:

“Our in-depth analysis shows for the first time that those saving for retirement – particularly young adults – could see a big increase in their pension pots if more money is invested in the companies of tomorrow. As venture capital funds represent those companies currently transforming our society and shaping our future, it stands to reason that as they innovate and grow, so should the return on investment for pension savers.”

Feasibility study recommendations

For venture capital and growth equity investment to become viable on a mass scale for defined contribution schemes, access to the asset class needs to be improved. The Future of Defined Contribution Pensions report is making the following four recommendations:

  1. Information: The British Business Bank, supported by the BVCA and venture capital and growth equity funds, will continue to work to improve the quality and availability of industry-level data on historic returns of the asset class;
  2. Education: As data improves, investment consultants, data and analysis providers and trade bodies can better educate DC scheme trustees on the value and nature of venture capital and growth equity funds;
  3. Regulation: Prioritise regulatory changes to facilitate venture capital and growth equity investments;
  4. Industry Change: DC schemes can use their scale for good to create pooled investment vehicles and develop reduced fees with DC-centric structures.

Simon Clarke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury said:

“Pensions savers across the UK deserve financial security in retirement, and this review is a helpful contribution to that.”

“We are keen to support pension funds to invest in the UK’s fastest-growing and most-innovative companies, so that all savers can benefit from their success, while at the same time boosting the economy.”

About the study

Building on the work of the Patient Capital Review, the study was launched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Autumn Budget 2018, when some of the UK’s largest defined contribution pension providers committed to explore options for pooled investment in patient capital. The Defined Contribution Pensions Scheme Feasibility Study Steering Panel was chaired by the British Business Bank and included Aviva, L&G, NEST, Tesco Pension Fund and HSBC.

The feasibility study has analysed the performance of over 5,000 funds globally and completed interviews with experts from more than 50 organisations across the pensions and venture capital and growth equity sectors, as well as regulators and those in government.


For further information please contact:

Mary Whenman

Director, Communications

0203 905 1495 / 07799 860 980

The British Business Bank Team

MHP Communications

+44 20 3128 8589

Patricia Romero

PR Senior Associate

020 7852 7836 / 07825 193311

About the British Business Bank

The British Business Bank is the UK government’s economic development bank. Established in November 2014, its mission is to make finance markets for smaller businesses work more effectively, enabling those businesses to prosper, grow and build UK economic activity. Its remit is to design, deliver and efficiently manage UK-wide smaller business access to finance programmes for the UK government. The British Business Bank programmes are supporting more than £6.6bn of finance to over 89,000 smaller businesses (as at end of March 2019).

As well as increasing both supply and diversity of finance for UK smaller businesses through its programmes, the Bank works to raise awareness of the finance options available to smaller businesses:

  • The Business Finance Guide (published in partnership with the ICAEW and a further 21 business and finance organisations) impartially sets out the range of finance options available to businesses at all stages – from start-ups to SMEs and growing mid-sized companies. Businesses can take the interactive journey at
  • The new British Business Bank Finance Hub provides independent and impartial information to high-growth businesses about their finance options, featuring short films, expert guides, checklists and articles from finance providers to help make their application a success. The new site also features case studies and learnings from real businesses to guide businesses through the process of applying for growth finance.

As the holding company of the group operating under the trading name of British Business Bank, British Business Bank plc is wholly owned by HM Government and is not authorised or regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The British Business Bank operates under its own brand name through a number of subsidiaries, one of which is authorised and regulated by the FCA.

British Business Bank plc and its principal operating subsidiaries are not banking institutions and do not operate as such. A complete legal structure chart for British Business Bank plc and its subsidiaries can be found on the British Business Bank plc website.

About Oliver Wyman

Oliver Wyman is a global leader in management consulting. With offices in 60 cities across 29 countries, Oliver Wyman combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, and organization transformation. The firm has more than 5,000 professionals around the world who work with clients to optimize their business, improve their operations and risk profile, and accelerate their organizational performance to seize the most attractive opportunities. Oliver Wyman is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC]. For more information, visit Follow Oliver Wyman on Twitter @OliverWyman.