TPR: ‘We’ll come after employers’

In an echo of Martin Wheatley’s claim in 2012 that the FCA would work on a “shoot first and ask questions later” basis, TPR’s executive director for defined contribution said firms facing auto-enrolment should be aware that “employers need to do the right thing or we’ll come after them” .

Mr Warwick-Thomson said the regulator’s recent decision to reveal details of Dunelm Soft Furnishing’s failure to auto-enrol staff on time – and subsequent failure to contribute more than £100,000 to its employees’ pensions – was “a clear message”.

He said the regulator’s primary concern was to ensure companies were auto-enrolling employees on time.

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However, he added that the other concern was “the fitness for purpose of the thing they’re being auto-enrolled into”.

He said: “Once we move out of the phase of big employers who can justify their own occupational schemes and who probably have good governance and get into the smaller ones, we are increasingly unsure.”

Otto Thoresen, director general of the Association of British Insurers, confirmed there are “a small number” of ABI members either already active or intending to become active in the DC auto-enrolment pensions market.

He said: “They are quite clear that if they want to be part of that future world they have to be able to demonstrate their intention to do the right thing.

“The issue is not having to reinvent processes and persuading the regulator that they are already meeting standards.

“But the challenge is that it took a long time to understand just how different the auto-enrolment model was. I think that realisation is absolutely accepted now, and people are keen to do the right thing.”

Adviser view

Michael Basi, managing director of Essex-based Basi & Basi Financial Planning, said: “I think it is going to be reasonably chaotic. One of our clients whose staging date was 1 May didn’t return our calls for five months and then called on 31 April when he panicked. Effectively, we had done the work already, so we staged them in one day. But this is emblematic of the attitude we are facing.”