Pension and Retirement Plans During Pandemic Times

COVID-19 changed our daily lives in every respect. Many businesses needed to close, employees began working from home, and children attended school remotely.

As we look back at pension plans for 2020, we can see that industry was also not immune to changes during the pandemic. There have been several large-scale changes since March:

  • The Department of Finance announced they would allow plan sponsors to stop contributing to their programs; this was previously unprecedented and unfathomable
  • Most provincial governments extended deadlines for pension filing—another surprising decision
  • A market downturn was expected, but not the unprecedented recovery that occurred; market reaction to the pandemic and the economic recovery has generally been positive and helped by global monetary and fiscal policy responses
  • Plan members experienced extreme investment volatility, and according to research, most “stayed the course,” not changing their investment selections or amount of their contributions; surprisingly, of the small percentage that did change the amount they were contributing, over 1/3 increased their contributions

Before COVID-19, some insurance companies announced fee increases that were ultimately deferred as the crisis unfolded to help ease financial pressure clients may have faced. However, as the economy begins to reopen, clients are being informed that the increases will be implemented shortly.

The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) annual assessment fee for pension plan sponsors, which had also previously been deferred, is now being applied to client accounts. The fees charged by some insurance companies for plan member credit counselling, which had been waived until the end of June, was extended to the end of August or September.

These changes show that regulatory bodies can act quickly and be flexible, which is a relief from the past and bodes well for future innovation and flexibility. Temporary changes have been necessary to help pension plan sponsors navigate through this new economic territory. Plan sponsors should revert to standard deadlines and contribution requirements once the outlook for business and employment becomes more stable.


We’re here to help

In addition to market changes, individuals working in the pension industry have experienced a shift in how they perform their roles and responsibilities. Without being able to meet face-to-face, many have switched to virtual meetings to help their plan members and sponsors navigate the challenges that come with this new reality.

Our pension experts have access to the latest products and services available on the market, along with insights gained from hundreds of clients and their employees across the country to create a plan that works for your business.

As a member of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, you can access the exclusive One Source Advantage program from Cowan Insurance Group. One Source Advantage offers programs like group benefits and retirement solutions, commercial insurance, personal home and auto insurance, and employee assistance programs.

Learn more about our program at