Regulation  

Another four pension schemes under investigation

The Pensions Regulator has opened four fresh investigations into pension schemes that were included in a thematic review into scheme record-keeping last year, taking the number of opened investigations to 11.

The failure of more schemes to properly assess the quality of their record-keeping is a “serious issue”, the regulator warned.

While schemes that are regularly measuring their data are showing improvements, the regulator’s latest research identifies a “slow-down” in the rate at which schemes are taking action to measure their common data for the first time, with figures almost unchanged since last year’s survey.

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The research shows that while two thirds of trust-based scheme members are in schemes that have met the regulator’s ‘common data’ targets – data such as a member’s name, address, national insurance number and date of birth – a ‘ceiling’ is being reached in terms of schemes engaging with the process.

The regulator is calling on more schemes to assess the quality of their record-keeping and properly maintain data to avoid costly future administration issues.

In a strong message to scheme trustees and administrators, the regulator said “more needs to be done to ensure the right benefits are paid to members at the right time”.

Andrew Warwick-Thompson, the regulator’s executive director for DC, governance and administration, said: “It is highly disappointing to see that a proportion of schemes still do not see record-keeping as a priority.

“We will be working with schemes to improve standards but we will take action where problems become apparent to us and report publicly on the outcomes, as appropriate.”

Mr Warwick-Thompson warned that members have the right to expect to be in schemes which are well run, “which is why good record-keeping is an integral part of our codes of practice and why we will address cases of bad practice”.

He said: “Our recent thematic review unveiled a number of concerns, which led us to open new cases.

“Schemes that are measuring their common data regularly are improving their scores, highlighting the benefits of undertaking this important exercise.

“However, with the government’s legislation on quality standards coming into force in under a year, the introduction of automatic transfers, and the end of contracting out for DB schemes, it is vitally important that all schemes work closely with their administrators to really get to grips with their data and avoid problems and high costs further down the line.

“Through the record-keeping survey, and other research and analysis, we consistently see weaker governance and administration standards in smaller schemes.

“To address this we plan to overhaul our strategic approach to improving the quality and skills of the people responsible for running pension schemes.”