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DC trust: scheme return data 2019 - 2020

Welcome to the tenth edition of Defined Contribution (DC) trust, our annual statistics publication. It provides a high-level snapshot of the current landscape of occupational DC trust-based pension provision in the UK, including information on the number, memberships and assets of schemes, as well as details on DC memberships of hybrid dual-section schemes.

This year's edition covers around 29,570 current schemes from the pension schemes register with an effective date of 31 December 2019. Of the 27,760 schemes with fewer than 12 members, 21,860 (79%) identified themselves as a relevant small scheme (RSS), formerly known as small self-administered schemes (SSAS).

As with last year's release, we've included similar snapshot data from earlier versions of our database. These form a consistent time series, each with an effective date of 31 December for 2009 to 2019, where apposite. Year-on-year figures may vary very slightly across publications, as late submissions are received and data coverage is enhanced between publication dates, where material.

We provide an automatic enrolment (AE) monthly report, based on information provided by employers when they declare their compliance, a quarterly compliance and enforcement bulletin, and we also publish an annual commentary and analysis on AE.

We have also provided a report on the master trust market post authorisation which outlines the final facts and figures for these schemes.

Executive summary

In this year’s statistics release, we've provided a description of the collection methods for the data contained in the Microsoft Excel (XLSX) files at the end of the page, together with information on what is covered by each of the different files.

  • Files 1 (schemes), 2 (memberships), and 3 (finances) are based on schemes with 12 or more members (except for table 1.1 in file 1, which is based on all schemes with two or more members).
  • File 4 (AE schemes) is based on all schemes with two or more members.
  • File 5 (micro schemes) is based on schemes with two to 11 members.
  • File 6 (effective date information) shows relevant effective date information.

You can view and download the files in data tables.

Key findings


Unless indicated otherwise, all figures below refer to schemes with 12 or more memberships and exclude hybrids.

  • There are 29,570 occupational schemes with two or more DC members (including hybrid: dual section) (see landscape table below), of which 21,860 (74%) have identified themselves as a relevant small scheme (RSS) (Table 5.4).
  • In the last year, the DC market has been subject to further concentration, in part due to master trust authorisation:
    • the total number of schemes with 2 or more memberships has declined by 4% (Table 1.1)
    • while, total schemes with 12 or memberships, including hybrids, has declined by 12% (Table 1.2)
  • Since the beginning of 2010 the number of schemes, including hybrids, has declined by 62% (from 4,560 to 1,740) (Table 1.2).
  • There are 38 authorised master trusts, of which the HSBC Master Trust is the first new master trust to be authorised. Together, these account for 16.6 million DC memberships, including hybrids, and nearly £38.5 billion assets, excluding hybrids (see master trust table below).
  • The use of default investment strategies has remained relatively stable over the last year; 53% of schemes use a default investment strategy and 72% of open schemes use a default investment strategy (Table 1.9).


Unless otherwise stated, the following figures all pertain to schemes with 12 or memberships, excluding hybrids:

  • 59% of all private sector workplace pension memberships (including active, deferred and pensioner) are in DC (trust) schemes with two or memberships (see landscape table below).
  • 83% of all those currently saving (active memberships) are investing into a DC (trust) scheme with two or memberships (see landscape table below).
  • Memberships of non-hybrid DC master trusts have increased from 270,000, at the beginning of 2012 (DC trust statistics, January 2012, table 1.e), to just over 16.3 million this year (Table 2.17).
  • 95% of memberships in DC schemes are invested in the scheme’s default strategy (Table 2.13).
  • The number of memberships that retired increased by 46% between the end of 2018 and 2019 from 51,000 to 95,000 (see table 2.16 and the DC stats publication 2019). 

Including hybrids:

  • Scheme memberships have increased by 17% over the past year, compared to 33% the previous year, and 723% since the beginning of 2010 (Table 2.1).
  • In the past year, deferred memberships have increased by more than active memberships: increases of 28% and 8% respectively (see tables 2.2 and 2.3).

