As the PLSA conference winds down and attendees return home, they will be left wondering what hasn’t happened.
A lot of debate didn’t happen because those most wanting to debate were not at the Conference. Thankfullly we had expert journo Jo on hand to report and to give a lonely Plowman a big hug on arrival (I was the Conference fringe).
There does not seem to have been much debate on Several sensitive topics – cost transparency, value for money, the conflicts of investment consultants and (most scarily) tax reform.
Delegates heard a lot about scams
but not much about remedy
Delegates will have heard that the Government are unlikely to include the self-employed in the AE review (Matthew Taylor),
and that there’s little appetite to extend the earnings band, include the young or up maximum contributions any time soon (AE working group).
They’ll have heard that we won’t be getting another pensions bill before 2020 (Charlotte Clark)
and so the Regulator will have to use existing powers (Lesley Titcomb).
They’ve heard that the dashboard is not finished but that the ABI’s wish for compulsion on data suppliers won’t be granted (Margaret Snowden) .
They’ve heard that schemes should have in-house financial advisers from the Pensions Minister (presumably to explain the complexities he and his colleagues have created).
What little discussion there was around costs and charges focussed on what should not be done with the disclosures.
In short, delegates have heard very little new which is probably just as well. There is only so much change that pensions can absorb. As the dust settles on the detonations that followed turner for a decade, this has been the quietest year for pensions I can remember .
To suppose this is business as usual would be a mistake. Many consultancies have spent the past fortnight filing CMA returns that suggest the CMA referral is going to be every bit as thorough as supposed. It was encouraging to see one forward looking consultancy looking for a way out.
Under the auspices of the FCA, the Sier working group is busy managing the disclosures that fund managers will make to trustees and IGCs so we can understand value for money. Up and down the country, we are starting a new phase of auto-enrolment where employers will have immediate duties.
What is happening is not happening at the PLSA. What is happening at the PLSA is a desire to consolidate small schemes, but this does not appear to be getting much support from Government.
What is happening?
Beware the known unknowns! The Treasury weren’t conspicuous at the Conference and with an autumn statement a month away, it’s easy to concoct conspiracy theories! Tax was the elephant in the room. Long-gone the days when pensions had any control over their tax-treatment!
We know the Dashboard is now in the hands of the DWP, where it forms part of a raft of measures to improve guidance for the advice-excluded.
We will have a statement on auto-enrolment in the w/b December 6th and we’ll finally get the DB white paper in February (much delayed). The DWP will shortly consult on the disclosure of costs and charges as part of the trustee’s duties around value for money.
What is happening is a downgrading of the pension agenda, partly as a result of Brexit but mainly because auto-enrolment and pension freedoms are being allowed to bed in. The big ticket pension problems, BHS, British Steel, Royal Mail, USS, Hoover Candy, Halcrow – are working their ways to some form of resolution. Integrated risk management is working to a degree but only to a degree.
To sum up – we are catching breath and waiting for the next set of problems to emerge! WATCH THIS SPACE