TPR Unveils ‘Tougher Approach’ to Pension Regulation

Regulator releases three-year plan to improve UK pension standards.

UK pension watchdog The Pensions Regulator (TPR) said it is taking a “clearer, quicker, and tougher approach” to improving standards in the pensions sector.

“The pensions landscape has been changing significantly,” TPR Chairman Mark Boyle said in a release. “In the coming year, you can expect to see us being more vocal about our expectations of those we regulate and intervening quickly and decisively through our wide-ranging regulatory activity and enforcement powers.”

Outlining the initiative is TPR’s newly released corporate plan for 2018 to 2021, in which the regulator summarizes how it will focus on key areas of activity, including improving standards of trusteeship and stewardship, authorizing master trust plans, and ensuring employers meet their automatic enrollment duties.

“We continue to see changes in the wider pensions landscape that impact our organization and the industry, and create new challenges,” said the report, citing continued uncertainty in the macro economy, and a significant shift of savings into defined contribution plans. “The way we work will undoubtedly need to evolve further to reflect these and other ongoing developments in the sector.”

The report comes less than a week after TPR announced plans to crack down on employers who fail to pay pension-related fines by using high court enforcement officers to seize assets of employers who shirk their workplace pension obligations.

TPR said it will spend £4.3 million ($5.8 million) more in 2018-2019 than in 2017-2018 to go after employers who are not fulfilling their pension duties, and to launch a new anti-scams campaign to help prevent pensioners from being ripped off. TPR also plans to increase its staff by 12% during the year to handle the expected increase in workload.

The corporate plan “highlights our wide regulatory remit including ensuring employers meet their workplace pension duties,” TPR Chief Executive Lesley Titcomb said in a release.

Included among the TPR’s top priorities for the next three years are promoting good trusteeship through improving governance and administration, ensuring employers meet their ongoing automatic enrollment duties, and preparing for the impact of Brexit.

“We want to see improved standards of governance across the whole pensions landscape—no matter what type or size,” said the report. “If schemes fail to meet the basic duties, we will take action. Where schemes are unable to meet the standards of governance we expect, we will encourage them to explore consolidation into an alternative arrangement that provides good value for their members.”

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