Financial information

Unless indicated otherwise, all figures below refer to schemes with 12 or more memberships and exclude hybrids.

  • Reported asset values are now £71.3 billion, an increase of £10 billion or 16% since last year and 222% since the beginning of 2012 (Table 3.1). Asset changes are made up of contributions (including transfers in) and investment returns, reduced by charges, retirements and transfers out.
  • Average assets per member have declined every year since 2013 and have fallen by 77% since the beginning of 2012. The rate of decrease is slowing, with a decrease of 2% last year compared to 6% the year before (see tables 2.18 and 3.1).
  • This year, the average assets per membership at retirement was £5,500. This is a 43% decrease since the beginning of last year and 72% decrease since the beginning of 2015 (Table 2.16 and Table 3.5).
  • The total amount transferred in to DC schemes decreased by 27% last year, a drop from £5.5 billion to £4 billion (Table 3.6). This includes transfers from defined benefit (DB) schemes and other DC occupational and personal schemes.
  • Contributions increased by 55%, compared to a 25% increase the year before (Table 3.3).
  • In the past year, the total amount transferred out of DC schemes to other workplace or personal pensions increased by 7%, from £2.1 billion to £2.2 billion (Table 3.5 in DC stats 2019 and 2020).

Automatic enrolment

All figures below refer to schemes with two or more memberships, excluding hybrids.

  • The proportion of schemes being used for automatic enrolment (AE) has remained stable for the last three years at 3%. This year, 870 schemes were used for AE purposes, a 74% increase since 2016, but a decrease from 950 schemes last year (table 4.1).
  • As per last year, 98% of memberships are in schemes being used for AE: 17.7 million out of 18.2 million (table 4.4).

Micro schemes

All figures below refer to schemes with two to 11 memberships, excluding hybrids.

  • 86% of micro schemes provided details of their Relevant Small Scheme (RSS) status, formerly known as small self-administered schemes (SSAS).
  • Of these, 91% identified themselves as an RSS (Table 5.4) [6].

The landscape

The table below represents the private pension landscape in the UK, showing at a high level the different forms of employer-sponsored provision available within the private sector, and giving an overview of the size of each type of provision[1]. This data refers to schemes with two or more memberships.

Defined benefit Hybrid: mixed benefit[2] Hybrid: dual-section DC (trust)  DC (workplace contract)[3]
Schemes 4,920 180 760 28,810 2,030
Open schemes 680 20 350 24,100 1,630
Total memberships 6,684,000 963,000 4,788,000 18,171,000  N/A
Total active members 631,000 235,000 1,038,000 9,275,000 5,347,000

Sources: All figures from TPR's data based on scheme returns, 31 December 2019 except DC (workplace contract) total active members, from Annual survey of hours and earnings (ASHE) 2018 (published April 2019). Please note: the ASHE 2018 reports 7.2 million active members of DC trust-based schemes and 461,000 active members in schemes where the type was unknown.

Hybrid schemes

DC trust focuses on schemes within the ‘DC (trust)’ category above, as well as any DC memberships of ‘Hybrid: dual-section’ schemes. We do not include data on assets held in DC sections of hybrid schemes, as we do not collect this information.

There are many varieties of hybrid schemes, but they can broadly be classed as either mixed benefit or dual-section:

  • A mixed benefit scheme offers one set of benefits, which has elements of both DB and DC schemes; such as a DC scheme with an underpin on a DB basis[2].
  • A dual-section scheme has two sections - one offering DC benefits and the other offering DB benefits.

