Smart defaults: Determining the number of default funds in a pension scheme

David Blake, Mel Duffield, Ian Tonks*, Alistair Haig, Dean Blower, Laura MacPhee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


We propose a new methodology for the smart design of the default investment fund(s) in occupational defined contribution pension schemes based on the observable characteristics of scheme members. Using a unique dataset of member risk attitudes and characteristics from a survey of a large UK pension scheme, we apply factor analysis to identify single factors for risk aversion, risk capacity and ethical investment preferences, and then apply cluster analysis to these factors to identify two distinct groups of members across age cohorts. We find membership of these clusters depends on a number of personal characteristics, with the principal differentiating feature being that one group had previously engaged with the pension scheme, while the other had not. These identified characteristics can be utilised in the design of smart default funds, including appropriate engagement strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101042
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Accounting Review
Issue number4
Early online date28 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • defined contribution pension schemes, investment choices, default investment funds, cluster analysis, risk attitude, risk capacity.


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