Not clueless but powerless

In one of the most bizarre episodes of my working life, I found myself hanging up my coat while agreeing with the Pension Regulator a redaction to yesterday’s blog. As I spoke , I bumped into the man I had come to listen to, Sir John Sawers, former chief of the Secret Intelligence Service  and the man at the helm when Edward Snowden caused his mischief.

It was as if the Monty Python finger had emerged from the cloud and pointed at me!

For what it’s worth, John Sawers is a charming and urbane man and I am quite sure that the superior security we enjoy in the UK is to no small measure down to having better intelligence than our European counterparts. It’s thanks to people like him- choosing to work for the public good, rather to maximise private gain, that we live in such a damned nice country.

I’ll say much the same for Andrew Warwick-Thompson who I am sure could feather his nest a lot more easily by working for a City law firm than by working for tPR – which is why when he phones me up, I listen and generally agree with what he’s up to

The change to yesterday’s blog is as follows


The Regulator is not able to articulate a cogent strategy for regulating pop-up mastertrusts


The Regulator is powerless to articulate a cogent strategy for regulating…

I agree with tPR that they’ve been banging on about the miscreant master-trust, as well as the perennial losers- the hapless occupational schemes that do no good – not through malice, but through a lack of resource.

There should be a massive cull of inefficient occupational schemes – the vast majority of which, are sitting under the regulatory responsibility of “AWT”.

But good intentions have led us nowhere, as the arcane structure of pension regulation has led to a department with little knowledge of UK financial services (DWP) being in charge of workplace pensions – because of the auto-enrolment project. Meanwhile, a department that has a deep understanding of the UK financial services industry – the Treasury, has minimal responsibility for the regulation of workplace pensions through its Regulator- the FCA.

The regulation of workplace pensions and the advice that informs the public of which of the small pool of good workplace pensions is right for them, properly sits with both tPR and FCA and the sooner they work as one in ensuring the 1.8m employers still to engage with Workie – the better.

The absurd carousel of choice

If I were asked to give an example of  the complete breakdown of prudent regulation in the UK, I would without hesitation point to the list of providers currently promoted by the Regulator on its website

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 07.29.25

The order in which these schemes appear is – I am told – rotated so that none of these providers obtains an unfair advantage over another in the division of new business.

For – and this is confirmed by the Providers, those providers which appear at the top of the list are chosen more than those appear at the bottom of the list.

This totally zany way of regulating the sale of workplace pensions is acknowledged and legitimised by all parties in what must be the most bizarre and perverse distribution pacts in history.

Powerless not clueless

The Pensions Regulator is not clueless, the Pension Regulator claims it is powerless to do things any better.

This is almost certainly the case.TPR has no power to influence DWP and the DWP is being absolutely hopeless about informing the public.

The public – the 1.8m employers like the Berkshire Farmer in yesterday’s blog, Know nothing about which of these providers is right for them. They are asking for a search engine which will get them the right pension and not leave them powerless when employees ask them –

“Why in heavens name did you choose that lot?”,

The answer

Because they were the first name I came to when I looked at the Pensions Regulator’s list

…is unlikely to do.


Help for the Berkshire Farmer

We can and should do better than this. Harriet Baldwin is conducting FAMR – the Financial Advice Market Review. This gross misrepresentation of the choices employers have when choosing their pension should be one of the first things on her list to review.

For the record, there are search engines that exist that for a small financial fee, will guide employers to a workplace pension that matches the needs of their payroll, their staff and which can be purchased quickly and at a stated cost.

The Berkshire Farmer is Powerless and Clueless

The Pension Regulator is Powerless

The DWP and Treasury are behaving as if they were Clueless.

Please can the DWP and Treasury get together and come up with a strategy . Can they empower the FCA and tPR to work together to deliver it and can we have something better than the absurd carousel of choice, so that the remaining 8 million employees joining workplace pensions- join the right workplace pensions!


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Not clueless but powerless

  1. Phil Castle says:

    Good retraction Henry and well explained. Can I just point out it was very similar with the judge with the Hughes v Royal Case. The Law makes the judge powerless to give a decision other than the legal one. What I am arguing in the Hughes V Royal case as many others are is that the dinosaurs insurers are overstepping the law (adding in words to statute which simply are not there). There reason for doing so is debatable as it is not only preventing pension liberation (a laudable but unlawful effort on the part of many providers), but due to lack of due diligence on the part of the Dinosaurs is also preventing the legitimate and legal rights of NON liberation transfers to SSAS when a transfer to a SIPP or PPP could not even attempt to be blocked in the same way.
    Change the rules LEGALLY, not by a simple refusal to act legally or face the consequences (as some insurers will now be doing shortly following the Hughes v Royal ruling as Royal had a better case than Scot Wids to and they were found to be wrong in law on appeal.

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