Contract-based schemes

DC work-based personal pension schemes, also known as contract-based schemes, are excluded from this release, other than in the above table. The term ‘scheme’ here refers to the number of products offered by providers, and not to the number of employers who have bought into those products. These types of scheme consist of:

  • Group personal pensions (GPPs)
  • Group self-invested personal pensions (GSIPPs)
  • Group stakeholder pensions (GSHPs)

DC contract-based schemes are subject to a different regulatory framework from DC trust-based occupational schemes. We work jointly with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the regulation of contract-based schemes. While contract-based schemes are obliged to register with us, they provide significantly less information than trust-based schemes. As a result, the above table can provide a figure for the total number of contract-based schemes. To provide landscape context, a figure for the total number of active contract-based members is sourced from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Beyond that, all types of DC contract-based provision, both group and individual, are outside the scope of this statistics release.

Master trusts

The table below provides figures for all master trust schemes with DC members, including those that are micro or hybrid. File 2 and 4, at the end of this report, contain membership numbers for DC master trusts, excluding micro and hybrid schemes. 

Authorised master trusts
Total trusts 38
Associated open schemes 49
Active DC memberships 8,529,000
Reported assets (excluding hybrid) £38,484,000,000
DC members in schemes which reported assets 16,502,000
Total DC members (includes hybrids) 16,600,000


The first three files of this statistics release, file 1: schemes, file 2: memberships, and file 3: finances, refer to occupational DC trust-based schemes with 12 or more memberships (with the exception of Table 1.1 in File 1). These schemes account for 6% of the total universe of DC schemes[4], but more than 85% of the memberships (see landscape table, Table 1.2 and Table 2.1).

File 4: AE schemes refer to all schemes with two or more DC members.

File 5: micro schemes is concerned with schemes of two to 11 memberships. File 6: effective date information includes information on the effective dates [5] for data submitted on memberships, contributions and assets.

As at 31 December 2019, nearly all schemes (with 12 or members) had an effective date for their membership, contribution and asset data after 31 December 2016. For membership data, this accounts for 97% of schemes and nearly all reported memberships. For contributions and asset data, this accounts for 95% of schemes and nearly all reported contributions (Table 6.1).

For micro schemes, 92% have an effective date for their membership data that is after 31 December 2014; this covers 92% of reported micro memberships. For contribution data, 99% of micro schemes had an effective date after 31 December 2014 (Table 6.2).

Data collection

Pension schemes in the UK with two or more memberships are required to register with us. At the point of registration, an occupational scheme provides us with registrable information, which includes amongst other things the following:

  • scheme name and contact details
  • scheme status (eg open, closed)
  • membership information
  • details about the relevant employer(s), trustees and service providers

In addition to registration, we also operate a scheme return process.

The scheme return is how we collect information about occupational pension schemes. We are required to collect scheme return information from each scheme no more than once a year and no less than once every five years. The current practice is for DC schemes with 12 or more members to complete a scheme return annually and schemes with two to 11 members to complete once every three years.

Scheme returns are submitted using our online reporting tool, Exchange. This offers several advantages, one of which is that schemes can log in to alter their details at any time using the scheme maintenance process.

We ask for more information for occupational DC trust-based schemes with 12 or more memberships in the scheme return than for smaller schemes, such as scheme leaver financial amounts, default strategy and decumulation options.

The information in this publication is based on data provided by schemes on returns we issued from July to December 2019 and relates to the levy year 2018-2019 or earlier. Therefore, the figures will not yet reflect all changes in DC memberships (including from automatic enrolment) through to December 2019.

Relevant small schemes

Relevant small schemes (a subset of micro schemes) are subject to fewer regulations than other occupational DC schemes, they include schemes formerly known as small self-administered schemes (SSAS). We continue to provide figures in respect of SSAS schemes.

We request information from schemes via the scheme return, which we use to assess whether they are (or were) SSAS. We ask schemes to confirm the following:

  • Whether the scheme has no more than 11 members,
  • Whether all members are appointed as trustees to the scheme or all members are directors of the company, which is the sole trustee of the scheme,
  • If the scheme’s provisions provide that any decisions to be made by the trustee(s) are made by unanimous agreement of the trustees who are members of the scheme / directors of the corporate trustee who are members of the scheme (as applicable) or the scheme has a trustee / corporate trustee / director (as applicable) who is independent in relation to the scheme for the purposes of section 23 of the Pensions Act 1995 and is registered on our trustee register.

