by in effect briefing against the Pension Regulator’s direction of travel, the government risks making it a lame duck. The longer this continues, the more the regulator’s credibility will be diminished.
It is an extraordinary statement but one based on the very apparent differences between the Mansion House reforms and the Pension Regulator’s DB Funding Code. While the Funding Code aims to get schemes ready for buy-out or make them immune from market risk, the Mansion House reforms urge pensions to take on more risk and go for growth.
Toby’s asking the Government to make its mind up to back TPR
if the events of last year have taught us anything, it’s the importance of institutional credibility
I agree, we need a thriving Pension Regulator that is aligned to Government and has the respect of all its stakeholders – especially Government
Can the Government have the cake without eating TPR?
I think it can and the key is that TPR has new management who want a “new mindset”.
The old mindset, represented by the Funding Code is founded on the twin objectives of protecting the promise to members and protecting the PPF from bad actors in the corporate space. These objectives have been met and the Pension Regulator is now not so much a lame duck as a fat duck.
With 900 staff and an enlarged budget, the Pension Regulator has been given new powers only two years ago. It is , by any foreign comparison a well- heeled regulator. It should be an agent of Government and not in conflict with it, it has the capacity and resource to take on board change and react to it.
And Government has the right to have a say in the purpose of our pension system, as Toby Nangle says.
Private occupational pensions owe their existence to their privileged place in the tax system, so while schemes exist to serve their members, it is not unreasonable to look to them for wider public benefit.
The Government is the agent not the enemy of the people, what it wants should be aligned to what people want and need and as an arms length Governmental body, the Pension Regulator objectives should be in alignment with Government and the people.
The Pension Regulator has the resource to change and the reason to change. So will it change?
Too big to change?
I have heard it said , by those close to the Pensions Regulator, that CEO Nausicaa Delfas has bitten off more than she can chew. That the Pension Regulator’s not for turning – it is too big to change.
But the big projects that TPR is engaged in, VFM, CDC, Superfunds , DB and DC consolidation and the review of at retirement choice architecture for workplace pensions, does not need TPR to turn, it needs it to be open to new ideas.
While I agree with Toby that the DB funding code is at odds with the direction of the Mansion House Reform, it can be adapted to accord with the new mindset. The choices open to weaker DB schemes are currently limited to the Fast Track, where sponsors are required to meet Trustee demands for funding against low-risk investment objectives.
A simpler alternative might be to innovate and allow Trustees to find commercial partners prepared to risk share so that a DB scheme can – over time – pay pensions out of improved funding. This may sound like consolidation through superfunds, but it could also be achieved through capital backed journeys, where the market is prepared to provide a contingent asset to allow schemes the freedom to take on risk.
I hope that when she speaks in a couple of weeks to the PLSA conference, she will speak with the same vivacity and clarity as we have heard from her thus far. I hope she will express a willingness to use current powers to enable the Mansion House reforms to happen.
The market will find a way.
A strong stock of occupational pension schemes is essential to the implementation of the Mansion House Reforms. Not only are these schemes capable of taking on productive assets , but they continue to use gilts as their primary means to match liabilities. Insurers do not invest in gilts and do not invest in productive capital of the type the Chancellor wants and needs.
While superfunds are the logical conclusion to the consolidation challenge, they may not be acceptable to other factions within Government – notably the Bank of England and its regulator. So we may see the market repurposing DB master trusts and achieving similar outcomes – albeit not so elegantly.
There is no shortage of capital prepared to stand behind the revival of ambition among DB schemes to pay pensions and not to pay an insurance premium to buy-out.
The alternative for the Pensions Regulator to being a lame duck, is to be part of a new vision that has DB and DC schemes working to a common purpose – to pay an income for life that gives people dignity in retirement.