Expert academic testimony to USS on the unreality of the pension fund deficit

A letter sent by a number of academics to the USS trustees is available in full here.

The letter starts:

“We are writing as professors of statistics, financial mathematics or actuarial science. Our primary expertise is in the evaluation and modelling of data, for which the quantification of uncertainty and the critical appraisal of model assumptions are central.

We are writing to express serious concerns about the assumptions underpinning the estimation of the USS pension fund deficit, as detailed in the Oct 2014 document ‘USS: 2014 Actuarial Valuation: A Consultation on the proposed assumptions…’ (henceforth ‘the AV consultation’). For each of our concerns the difference between what is assumed and what we believe to be reasonably justified (on the basis of available information) might appear relatively small (1 percent here, fractions of a percent elsewhere). Nevertheless, as you are well aware, it is in the nature of compound interest and discounting calculations that such changes of a few percent can jointly and cumulatively produce very substantial changes in the estimated state of a fund….”