Pensioner members

DC trust does not capture all pensioner members. Some members will have retired but transferred out of the scheme. We do however report the number of members for whom the scheme is providing (self-annuitisation) or facilitating (lifetime annuities) the annuity payments. 


In most cases, the data we show here is a direct summary of the data we hold. However, in some areas we've performed some simple calculations to provide more useful information. Where this has occurred, the direct data from which we made the calculations have also been included; in a separate tab in the file labelled 'calculations'.

Total schemes year on year

To create the time series of total schemes year on year (table 1.1), we start with the total number of DC schemes, with two or more memberships, on the register as at 31 December 2019. We then use a table showing the total number of registrations each year, and the total number of schemes winding up each year. By removing the schemes established during 2019, and adding the schemes that wound up that year, we create an estimate for the number of schemes as at 31 December 2018 (table 1.18).

We continue this process back to 1997, the year when the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (OPRA), our predecessor, took responsibility for maintaining the pension schemes register. In the calculations tab the number of wind ups and registrations per year is shown dating back to 1988, as there is a significant peak in registrations that year.

Market value of scheme assets

While the significant majority of relevant schemes have provided us with their market value of scheme assets, it's not completed by every scheme. Within the data files, we've shown data for the amount of assets that have been reported to us, as well as the memberships in schemes that have reported an asset figure (tables 3.1-3.2 and 3.7-3.24). We limit reporting to those asset values whose effective date is no more than three years before 31 December each year. For micro schemes this is five years.

To allow users to estimate the total amount of assets within these schemes we've provided information to enable average assets to be calculated per member for each scheme size and status banding (where size is based on the number of members) for those schemes who have supplied the information.

Annual contributions (by employer and employee)

The issue for market value of scheme assets is also present for annual contributions. Within the files, we've shown data for reported contributions and active members in schemes which have reported contributions (tables 3.3 and 3.25-3.33). We limit reporting to those contribution values whose effective date is no more than three years before the 31st of December each year. For micro schemes this is five years.

We've used the same method to enable an extrapolated estimate for the total amount of contributions to trust-based DC schemes as for our estimate of assets in such schemes. The difference with respect to contributions is that we provide the active members, rather than all members, as only active members are contributing.

The active members figure could include members who were only active for part of the year.

Governance structure

The governance structure theme is designed to show the number of master trusts, (schemes with non-associated employers), which has been a growth area since the introduction of automatic enrolment, and to separate out those schemes where the majority of services are provided by single corporate entity (bundled) and those which have services provided through different companies (unbundled).

The scheme return doesn't have a question that provides the bundled / unbundled split so, we made an estimate by analysing data provided on the insurer or administrator. Where the same company is listed as both administrator and insurer, we classed this as a bundled scheme. Where the companies are different we classed them as unbundled, and if the administrator is not present or either role could not be derived from the data, we labelled them 'unknown'.

Last year, we started incorporating email addresses into this data cleaning process, so if a scheme provides an individual’s name as their administrator, we then check the email address for that individual and, if relevant, assign that scheme to the appropriate company.

In addition, it is assumed that all bundled schemes will have an insurer, so where a scheme does not provide an insurer name it is classed as ‘unbundled’.

Amounts leaving schemes

As with assets and contributions, the amounts leaving schemes has not been supplied by all schemes. In the data files (tables 3.4-3.5 and 3.34-3.35), we show information for the reported amounts leaving schemes, and the number of members in schemes which have reported their leaver amounts.

Transfers into schemes

As with assets, contributions and leaver amounts, not all schemes have supplied relevant transfer-in data. In the data files, we show information for the amounts reported to be transferred into schemes (table 3.6).

