Strategy for regulating defined contribution pension schemes

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1 Strategy for regulating defined contribution pension schemes From April 2015, new pensions legislation came into force which directly affects this strategy. We will consult on any proposed revisions to this strategy. The Occupational Pension Schemes (Charges and Governance) Regulations 2015, are referred to in this strategy as the charges and governance regulations. These regulations mean that schemes offering money purchase benefits (subject to certain exceptions) will have to meet new requirements. Members with DC pensions now have more options as to how they take their retirement savings, which we refer to as pensions flexibility. The introduction of pensions flexibility means that trustees obligations towards members at retirement have also changed. This strategy was produced in advance of the new changes and should be read accordingly. We have produced guides that summarise the new duties for DC schemes brought about by these changes which you should refer to in the first instance: gov.uk/new-dc Trustees should seek their own legal advice about how the new requirements affect their particular scheme. April 2015

2 Contents page 1. Executive summary 3 2. Purpose of this document 4 3. Regulation of DC pension schemes 5 4. Our strategy for occupational DC trust-based pension schemes 9 5. Our strategy for work-based personal pensions Measuring the impact of our DC regulatory strategy 18 Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 2

3 1. Executive summary Millions of workers will join a pension scheme for the first time as part of automatic enrolment, but for many this will not be an active decision. Most will rely on someone else to look after their interests and choose products that are built to deliver good member outcomes. Our core aim is to ensure that all defined contribution (DC) members are placed in schemes that are effectively governed, durable and offer value for money. This document provides an overview of our strategy for regulating DC pension schemes it explains how we approach the regulation of DC pension schemes to promote good governance and administration in all DC schemes. This includes occupational DC trust-based pension schemes and work-based personal pensions (commonly referred to as contract-based schemes). We believe that all work-based DC pension schemes should be designed and managed to deliver good member outcomes. The regulatory framework should offer similar levels of protection for members regardless of the type of scheme selected. Good quality DC pension schemes should meet our six principles. These principles are underpinned by DC quality features that encapsulate those activities, behaviours and control processes that are more likely to deliver good member outcomes. The DC quality features frame our regulatory strategy for both occupational DC trust-based schemes and work-based personal pensions. Our strategy for occupational DC trust-based schemes is to educate and enable those involved in their provision to meet the standards we expect and, where necessary, to enforce. Our enablement strategy includes providing a range of tools to enable trustees and employers to assess the extent to which their scheme delivers good member outcomes. This includes the introduction of a master trust assurance framework and governance statements following a comply or explain approach. We share the task of regulating work-based personal pensions with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Our strategy for work-based personal pensions is to work closely with employers, providers and the FCA to ensure that there are consistent quality standards and levels of member protection across all work-based DC pension arrangements. We will evaluate the impact of our regulatory strategy by measuring our performance in a number of ways. This will include assessing the degree to which our quality features are embedded in schemes and measuring the results of interventions we make, for example through educational activities or in individual cases. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 3

4 2. Purpose of this document This document provides an overview of our strategy for regulating DC pension schemes. It explains how we approach the regulation of DC pension schemes to encourage and support the establishment and use of effectively governed, well-administered and durable DC schemes that meet the standards we expect. This document: sets out our regulatory strategy for occupational DC trust-based schemes and how we will educate, enable and enforce sets out our regulatory strategy for work-based personal pensions (which we share the task of regulating with the FCA) and how we work with providers, employers and the FCA outlines how we will monitor the impact of our regulatory strategy. This strategy is not a comprehensive list of our regulatory activities. These activities include codes of practice, guidance, toolkits, information and targeted campaigns to communicate our regulatory expectations to the regulated community and other key audiences. Documents containing further details of these are referenced throughout the strategy and our website ( should be used as the primary reference point for those requiring detailed information about our full range of activities. This document replaces the approach to the regulation of DC schemes set out in Regulatory strategy: Delivering successful automatic enrolment The Pensions Regulator s approach to the regulation of employers and schemes. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 4

