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Clearer, quicker, tougher

Clearer, quicker, tougher

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Ever since the Pensions Regulator adopted its clearer, quicker, tougher approach to regulation it has tried to make sure its expectations of trustees and employers are clear and more directive. It is an approach which appears to have largely worked and which it is difficult to find fault with.

As with every other organisation COVID-19 has proved a major bump in the road and the Regulator was quick to react and rethink its plans for 2020-21, issuing a series of guidances and relaxing, where it felt able, the regulatory regime for a limited period of time.

However, this is a Regulator which is growing both in terms of size and remit.  The Pension Schemes Bill is in the process of extending its powers still further and it is determined, according to its Chief Executive Charles Counsell, not to be blown off course by COVID-19 and to ensure that its expectations of trustees and employers are crystal clear.  It is focussing not so much on the short term but on what it wants to achieve in the next 15 years.

Its Corporate Plan for 2020-21 sets out the Regulator’s priorities for the year ahead and we can expect to see targeted regulatory interventions, further improvements to the standards of trusteeship and continued emphasis on ensuring compliance with the automatic enrolment regime. priorities for the year ahead.

The Regulator has been in place for 15 years and amongst other things it has succeeded in raising the standards of pension scheme governance and this work is ongoing.  It is sensibly fully committed to the pension dashboard program, and it’s done a good job policing the introduction of automatic enrolment.

It has, however, been plagued throughout that period by pension scammers.  It has tried, and through no fault of its own, not succeeded in stemming the tide of fraudsters stealing other people’s pension benefits.  If the government don’t put their shoulder to the wheel this problem is not going to get solved.  If the last 15 years have shown us anything, it is that the Regulator and those of us in the pensions industry involved in the fight against pension scammers don’t have sufficient powers, or sufficient support from the likes of Action Fraud or HMRC, to stop this criminal activity. It’s time to stop playing catch-up and start aggressively targeting the pension scammer problem. Otherwise we are going to be in the same position at the end of the next 15 years.  Playing around at the edges of the problem is not going to work; we need to begin to think the unthinkable as we had to do with COVID-19.

Let’s get clearer, quicker and tougher with criminals targeting pension benefits.

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