The Pensions Regulator (TPR) deserves recent criticism over past failings, notably with Carillion, according to a narrow majority of this week's Pensions Buzz respondents.
The 97 industry professionals were also asked whether default funds for defined contribution (DC) schemes were fit for purpose, and if schemes were complacent on climate change-related financial risks.
They were also asked if defined benefit (DB) schemes should only be required to prudently fund up to Pension Protection Fund (PPF) levels of benefits, and whether scheme funding issues are starting to ease.
Recent criticism of TPR is justified, according to 46% of this week's respondents, while 39% disagreed.
It comes after MPs said they were "far from convinced" the watchdog's senior leadership was equipped to effect, what they believe, necessary change.
One respondent said: "Toothless threats were not achieving anything as Carillion and BHS showed. How many other schemes have also been left to limp along and will end up as casualties?"
Even among these people, some said criticism was aimed at the wrong things and wrong people. One said: "[This] may seem a little harsh on present incumbents, but it has a history of being difficult to deal with… and now is displaying an arrogant instead of a constructive collaborative approach."
Of those who disagreed, one argued the watchdog is an "easy target to beat up for employers', governments' and the industry's failings over many years."
Another said the regulator is not recognised for its successes, adding: "Politicians grandstanding for effect! TPR isn't perfect but not as bad as Frank Field and co make out."
The majority of respondents were unsure about whether defined contribution (DC) default funds were fit for purpose as a general rule, but agreed for their own funds.
One said: "If appropriate advice is taken, then I would expect them to be suitable." Another said this may can change frequently.
A further said: "In general yes, but I am sure there are many set up some time back which have not been reviewed."
An almost equal number of respondents agreed or disagreed. One of the 22% who said DC defaults are fit for purpose said: "Members who do not choose a fund do not deserve the amount of soul searching there is into how to invest their funds. They are very lucky the industry is so conscientious."
Of the 23% who disagreed, one argued default funds should be abolished as they "create risk-based and life plan defaults". Another said what is needed is "more thought about how the transition to retirement at age 65-70 (rather than a fixation on 55-58) can be better managed as there are more options at the end."
Two in five respondents disagreed that UK schemes are complacent on climate change-related risks after the Environmental Audit Committee found some were failing to manage the risks responsibly.
Several argued this was not the duty of trustees, with one saying: "It's not up to UK funds to ‘tackle climate change'. They do though need to be aware of the impact (positive or negative) that various measures taken by governments might have on their sponsoring employer and on assets they invest in."
Another said it was a "difficult balancing act" and questioned whether it was the trustees' responsibility or if "governments need to lead".
Just over a third agreed there was complacency, with one stating trustees can see it as a "tick box exercise", adding: "Too many trustees are of an age where they don't see it as a direct problem for them. We need younger trustees".
Almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents did not believe scheme funding issues are starting to ease. It comes after a Lane Clark & Peacock analysis found FTSE 100 schemes had an aggregate surplus on an accounting basis.
Many cautioned the analysis was just a snapshot of one particular moment, noting that the positions can change very rapidly.
"Don't count chickens until they are hatched - too early to decide," one warned.
Another added: "The distortion of bond markets by quantitative easing, ‘political' pressure on funds to liability match etc. haven't unwound yet, so how will things end up?"
"Accounting surpluses are the result of technical adjustments and a strong equity market. Both can reverse at any time. This is when trustees should be saving for a rainy day and be on guard against short-termist sponsors," another advised.
Of the 27% who felt funding issues were easing, one said a number of their schemes were now in surplus on a technical provisions basis also.
"Or, at least, the spiralling out of control has abated," another hesitated.
An overwhelming majority of this week's respondents rejected a suggestion by a Pensions Buzz peer that DB schemes should only be required to fund prudently to PPF levels.
Many pointed out the remainder of the funds would need to be paid for as the scheme matured regardless, with one stating: "Pension schemes have an obligation to pay full benefits and should be funding to a position where they can be confident of doing so. PPF benefits are a fall-back if things go wrong - the plan should be for them to go right."
Another argued this approach would be the "politics of envy" and discriminatory for those affected by the PPF compensation cap: "Those who have an entitlement to more than PPF minimum are as entitled to the best chance of having those benefits paid in full as anyone else."
Nearly two in five (18%) agreed, however, with one stating: "The whole idea of a DB scheme is that you use future growth to pay future pensions. And, anyway, experience tells me actuaries always get their figures wrong."
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