5 3. Regulation of DC pension schemes There are two regulators of work-based DC pensions The Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The Pensions Regulator was established under the Pensions Act 2004 to regulate work-based pensions. We are an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Our statutory objectives include to: protect the benefits of members of occupational pension schemes protect the benefits of members of personal pension schemes where direct payment arrangements are in place promote, and improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes 3.1 Regulatory approach We approach our regulatory strategy drawing on three important principles: to support the market to deliver good outcomes for members of DC schemes and provide quality schemes for automatic enrolment to deliver a robust and proportionate regulatory framework that focuses on key risks in DC schemes and supports regulatory intervention where there is inadequate attention paid to these risks to intervene and enforce only where the market appears unable to deliver good member outcomes unaided. Note The Occupational Pension Schemes (Charges and Governance) Regulations 2015 introduce one exception to this discretionary approach to using our enforcement powers. Each year, trustees must publish a chair s statement in their annual report and accounts that confirms how they have met the governance standards set out in the regulations and confirm that they have done so in their scheme return. Trustees who do not comply with the requirement to complete this statement are subject to a mandatory fine of between 500 and 2,000. More information about the requirements introduced by the charges and governance regulations can be found here: Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 5

6 3. Regulation of DC pension schemes 3.2 Market segmentation We will deliver a robust and proportionate regulatory strategy that focuses on the key risks in different segments of the DC market. Our regulatory strategy for DC is built on the belief that all work-based DC pension schemes should be designed and managed to deliver good member outcomes. The regulatory framework should offer similar levels of member protection, regardless of the type of scheme selected. This includes all five segments of the DC market that we have identified: master trusts 1 large employer-sponsored schemes with 1,000 or more members small and medium sized schemes with between 12 and 999 members micro schemes with between 2 and 11 members work-based personal pensions (contract-based schemes) However, we recognise that our strategy may need to be applied in different ways in relation to different sections. Section 4 of this document addresses the first four of our market segments and Section 5 addresses the fifth segment. Note The charges and governance regulations introduce some specific new requirements that for what are termed relevant multi employer schemes 2. Masters trusts are included in this definition. We outline these new legal requirements in our essential guide: 1 We define a master trust as an occupational trust-based pension scheme established by declaration of trust which is or has been promoted to provide benefits to employers which are not connected and where each employer group is not included in a separate section with its own trustees. Employers are connected if they are part of the same group of companies (including partially owned subsidiaries and joint ventures). 2 The regulations define a relevant multi employer scheme as a scheme in which some or all of the employers using the scheme (the participating employers ) are not connected to one another, or which are promoted to employers as schemes where participating employers do not need to be connected. Some exemptions apply. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 6

7 3. Regulation of DC pension schemes 3.3 DC principles We believe that members of all work-based DC schemes should be placed in quality products that are effectively governed by competent people, durable and offer value for money. We want to see all DC schemes designed and governed in members best interests. Our six DC principles set out the key governance and design principles, which, if followed, we believe are more likely to deliver good outcomes for members. The principles sit at the heart of our DC regulatory framework. Our six DC principles Principle 1: Essential characteristics Schemes are designed to be durable, fair and deliver good outcomes for members Principle 2: Establishing governance A comprehensive scheme governance framework is established at set up, with clear accountabilities and responsibilities agreed and made transparent Principle 3: People Those who are accountable for scheme decisions and activity understand their duties and are fit and proper to carry them out Principle 4: Ongoing governance and monitoring Schemes benefit from effective governance and monitoring through their full lifecycle Principle 5: Administration Schemes are well administered with timely, accurate and comprehensive processes and records Principle 6: Communications to members Communication to members is designed and delivered to ensure members are able to make informed decisions about their retirement savings Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 7

8 3. Regulation of DC pension schemes 3.4 DC quality features The six DC principles are underpinned by 31 detailed DC quality features that represent the standards of governance and administration we expect those running schemes to attain. They encapsulate those activities, behaviours and control processes that are more likely to deliver good member outcomes. A list of the DC quality features can be found at: The DC quality features frame our regulatory strategy for both occupational DC trust-based schemes and work-based personal pensions. We expect to see them present in all DC schemes. We intend to review the DC Code, related guidance and the quality features in discussion with stakeholders in due course. Trustees must report on the statutory governance standards in their chair s statement and ensure compliance with the charge controls. The quality features broadly complement and support these as well as the previously existing legal requirements. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 8

