The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has taken the right approach by naming and shaming schemes that fail to meet their obligations under auto-enrolment (AE), according to this week's Pensions Buzz survey.
The 112 respondents also answered questions on criticism of the regulator and the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) over their handling of the British Steel Pension Scheme, and whether contingent charging should be banned in the wake of unsuitable transfers.
A supermajority (83%) of respondents lauded The Pensions Regulator (TPR) for naming and shaming pension schemes which fail to meet their auto-enrolment (AE) obligations, such as by not submitting chair's statements.
One said: "It's one of the few actions that can have a positive impact on improving standards." Another added: "Of course it is. Is this not what TPR is expected to do? If you keep such misdemeanours under wraps, where is the ‘incentive' for others not to do the same?"
However, several said this was conditional, with TPR needing to be balanced, clear and consistent.
Only one in 10 disagreed, with one stating: "I've yet to be convinced that - apart from being an ego trip that TPR can show to the Department for Work and Pensions that it is doing something - such naming and shaming powers have any impact."
A further respondent argued it was pointless if the breach was accidental, but too lenient if deliberate or due to negligence.
Of the 7% unsure, one said schemes should have a right of reply or to appeal before being named.
A majority (51%) of this week's respondents agreed the Work and Pensions Committee's (WPC) criticism of the way The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) handled the British Steel Pension Scheme was warranted.
One who agreed said: "TPR and PPF can't step in all the time to second-guess trustees, but in this situation there should have been more resource put to making sure the members were not victimised."
Another added that TPR and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) were "watching the wrong game" while a further said the process "sounds like a fiasco to me!"
Yet, nearly a third (32%) disagreed, with one arguing: "Frank Field had made his mind up, well in advance of any factors of evidence. I see lots of gibberish calling him a ‘pensions sheriff' - if so, his policy would be shoot first, ask questions later."
Another added the WPC was "politically motivated" while a further said it was just the FCA that should be criticised for its oversight of the "dodgy transfer advice".
Three in five respondents agreed the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) should ban contingent charging for pensions transfer advice, where advisers are only paid if the transfer goes ahead.
Some said the charge was "commission by another name" while another commented: "No advisers should ever be incentivised to give specific advice. They should be exercising their judgement entirely in the interests of their clients."
A further added: "Transfer advice is a mess but, if advisers only get paid on a successful outcome, that makes the mess even messier."
Just 14% of respondents disagreed, with one arguing: "On balance, no - it risks denying those who need the advice from accessing such. FCA should look at controls and set a sensible cap. It's not just that it is contingent charging but that it is not on a fixed fee basis."
Over a quarter (26%) were unsure, with one saying: "I can see that the current systems offer some perverse incentives but I am not sure that making advice more expensive overall is the answer."
A small majority (51%) of respondents agreed the FCA needed to increase its action against poor independent governance committee (IGC) chair's statements after a ShareAction analysis found many lacking in detail.
One said: "IGCs are currently not ruffling feathers with providers even when there are clear issues. However, the issue is the IGC doesn't have the power to make changes."
Another commented that TPR and the FCA needed to be more joined-up in their enforcement over both contract- and trust-based schemes.
A third respondent added: "Either the guidelines are met in full or they are not. The miscreants need correcting."
Yet a quarter disagreed, with some describing the statements as a "box-ticking irrelevance". Others said more time needs to be given, or a further assessment of IGC roles is needed first.
"I suspect that very few people read them and those that do probably don't understand them," commented another. "Why waste time with boilerplate compliance bump? Concentrate instead on communications that are targeted, relevant and actionable."
Schemes themselves have the most positive effect on pensions, according to a majority (51%) of respondents. The next closest, with just over a quarter (27%) was employers, while politicians languished in last place with 2%.
Of those who selected schemes, one said: "Trustees of pension schemes will continue to lead other disciplines, because they have a true responsibility." Another added: "For the most part, trustee boards are an earnest and diligent bunch."
One who opted for employers argued "these Ponzi schemes would have collapsed by now" if employers had not been financially backing the scheme, while another said: "Without their willingness to do more than simply nominal AE, there would be considerably less saved and we would have a bigger issue."
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