Current Issues – May 2024         

TPR – Annual funding statement:  TPR has released its annual funding statement for 2024, directed at trustees and sponsoring employers of defined benefit (DB) pension schemes with valuation dates between September 22, 2023, and September 21, 2024. This statement reflects on the impact of recent market changes on funding and investment allocations and encourages trustees to review their strategies, regardless of valuation status. Key highlights include substantial funding level improvements for most schemes, prompting consideration of long-term targets and exploring options like consolidation or insurance. The statement underscores the importance of employer covenant, upcoming legislation, and climate change considerations in shaping pension scheme strategies. Trustees are advised to align with forthcoming regulations and explore innovative approaches for scheme management. See the statement here.

Pensions innovation – TPR urges caution: TPR has urged a halt in the development of new retirement savings plans, expressing concerns over their member protections. In a blog, David Walmsley emphasized the need for careful consideration before introducing plans that promise defined benefit pensions to those with defined contribution savings. This cautionary stance follows the recent launch of the Pension SuperHaven, prompting regulatory review to ensure appropriate frameworks for pension savers. Mr Walmsley also went on to say that TPRs approach to the ‘profit-release’ mechanism in pension superfunds will be published shortly and that they intend to give trustees guidance on navigating alternative DB arrangements, such as capital-backed journey plans.

TPR – New corporate plan:    TPR has unveiled a new three-year corporate plan. TPR’s objective is to safeguard pension savers’ funds, enhance the pensions framework, and now, in a subtle shift, foster innovation in savers’ interests. TPR envisions an industry with fewer, well-managed schemes that provide favourable outcomes—from pension enrolment to retirement. The plan emphasises raising defined contribution (DC) standards, promoting quality consolidation vehicles (including collective defined contribution schemes), enhancing trustee standards by engaging more with professional trustees, ensuring top-notch administration services, prioritising climate change reporting, and adapting to upcoming changes in automatic enrolment, especially for younger workers.

Pension Scams Industry Group – consultation :   The Pension Scams Industry Group (PSIG) has initiated a consultation to evaluate its future direction. Margaret Snowdon OBE, highlighting that the group comprises volunteers, remarks, “We have established the benchmark, and now we must determine if our efforts suffice, if we should sustain our initiatives, or if further development is necessary.” The consultation period concludes on 31st July 2024.

Pension trustee register:   TPR plans to establish and launch a trustee register to oversee the professional trustee marketplace, which includes both accredited professional trustees and lay trustees who contribute significantly to pension schemes. It is worth noting that Atkin Trustees are already accredited professional trustees. Although accreditation for trustees is not mandatory, most professional trustees choose to be accredited. Lay trustees may also wish to consider accreditation as a valuable option for their roles within pension schemes.

Pensions Ombudsman – Annual report:   The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) published its 2022/23 annual report, revealing a 17.1% increase in complaints received. The top five complaint categories include contributions, administration, transfers, retirement benefits, and misquotes. TPO’s formal determinations upheld 33.1% of cases, partially upheld 18.1%, and did not uphold 48.8%.

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