9 4. Our strategy for occupational DC trust-based pension schemes Our strategy for occupational DC trust-based schemes is to educate and enable those involved in their provision and, where necessary, enforce. 4.1 Educating trustees Educating trustees is at the heart of our DC regulatory strategy for occupational DC trust-based pension schemes. We believe that complying with the law and incorporating good practice should preferably be achieved through education. We will continue to support trustees of all occupational DC schemes and help drive up standards of governance and administration. The online Trustee toolkit is our primary tool for educating trustees (see www. trusteetoolkit.com). We expect all trustees to be able to undertake their role competently. They must have the appropriate level of knowledge and understanding required under the Pensions Act 2004 and we expect them to be able to demonstrate how it has been gained. One way trustees can achieve this is by completing the Trustee toolkit. However, other sources of the required knowledge and understanding are available. We will use our website to provide user-friendly guidance and support for trustees involved in managing DC schemes. It will direct trustees and pensions professionals who require more comprehensive information to resources including relevant codes of practice, guidance, interactive tools, policy statements and the Trustee toolkit. Note The charges and governance regulations introduce a new requirement for trustees to explain how they have satisfied themselves they have sufficient knowledge, understanding and competence to run their scheme in their annual chair s statement. Our essential guide to these changes provides more information at: Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 9

10 4. Our strategy for occupational DC trust-based pension schemes 4.2 Enabling the market to deliver good member outcomes Our aim is to support the market to deliver good member outcomes, and to intervene and enforce only where it appears unable to deliver these unaided. We will provide a range of tools to enable trustees and employers to assess the extent to which their scheme delivers good member outcomes so they can take action if it does not. Enabling trustees of all occupational DC schemes to demonstrate the quality features The success of automatic enrolment is dependent upon those choosing, running or participating in a scheme being confident of its quality. Given their accountabilities to scheme members, trustees will want to be sure that the standards of governance and administration that they operate are consistent with our DC principles and features. They should be able to demonstrate to their members that they have a good scheme. Schemes will want to demonstrate that they are able to meet all our DC quality features. Master trusts will also want to demonstrate to employers choosing a scheme on the open market that their scheme is of good quality. We will be reviewing the DC code, related guidance and the quality features over the next few months as a result of the new regulations. The regulations set out requirements for trustees to comply with the new charge controls and to meet the governance standards that will be reported in the chair s statement. The 31 features support and complement these requirements. Producing a chair s statement is a legal requirement. Many schemes already produce a voluntary annual statement to show how they comply with the DC code and the features within it. This does not form part of the legal requirement however schemes are free to continue to produce this voluntary statement as they wish. Trustees who find the assessment tools for the voluntary governance statement useful may of course continue to use them. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 10

11 4. Our strategy for occupational DC trust-based pension schemes Accordingly, trustees may wish to produce a governance statement explaining the extent to which their scheme has embedded the DC quality features. Trustees may wish to make the governance statement available to members and employers, for example by publishing it in the annual report and accounts or on their website. We provide an example template of a governance statement for publication on our website which trustees can adapt to reflect the specific circumstances of their particular scheme. This provides trustees with the opportunity to develop and embed tailored governance policies and practices. The governance statement should be produced following an assessment of the scheme. We provide a template on our website that supports ongoing assessment of the scheme. We do not expect trustees to publish the assessment but for trustee boards to use it as an opportunity to review and refresh systems and controls, monitor risks and prioritise actions. Enabling master trusts to provide assurance Given the growth in master trusts that is expected as a result of automatic enrolment, the market entry level for master trusts should be set high enough so that only providers with durable business models are able to participate in automatic enrolment. In addition to producing a governance statement, we expect master trusts to obtain independent assurance to further demonstrate the presence of governance and administration standards. that meet the DC code and DC regulatory guidance. Our strategy is to develop, with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the audit profession and master trust providers, an independent assurance framework for master trusts. Governance statements and the assurance framework are complementary. The governance statement will address all 31 quality features, which we expect to be embedded in master trusts. Assurance will provide an independently verified focus on the presence of those DC quality features that address a range of risks in master trusts and are suitable for this type of assurance through control objectives. We will monitor the effectiveness of the independent assurance framework. We expect independent assurance to be carried out annually by all master trusts. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 11

12 4. Our strategy for occupational DC trust-based pension schemes Enabling employers to choose a good scheme It is important that employers know how to identify a good quality scheme that can enable them to meet their automatic enrolment duties. We will continue to use our website and automatic enrolment communications to help deliver information to employers to enable and support them to select a good quality scheme. If they are choosing a new scheme, this is most likely to be a master trust or work-based personal pension. However, there are other types of scheme which may be able to demonstrate that they meet our expectations on quality. Our employer communications will also encourage employers with an existing scheme to challenge the trustees to demonstrate how it meets our expectations on quality. We will also provide materials for advisers such as accountants and independent financial advisers. These are produced to help advisers to direct their clients to good quality schemes. We will encourage large, well-resourced employers that use a large-scale multi-employer scheme, such as a group personal pension or master trust, to set up an employer management committee. This will help these employers to take a more active role and can help to ensure the scheme is better run and lead to a more comfortable retirement for their workers. By encouraging the take up and use of good quality schemes that deliver good member outcomes we hope to raise standards across the DC market. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 12

