Industry gossip or genuine cause for concern?
A number of conversations I had at yesterday’s Capacity Crunch conference at the Friends of Auto-Enrolment focussed on the febrile finances of master trust arrangements.
In particular, the arrangement between the trustees and the investment administrators responsible for fund delivery and pricing.
I’m happy to say that none of these discussions related to master trusts currently being offered on Pension PlayPen’s platforms, but a strong and persistent rumour relates to the relationship between Creative Auto-Enrolment, their Creative Pension Trust and Scottish Widows.
I am regularly asked for my view on Creative Auto-Enrolment and its Creative Pension Trust and our view is that we do not have one. Not because we do not want to comment, but because we have not been allowed to do due diligence on its offering.
This is a shame, because a view is needed. Here’s a fairly typical enquiry on an accountancy website
We are a very small firm with the majority of our staging dates occurring mid 2016 onwards. Given the news about The Peoples Pension starting to charge for their setup, we have been advised by a local IFA to use Creative Auto Enrolment for the rest of our payroll clients who haven’t already setup a scheme.
I wonder if anyone …has any experience using them and could provide some feedback – positive or negative?
And here is what one accountant (authentic) has written in reply
We are going full steam ahead with Creative and are registering all our clients with them.
We had meetings with them together with our IFA and are impressed with their offering.
We have had a few clients who have staged and who have been with them for a few months.
They have developed quite a slick solution which seems to have minimised the pain. It is a plain vanilla approach so has pre-set options, which to be honest, for the typical disinterested client meets their needs perfectly.
- no set up fees or ongoing fees to the client
- they get paid out of the pot
- very easy setup
- contributions invested with Scottish Widows
- you upload your payroll file to their portal and it tells you what to deduct from who and deals with the communications
As a practice we are promoting this early – to get as many on board as we can. What we don’t want is clients all signing up with random providers who happen to cold call them and leaving us with the admin headache of having to deal with a multitude of different systems.
The bold characters are mine.I can understand the accountants views, but what if any due diligence has been done on the sustainability of the pricing and the durability of the investment proposition?
I asked Peter Glancy of Scottish Widows on the offering to Creative Auto-Enrolment earlier this week and he provided me with a straight bat. Scottish Widows provide Creative AE with an investment platform and have no part in the management of records , the administration of auto-enrolment or the governance of the trust.
But there are strong persistent rumours that the relationship between Scottish Widows and Creative Auto-Enrolment is not gong to continue.
If these rumours are based on nothing, then Scottish Widows and Creative Auto-Enrolment should make a statement confirming this.
If however, there is a problem – and I don’t want to speculate on why that problem should be, it is important that the two accountants on this thread are aware.
The point of due diligence – whether it is carried out in-house or outsourced to Pension PlayPen, Defaqto or similar is that it is based on a thorough professional examination of what is on offer.
Clearly Creative Pension Trust has decided to submit itself to Defaqto’s assessment and it has a 3 star Defaqto rating. It has not allowed itself to be scrutinised by Pension PlayPen so we have no opinion on it. We do not have an opinion on Corpad (Peak Master Trust) or on Wellness for the same reason.
Unlike other due diligence services, Pension PlayPen charges those using our due diligence, not the provider of the service. This reduces any conflict (that the rating might be influenced by price).
It also means that , when a customer pays Pension PlayPen its fee, it gets a thorough , candid explanation of what we think of the provider’s proposition.
What is happening on the thread I quote from above is not due diligence, it is simply anecdotal chit chat. Accountant A cannot rely on Accountant B’s opinion, or vice versa.
As I state on a comment I have posted myself
Creative auto-enrolment is an IFA – part of a group of companies – all with creative in their name.
Money is invested in a master trust which invests in Scottish Widows funds, it has its own charging structure similar to that of NOW.
This is a net pay scheme.
The Pensions Regulator is keen where you recommend one provider, you make sure your client knows that other providers are available and their products may be better.
I would not rely on these comments as due diligence. I would suggest you pay for a professional opinion and have it signed off by an expert.