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Pension regulator vows to use its powers

Pension regulator vows to use its powers

As head of the The Pensions Regulator (TPR), which oversees trust-based pension schemes in the UK, Lesley Titcomb will have her work cut out as more businesses begin auto-enrolling staff this year. She told New Model Adviser® about her priorities for the next 12 months and what advisers and trustees can do to help.

What key goals have you set for 2016?

For the moment, our first priority, as it was in 2015, will be to maintain the successful roll-out of automatic enrolment. However, we are realistic that the next 12 months will bring a different challenge in the shape of the many small and micro-employers yet to meet their duties. 

Are the demands of auto-enrolment manageable for small businesses that face staging dates in 2016?

Our key message is, don’t ignore the workplace pension: it’s the law. Doing nothing means you could be subject to compliance action.

Between January and March this year, nearly 100,000 employers will need to enrol employees into a pension. The vast majority will meet with their duties on or ahead of time, but we do expect to use our statutory powers more in the months to come.

Does the lack of a single pensions regulator lead to confusion for consumers, providers and advisers?

There is no evidence that consumers have been disadvantaged by the lack of a single pensions regulator.

We recognise that the laws governing trust and contract-based schemes are quite distinct and the legal frameworks that govern the operation of TPR and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) [which regulates contract-based schemes] are very different.

However, these differences would not be removed simply by creating a single regulator for pensions in one place. Lines of responsibility will always have to be drawn somewhere. The key thing is that, whatever the regulatory structure, regulators and related agencies work closely together in a joined-up way.

Has the multi-agency task force Project Bloom lived up to expectations when it comes to clamping down on pension liberation?

We know the people behind pension scams are shape shifters and we are alive to the risks. They are sophisticated and well organised so we have to be resourceful, tenacious and work collaboratively with government, law enforcement and other agencies.

TPR is focusing on strategic cases where we consider we can have the greatest impact with limited resources, and we are working with Bloom partners where they are better placed to take action.

Would you welcome a cap on pension exit fees?

We welcome the government’s commitment to protect pension savers from excessive early exit charges. We will work with the Department for Work and Pensions and the FCA to achieve this.

What is your pension plan?

I am in the fortunate position of having worked for employers that made excellent provision for their employees’ later life – it was a really important part of the remuneration package. As I’m 54, I’m now faced with some interesting choices. 

CURRICULUM VITAE

2015-present      The Pensions Regulator, chief executive

2013-2015            FCA, chief operating officer

2010-2013            FSA, acting chief operating officer

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