13 4. Our strategy for occupational DC trust-based pension schemes 4.3 Considering enforcement action Although most trustees will want to deliver good outcomes for members and comply with pensions legislation, there will be some who do not fulfil their responsibilities. We regard non-compliance as unacceptable. Our enforcement approach for occupational DC trust-based schemes consists of three activities: monitoring: gathering information to help us identify and monitor risks of non-compliance with legal requirements investigating: assessing whether further action is required making decisions: determining which enforcement options to use to resolve problems we have identified. If a trustee or other person responsible for administering the scheme fails to comply with their legal requirements, we will consider our enforcement options and where necessary take formal action. Note The Occupational Pension Schemes (Charges and Governance) Regulations 2015 introduce one exception to this discretionary approach to using our enforcement powers. Each year, trustees must publish a chair s statement in their annual report and accounts that confirms how they have met the governance standards set out in the regulations and confirm that they have done this in their scheme return. Trustees who do not comply with the requirement to complete this statement are subject to a mandatory fine of between 500 and 2,000. More information about the requirements introduced by the charges and governance regulations may be found here: www. tpr.gov.uk/new-dc We will set out the details of our enforcement options and our approach to compliance and enforcement in our Compliance and enforcement policy in relation to occupational defined contribution trust-based pension schemes. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 13

14 5. Our strategy for workbased personal pensions The DC quality features are also relevant for work-based personal pensions, where the FCA and The Pensions Regulator share the task of regulating. We have worked with providers of work-based personal pensions to assess whether the DC quality features are relevant and present in good schemes. We have analysed the degree to which the FCA regime for work-based personal pensions already includes provisions that match our DC quality features. Our analysis suggests that there is a high level of alignment between the FCA s rules and regulatory expectations for providers and our regulatory expectations on scheme quality. We will continue to work closely with employers, providers and the FCA to ensure that there are consistent quality standards and levels of member protection across all work-based DC pension arrangements. 5.1 Working with employers It is important that employers know how to identify a good quality scheme that can enable them to meet their automatic enrolment duties. Employers and members should therefore be confident that those responsible for running their pension scheme meet our expectations on quality. Our strategy is to continue to use our website and automatic enrolment communications to help deliver information to employers to enable and support them to select a good quality scheme. Our employer communications will also encourage employers to challenge the providers of their existing scheme to demonstrate how it meets our expectations on quality. We will provide materials for advisers such as accountants and independent financial advisers. These will help advisers to direct their clients to good quality schemes. We will provide employers sponsoring work-based personal pensions with information on how to engage with their pension scheme, such as setting up an employer management committee. This will help large, well-resourced employers to take a more active role and can help to ensure the scheme is better run and lead to a more comfortable retirement for their workers. By encouraging the take up and use of good quality schemes that deliver good member outcomes we hope to raise standards across the DC market. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 14

15 5. Our strategy for work-based personal pensions 5.2 Working with scheme providers We will continue to work with providers of work-based personal pensions to: promote the quality of DC pension products and ensure they reduce the risk of consumer detriment understand how their compliance and governance activities operate protect the benefits of members. Our strategy is to encourage providers to use product and investment governance committees to ensure their work-based personal pension products are designed for, and continue to be suitable for, the target market, particularly for automatic enrolment. These committees are an important element in ensuring member interests are considered and protected in work-based personal pension products. 5.3 Working with the FCA The Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority recognise the scale of the challenge in effectively regulating the diverse elements that make up DC pension provision in the UK. We are committed to strengthening our ongoing work with the FCA, and both regulatory bodies sponsoring government departments, to ensure that regulation is joined up, quality standards are consistent and the regulatory framework offers similar levels of member protection regardless of how a pension is provided. Alignment of regulatory strategies and activities Each regulator separates their regulatory strategy and activities into different stages, which are informed by their powers, resources and riskbased approach. The Pensions Regulator uses an educate, enable and enforce framework, whereas the FCA s activities are broadly separated into external facing work, making rules, supervision and enforcement. Despite the different ways of describing these regulatory strategies, the activities which underlie them are broadly analogous. Figure 1 overleaf describes how each regulator s activities mirror each other from making regulatory statements and educating their regulated community to taking formal enforcement action. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 15

