This is a big year for IGCs. It is their fifth birthday, it’s the year when the FCA reviews their effectiveness and it’s the year of the pandemic, where providers and savers will be under maximum strain.
Most of the 2020 IG reports are now published and analysed.
Click through to the IGC Chair Statement
Click through to our report
|Legal & General||https://wp.me/ppXQz-mzk|
|Friends Life||Now part of Aviva|
|BlackRock||Now part of Aegon|
|Abbey Life||Now part of Phoenix|
|Virgin Money Stakeholder Pension||https://wp.me/ppXQz-mCl|
|B&CE EasyBuild Stakeholder Pension||https://tinyurl.com/wp6quat|
|New breed SIPPs|
|Hargreaves Lansdown Vantage||https://tinyurl.com/wnkzt6u|
|Saint James Place (GAA)||https://wp.me/ppXQz-mDR|
These are extracts from our spreadsheet which contains live links to all my reviews and on to the reports themselves. If you would like a copy of the big spreadsheet , mail me at email@example.com.
Here by comparison are the 2019 scores
Here are the 2018 scores
Here are the 2017 scores
Here are the 2016 scores
Some general observations
There is an absence of red in our scoring, no report was really terrible. Indeed Hargreaves Lansdown’s – which in 2015-16 was awful, was this year one of the best- despite its IGC having no chair.
Reports are generally improving as you’d expect. But some parts of reporting aren’t improving – notably the value for money assessments – which in my opinion are regressing.
Value for money is something people understand, but the financial services industry has failed to do what Frank Field asked it to do and agree a definition which gets popular support.
Because no one can understand the various definitions of value for money, and because no common standard has emerged, VFM in pensions remains obscure and the IGCs have failed to capture interest in their reports.
But while value for money has gone backwards, the IGCs have achieved a lot. In the early days, they helped the FCA rid legacy pensions of exit penalties meaning that people over 55 are now guaranteed to pay no more than 1% as an exit fee.
IGCs have also been useful in cutting the hidden costs within pensions. The most notable example of this is in the reduction in transaction costs within Fidelity’s default fund which have reduced from around 0.4% pa to around 0.03%. IGCs have made providers think about the efficiency of their fund management and this should lead to better execution of asset management.
While the overt costs have also come down, this has been a function of competition. But we must be careful that we keep a strong market for workplace pensions and this means keeping a variety of providers in the market.
Since 2016, BlackRock has consolidated to Aegon, Friends Life to Aviva, Abbey Life and Standard Life to Phoenix and we shortly expect Phoenix to take over ReAssure who are busy consolidating Old Mutual and a part of L&G.
The consolidator of the future may well be the master trust. so far, only the B&CE Stakeholder pension – which is now within People’s Pension, has gone, but there is a large amount of consolidation between master trusts and most especially between occupational pension schemes like Tesco and Vodaphone which have merged into the Legal and General and Life-sight master trusts.
We are now seeing the master trusts rivalling the insurers for numbers of members and soon we shall see their assets catching up with the more mature GPPs and stakeholder plans in the insured and SIPP sectors.
But while it is quite easy to track down IGC reporting, master trusts are much harder to keep tabs on. IGCs publish reports in a roughly four week window (late March to late April) while master trusts publish chair statements unannounced and throughout the year.
I would like to find a way to report on the big commercial master trusts as I do the IGC reports and it may be that the pensions regulator helps me by getting the master trusts to publish around a certain data – as IGCs do.
Finally, hats off to Sir David Chapman , who as IGC Chair for Virgin Money has struggled- for five years with little success – to get the Virgin Stakeholder’s default updated. He is an IGC hero.
What future for IGCs?
The big two impending tasks for the IGCs are the oversight of their provider’s investment pathways and their integration of ESG into their investment proposition.
Right now, Covid-19 has eclipsed these prospects and we already know that the August deadline for the pathways has slipped. The IGCs reports were already written before lockdown but it’s very likely going forward that the third new task of IGCs will be helping individual savers with their disaster recovery plans.
If we can look beyond the current crisis, it’s hard to see how IGCs are going to be more effective reporting on investment pathways or ESG than they have been on the VFM of the savings process.
In order for IGCs to become popular , they are going to have to find ways to be relevant and provide personal information. This will mean helping people understand how much value they’ve got for their money – by looking at the outcomes both of the saving and spending phases of the workplace pension. Is it possible that IGCs could provide people with reports personalised to each saver and reporting on experienced performance?
Radical as this seems , it is possible in a digital world where data is readily analysable and where algorithms are in place to turn complex information into simple metrics.
As regards ESG, technology can also be the IGCs friend. It will soon be possible for software to be embedded into the investment platforms to enable savers to see through to the underlying investments of their funds. Once they can see where thier money is invested, it will be possible for them to register their views on the E, S and G , providing stewards with their voting intentions.
If IGCs are to have a role in sustaining ESG within funds, it is in encouraging people to engage in such ways and ensuring that when people make their feelings felt, they are not ignored.
Finally , I think the IGCs can have a positive role to play in getting provider data ready for the pension dashboards. The 2020 IGC reports barely mention the dashboards but I hope by 2021 , they will have got this message.
If IGCs are to encourage engagement , providing individual reporting, enabling voting intentions and encouraging participation in the dashboard infrastructure are three ways in which the IGCs (and GAAs) can really be useful.