LIMRA reported Tuesday that sales of group pension buyouts reached $3.8 billion in the second quarter of 2015, up more than 700% over the same period a year ago.
That’s a record for second-quarter sales since the early 1990s, according to LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute.
LIMRA noted that most pension buyouts occur in the fourth quarter. However, “We’ve seen a big increase in small and medium-sized companies that are looking to convert their pensions,” Michael Ericson, research analyst for the institute, said in a statement. “As a result, there is much more activity throughout the year, not just the fourth quarter.”
LIMRA attributed at least part of that 700% increase to Kimberly-Clark’s annuity conversion, which was effective June 1. The health and hygiene goods provider transferred pension obligations for about 21,000 retirees to Prudential and MassMutual, and expects to contribute between $400 million and $475 million to cover the contracts.
“Even without jumbo deals, there are just more plan sponsors looking to convert their pensions to group annuities,” Ericson said. “All this activity suggests that 2015 will be another strong year for pension buy-outs.”
Prior to last quarter’s impressive jump, first-half sales have been rising steadily for several years, according to LIMRA. The number of defined benefit plans converted into annuity contracts increased from 95 in the first half of 2012 to 107 in the first half of 2015.
LIMRA noted that years of low interest rates and increasing Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. premiums have led to more companies considering transferring pension obligations to insurers.
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