16 5. Our strategy for work-based personal pensions Figure 1 2 FCA The Pensions Regulator Communications/ education/ external facing work Dear CEO letters Statements of good and poor practice Joint publications with other organisations/ regulators (eg The Pensions Regulator) Memoranda of Understanding Chair of trustee communications Joint publications Memoranda of Understanding Education products (eg employers and Trustee toolkit) Setting regulatory expectation/ making rules Rulemaking Code of practice Regulatory guidance Policy statements Regulatory statements Codes of practice Regulatory guidance Supervision and investigation Day-to-day supervisory activities Thematic review and other thematic work Informal actions Monitoring how schemes meet the expectation of DC code and guidance Thematic review Informal actions Enforcement Formal action Fines Other enforcement activity and intervention Approved persons Formal action Improvement and third party notices Section 10 penalties (fines) Skilled persons reports Further to this, there is also a comparison to be made between the way that each regulator gathers information on non-compliance and how this information is progressed through internal processes to result in enforcement activity (should this be the required course of action). This is described in Figure 2 overleaf which maps how both regulators identify issues, assess the risk presented by that issue and reach a resolution either through supervision or enforcement. Figure 2 also shows the points at which the two regulators have formal interaction, such as through sharing information, sharing and aligning risks, or joint thematic review or enforcement. 2 This is not an exhaustive list of all the activities the regulators carry out but shows those activities that are broadly analogous. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 16

17 5. Our strategy for work-based personal pensions Possible joint activities Identification of problem Whistleblowing Customer contact centre Complaints tracking via Financial Ombudsman Service or Pensions Ombudsman Information shared through formal processes when breaches or issues discovered Initial exploratory contact with provider/trustee FCA through supervisory teams The Pensions Regulator through policy and/or case management Isolated incident or entity Systemic issue Further individual investigation with firm/scheme Risk assessment FCA risk maps The Pensions Regulator risk framework The Pensions Regulator/FCA joint risk group monitors shared risks No Problems identified? Yes Thematic work (industry-wide) If risks are aligned then joint thematic work would be appropriate Enforcement activity FCA through enforcement The Pensions Regulator through case team Possible joint enforcement work if WBPP arrangement involved a trustee (eg in group SIPP) Resolved Figure 2 Accessibility: for a transcript of this flowchart, see Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 17

18 6. Measuring the impact of our DC regulatory strategy We will evaluate the impact of our regulatory strategy for both occupational DC trust-based schemes and work-based personal pensions. Pensions are a long-term product and other factors over which we may have no or minimal impact, such as underlying market conditions, will strongly influence the outcomes. Therefore, we will primarily focus on measuring our performance through more intermediate results that we believe will impact directly on our ability to meet our desired long-term outcomes. The DC quality features frame our regulatory strategy. We willmeasure the degree to which the DC quality features are being embedded within schemes. This will be done through annual surveys and governance statements and, for master trusts, also through the effectiveness of the independent assurance framework. Note The work carried out by trustees to comply with the governance standards as reported in their chair s statement, their compliance with the charge control measures and their duties under pension flexibilities may also form part of any such analysis from April We will analyse data drawn from scheme returns to assess changes in the DC landscape. We will test whether the market has consolidated, with growth in large-scale provision, and assess whether trends suggest a move away from small-scale provision. We will measure the results of the interventions we make, for example through educational activities or interventions in individual cases. In addition, our key performance indicators are set out annually in our corporate plan and reported on in our annual report and accounts. These can be found on our website. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 18

19 6. Measuring the impact of our DC regulatory strategy continued Longer-term measurements Our regulatory performance should also be set in the context of the broader outcomes that the Government seeks to achieve, such as increasing pension incomes and reducing dependency on the state. We will contribute to these broader aims through our statutory objectives, but clearly there will be other influences on these outcomes. These include government activities and external factors such as wider economic and market performance. Nonetheless, we will look to monitor indicators of member outcomes over the longer term. This will help us to further test and build our evidence base about which characteristics are most important in delivering good member outcomes. Further details are set out in our corporate plan. Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes 19

20 How to contact us Napier House Trafalgar Place Brighton BN1 4DW T F E Strategy for regulating DC pension schemes The Pensions Regulator April 2015 You can reproduce the text in this publication as long as you quote The Pensions Regulator s name and title of the publication. Please contact us if you have any questions about this publication. We can produce it in Braille, large print or on audio tape. We can also produce it in other languages.

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