For immediate release: Tuesday 10 March 2015
Morten Nilsson, CEO of NOW: Pensions comments on The Work and Pensions Committee report: Progress with automatic enrolment and pension reforms published on 10 March
“The Work and Pensions Committee report is page after page of common sense thinking with many practical measures that NOW: Pensions fully support.
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has done an excellent job managing the incredibly complex roll out of auto enrolment and has introduced measures designed to improve standards in workplace pensions such as the master trust assurance framework. But, it lacks the power and support from DWP required to effect real change. Just last week, TPR was over-ruled on an important initiative to publish a list of providers that accepts all employers for auto enrolment which was a major disappointment and a serious blow for small firms trying to comply with the legislation. It is also unable to make the master trust assurance framework mandatory which would go a long way to improving the quality of workplace pensions, introducing much needed barriers to entry in the master trust world.
With the new pension flexibilities, the nature of pension saving is fundamentally changing and it feels like the right time to consider whether our regulatory regime is fit for purpose in this new environment.
One thing we can’t afford to lose is TPR’s focus on the common good. The FCA’s focus is more on the interests of the individual but in workplace pensions, a balance needs to be achieved. What we really need is TPR with teeth.
Independent pension commission
We agree with the Committee that there is a need for an independent body to take a step back and look at the whole picture. The industry has been hit with a whole raft of reform and analysing how these reforms impact one another and considering the long term implications has to be beneficial. The changes made to the pension system today will only really be felt many years from now and to build momentum there has to be consistency and political consensus. An independent commission could play an important role in achieving that consensus.
Auto enrolment is progressing well but there’s no room for complacency. To ensure that auto enrolment achieves its policy objective, adequacy of contributions needs to remain a key priority.
While there is much focus on auto escalation, one of the easiest ways to improve contributions would be to remove qualifying earnings* which has a corrosive effect on pension pots and misleads savers.
Removing qualifying earnings and basing contributions on every pound of earnings would help boost savings for all and would remove a great deal of the administrative complexity for employers.
Following on from this, consideration should be given to auto escalation, bringing contributions up to the 12 – 15% level.
The prioritisation of the Pensions Dashboard is an initiative we support and would go a long way to helping savers to build a realistic savings plan for the future.
While the development of a Pensions Dashboard in the UK will be complex due to the high number of pension providers in the market – done successfully it will encourage savers to take a more active role in their saving for retirement.”
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Notes to editors
* For the 2014/15 tax year this is set by the DWP between £5,772 and £41,865 a year. This means that the first £5,772 of an employee’s earnings isn’t included in the auto enrolment calculation. For example, if a worker earns £20,000 their qualifying earnings would be £14,228. The maximum amount contributions can be based on is £36,093 (£41,865 minus £5,772) for the 2014/15 tax year.
NOW: Pensions www.nowpensions.com @nowpensions
NOW: Pensions is an independent, multi-employer trust serving thousands of employers and hundreds of thousands of employees from a wide range of sectors.
A subsidiary of one of Europe’s largest pension funds, Danish pension scheme ATP, NOW: Pensions offers a simple and cost effective workplace pension solution direct to employers and via advisers and the payroll sector.
In April 2013, NOW: Pensions became the first master trust to attain the NAPF’s new PQM Ready Standard. The benchmark shows employers that NOW: Pensions is a well governed pension scheme with low charges and good member communications.
In January 2015, NOW: Pensions achieved independent assurance of scheme quality in accordance with the new master trust assurance framework AAF02/07 introduced by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) in conjunction with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).
The NOW: Pension Trustee Directors, whose role is to safeguard the interests of members, comprises well-known industry figures with different areas of expertise:
- Jocelyn Blackwell, founding partner Dunnett Shaw
- Christopher Daykin, former Government Actuary
- John Monks, member of House of Lords and former General Secretary of ETUC and TUC
- Win Robbins, former Head of European Fixed Income at Barclays Global Investors
- Nigel Waterson, former Shadow Pensions Minister
Charges are just £1.50 per month administration charge (reduced administration charge of £0.30 – £1.00 to be applied during auto enrolment phasing for lower earners) plus a 0.3% annual product investment management charge, with no hidden charges.