It should be noted that where members or amounts are flagged as being transferred this means they have been moved from another workplace pension scheme


Governance structures

Master trust

In the Pension Schemes Act 2017 a master trust scheme is defined as an occupational pension scheme that is:

  • used by more than one employer
  • provides money purchase pensions (either alone or with other benefits)
  • not a public sector scheme or used only by connected employers

Bundled / unbundled scheme

A bundled scheme is one where the majority of services are purchased through a single corporate entity, and an unbundled scheme is one where services are provided through different companies.

Relevant small schemes (RSS) – formerly known as small self-administered schemes (SSAS)

A scheme with fewer than 12 members where all the members are trustees of the scheme, and decisions either have to be made unanimously or there is an independent trustee appointed to the scheme who appears on our trustee register. Where there is a sole corporate trustee, the above conditions apply in relation to the directors of the corporate trustee.

Executive pension plan (EPP)

An executive pension scheme is a scheme:

(a) in relation to which a company is the only employer and the sole trustee and

(b) the members of which are either current or former directors of the company and include at least one third of the current directors

Decumulation options

A scheme offering a lifetime annuity purchases an annuity in the name of the trustees at the point of retirement, and then facilitates payment of that annuity to the member. A scheme offering self-annuitisation will calculate an annuity payment for the member and make the payment to the member directly from scheme funds. Should the member use the fund they have built up to purchase an annuity in their own name then they cease to be a member of the scheme.

You can find information about decumulation options in file 1: schemes and file 2: memberships.

Scheme status

Open to new joiners and future service Closed to new joiners, open to future service Closed to new joiners and future service Winding up
New members are allowed to join the scheme New members are not allowed to join the scheme New members are not allowed to join the scheme New members are not allowed to join the scheme
Existing members are (or employers) allowed to continue contributing Existing members are (or employers) allowed to continue contributing Existing members are (or employers) not allowed to continue contributing Existing members are (or employers) not allowed to continue contributing
Funds continue to be invested Funds continue to be invested Funds continue to be invested Funds continue to be invested
Funds continue to attract charges Funds continue to attract charges Funds continue to attract charges Funds continue to attract charges

Member status

Active Deferred Pensioner
A scheme member who is continuing with future service A scheme member who has ceased future service, but has built up benefits which remain in the scheme A scheme member who is being paid a pension. An annuity has been purchased on their behalf in the name of the trustees of the scheme, or the scheme is paying a retirement income directly from scheme funds
Funds continue to be invested Funds continue to be invested Funds can remain invested if the scheme operates a decumulation option
Funds continue to attract charges Funds continue to attract charges Funds can continue to attract charges if the scheme operates a decumulation option

The number of memberships does not equate to the number of individuals, as one individual can have multiple memberships.


In DC schemes which operate self-annuitisation or lifetime annuities, a member may have the option to purchase a joint life annuity. In this case, a nominated dependant will receive a proportion of the member’s retirement income for the rest of their life, should the member die before the dependant. Membership figures collected reflect those members who are relevant for calculation of the pension levy. As dependants are not included in this they are not reported to us and so dependants are not included in the statistics in this release.

Data tables


  • [1] For the purposes of this document, our remit extends to all private sector pensions where an employer facilitates contribution payments, and therefore our figures exclude personal pensions where an individual has purchased a product directly from a provider and there is no direct payment arrangement.
  • [2] Also known as 'true hybrid'.
  • [3] Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, Office for National Statistics (Revised version released April 2019): rounded estimate of number of jobs where the employee has taken up a workplace group personal or group stakeholder pension. This excludes individual personal pensions.
  • [4] Where the universe refers to all occupational DC or hybrid schemes with two or more DC memberships (excludes workplace contract).
  • [5] The term effective date in this context (and in file 6 generally) refers to the date supplied with the information by respondents. For instance, if a scheme counts its members on 1 April 2014, and then reports this figure to us on 1 May 2014, the effective date will be 1 April 2014.
  • [6] These figures exclude 3,860 schemes which have not yet answered the Relevant Small Scheme (RSS) question in scheme return.