What are executive pensions and should you offer them to directors?

14th December 2022

At a glance

  • Consider offering a separate pension to executives
  • More flexible pensions can enhance your benefits package significantly
  • It’s an important factor when attracting the best people into your business

Directors of expanding companies often need more flexibility than their usual corporate pension scheme offers. All companies need to auto-enrol employees into a pension. But standard auto-enrolment schemes tend to put members into a default fund and have restrictive rules around what contributions, investments, benefits and retirement options you can provide.

Executive pension plan benefits

Offering a separate pension to your executives allows them more flexibility and tailoring in areas such as investment choices and how they take benefits.

Claire Trott, Divisional Director – Retirement and Holistic Planning at St. James's Place, says that even if the executives in your company have not requested a separate pension, you should consider offering it as part of your recruitment and retention strategy. More flexible pensions can enhance your benefits package significantly, so will likely be an important factor in attracting the best in the field.

“Separate pensions don’t have to be for executives only,” she adds. “You could offer them to any staff, or when they reach a certain grade. This would boost your attractiveness to a wider range of recruits.”

Another reason for offering a separate scheme is that the executives may have several old schemes they want to consolidate into one more flexible structure – but it doesn’t always make sense to do this in a basic auto-enrolment scheme. They may also wish to contribute to the pension from other income sources, such as a rental property, which a standard scheme may not allow. A more bespoke option can bring easier administration and oversight of all their investments – and it allows them to keep details about other contributions private.

Claire says advice in this area is key. Moving pensions - especially older occupational schemes - can risk losing great historical benefits that are not available in more current structures.

What are the pension choices for executives?

There are several options for providing executives with more flexible pensions.

As an alternative to your standard scheme, you could offer directors a personal pension, a self-invested personal pension (SIPP), or a small self-administered scheme (SSAS). These all have different options that senior employees may find beneficial, and don’t worry about the ‘personal’ tag – they can all accept employer contributions.

Claire says that the first and most common choice would be a personal pension, as it gives a wider range of investments and benefit choices than a standard auto-enrolment scheme but is still simple and low cost.

SIPPs have slightly higher fees but enable you to include more esoteric investments, such as shares in unlisted companies and commercial premises, which can be a highly attractive benefit.

A SSAS can provide executives with the extremely useful option to loan funds back to the sponsoring employer. However, you should get financial advice on all these decisions – and choosing an SSAS will require specialist advice.

Administrative challenges

You could allow executives to pay contributions to a separate scheme of their choice. However, having multiple executive schemes with different providers is not advisable, as this can be cumbersome administratively. Besides, it’s usually best practice to offer the same benefits across the same grade of employee, including at director level. It’s better if you, as the employer, pick one provider for all executive schemes.

What are the annual and lifetime pension allowances, and how do they affect executive schemes?

These allowances are the same for all Defined Contribution schemes, no matter the structure or type of member in them. For most people, the lifetime allowance is £1,073,100, while the standard annual allowance is £40,000. But for employees with high earnings, there can be additional tax-planning factors to consider. So advice is important to ensure greater pension options or contributions do not cause additional tax charges.

“Providing access to high-quality advice on allowances and options will ensure your generosity isn’t wasted in tax charges,” says Claire. “You must also monitor the lifetime allowance and anticipate any potential breach before it becomes a problem. So it’s important to get early advice and ensure you understand your plans’ implications.

“This advice needs to be specific to individuals rather than generic, because it will factor in all pension schemes and the executives’ plans. The executives will also likely find this support useful for their own planning.”

How we can help

We can support you in implementing schemes for individuals to ensure they have the right solution for them. We can offer personalised advice for the executives in the new scheme and also help implement and review any schemes you provide for your wider workforce.

Ongoing advice will include planning around annual and lifetime pension allowances, and investment support. Growing companies face many challenges in these uncertain times, and having a safe pair of helping hands can be priceless.

The value of an investment with St. James's Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than you invested. The levels and bases of taxation, and reliefs from taxation, can change at any time and are dependent on individual circumstances.

SJP Approved: 03/10/2022

Shand & Burns Financial



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