Defined benefit (DB) trustees should make greater use of the flexibilities within regulations, The Pensions Regulator's (TPR) chief executive has said.
Speaking at the Eversheds annual conference on 1 December, Lesley Titcomb said she was "surprised" trustees and sponsoring employers did not explore a wider range of solutions.
Titcomb said the regulator would welcome hearing alternative ideas for DB rescue plans.
"We have at times been a little surprised that employers and trustees do not make greater use of the flexibilities that are built into the framework," she said. "I've heard anecdotally financial directors or advisers say ‘the regulator wouldn't like that'.
"But we want to emphasise that we are open to innovative ideas; we recognise the risks and challenges."
The chief executive also agreed 2016 had been a tough year, but cited an inscription in the assembly hall of Church House - where the conference was held - when arguing 2016 had "not been all that bad".
"Are we rejoicing in gladness or enduring the heat of the conflict?" Titcomb asked. "I think it is both."
She said the Pensions Schemes Bill, introduced to parliament in October, would "build confidence in pensions", but also noted 2016 had included "a level of public scrutiny that we have not seen before".
"Our analysis does not support the argument that there is a widespread affordability issue, which is what we are principally concerned with," she continued. "There is a wider debate about the affordability of paying so much into DB schemes, and over the questions of intergenerational fairness.
"But we also need to recognise that these failures are unlikely to happen all at once. The level of risk they pose to the [Pension Protection Fund] are in a manageable range".
Titcomb also reaffirmed the regulator's view that it was not its job to intervene where businesses were struggling.
"Business failures are a normal part of the economic cycle," she added. "It is not our role to rescue failing business. We focus very specifically on the security of members' benefits and protecting the PPF by trying to secure robust funding arrangements whilst recognising sponsors need to be able to grow their businesses.
"We are committed to working closely and constructively in difficult cases to reach the best available outcome."
The comment comes after it had been suggested, on multiple occasions, that the regulator should have been more greatly involved in the sale of British Home Stores (BHS) in order to prevent the subsequent collapse of its pension funds.
Titcomb also confirmed an updated guide of its expectations of trusteeship would be published in the next few weeks.
"We intend to be much clearer about our expectations of trustees; clear on the factors that really concern us, and clear on the point at which we expect to pivot from education and enabling to enforcing."
However, she said the regulator was not seeking "to move to a professional trustee model".
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