UK - Incoming Society of Pension Consultants president Robert Birmingham believes the government should push back the implementation date for the Pensions Bill to April 2006.
Birmingham says the industry needs another 12 months to prepare.But his views will anger unions and the pensions advisory service, OPAS, which want measures ahead of the scheduled April 2005 introduction of the Pension Protection Fund to safeguard scheme members’ benefits.
Birmingham – an actuary and managing director of Entegria, the pensions and employee benefits division of Hogg Robinson – succeeds Aon Consulting head of professional practice Donald Duval as SPC president in July.
Birmingham said there was already too little time for “considered decisions” to be taken if the existing 2005 implementation date remained.
He said: “It is going to be very difficult to make necessary changes having yet to see the Pensions Bill and not knowing if the tax simplification proposals are being implemented until the Budget in March.”
But OPAS technical director Des Hamilton warned of the consequences of a 12-month delay.
He said: “We don’t want to see the PPF put back another year with people left without protection if their employer goes out of business.”
Birmingham – who has been SPC treasurer for four years – also backed calls by the Institute of Actuaries for a self-regulatory regime, particularly in cases of potential conflict such as when a consultant represents both the sponsoring employer and the trustees.
He said: “The key is recognising conflicts of interest and if these become too onerous then there needs to be advice to a client and changes made.”
Birmingham said the SPC would play a key role in maintaining the equilibrium between employers, employees and government while dealing with this “avalanche” of legislation.
The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) is in the process of convening an industry-wide group to take forward the work of the Institutional Disclosure Working Group (IDWG).
The Transfers and Re-registration Industry Group (TRIG) has given its support to an initiative which aims to complete occupational pension transfers within three weeks.
Scottish Widows has completed a bulk annuity deal for the Hitachi UK Limited Pension Scheme.