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Turning pension plans into pension planes: What investment strategy designers of defined contribution pension plans can learn from commercial aircraft designers

David Blake, Andrew Cairns and Kevin Dowd

Many, if not most, individuals cannot be regarded as ‘intelligent consumers’ when it comes to understanding and assessing different investment strategies for their defined contribution pension plans. This gives very little incentive to plan providers to improve the design of their pension plans. As a consequence, pension plans and their investment strategies are still currently in a very primitive stage of their development. In particular, there is very little integration between the accumulation and decumulation stages. It is possible to produce well-designed DC plans but these need to be designed from back to front (that is, from desired outputs to required inputs) with the goal of delivering an adequate targeted pension with a high degree of probability. We use the analogy of designing a commercial aircraft to explain how this might be done. We also investigate the possible role of regulators in acting as surrogate ‘intelligent consumers’ on behalf of plan members.

JEL Classification: D91, G23

Key words:- pension plans, defined contribution, investment strategy