Consumer champ Altmann handed pensions ministry

Consumer champ Altmann handed pensions ministry

Steve Webb has been replaced as pensions minister by consumer champion Ros Altmann, a move which has been hailed widely as a positive move by the financial services industry.

Ms Altmann, who was previously the government’s older workers champion, had recently announced being offered peerage, with a role as minister with responsibility for financial consumer protection and financial education.

She was set to consider charge caps for pension products, improved rights for older consumers, especially with regard to mortgages, competition and innovation for savers and the development of Pension Wise to cover every stage of working people’s lives.

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Individuals from Old Mutual Wealth, Fidelity Worldwide Investment, Nucleus, GenLife and Sanlam called for Ms Altmann to focus on stewardship of the pension reforms, but urged against measures that would make retirement saving less attractive.

The general election saw Mr Webb and his shadow, Labour’s Gregg McClymont, lose their local seats to the Conservatives and the SNP respectively.

Jon Gwinnett, pensions technical manager for Nucleus, said: “Mr Webb, while not without fault, has been the most successful pension minister for years.

“His loss will be keenly felt. So too will that of Gregg McClymont. Together they had brought a degree of stability to pension policy outlook in the face of the Treasury’s interventions.”

However, with Ms Altmann’s career history focused on pensions and championing the rights of pensioners, including a stint as director-general of Saga, Nick Ayton, managing director for GenLife, welcomed her appointment. But he warned she would have to work hard to ensure the pensions revolution started by Mr Webb did not hit the buffers, and that consumers were protected from high charges from legacy providers.

Richard Parkin, head of retirement for Fidelity Worldwide Investment, said: “We must tackle the issue of non-advised sales which does not follow the same rigorous standards as those adhered to by financial advisers.”

Elliott Silk, head of employee benefits at Sanlam, claimed a Tory government was good news because it meant the continuation of auto-enrolment.

Others urged consumers to react to the Tory manifesto pledge to cut the pension contribution tax relief that those earning more than £150,000 could claim. Adrian Walker, retirement planning manager for Old Mutual Wealth, said: “It is worth considering making additional contributions now while tax relief matches tax paid on income.”

David Brooks, technical director for London-based Broadstone, added: “Those high earners interested in making the most of the benefits of contributing to a pension scheme should do so before the shutters come down later this year.”

Adviser view

Alex Hutton-Mills, managing director of London-based Lincoln Pensions, said: “It is time for the government to really grasp the nettle and take the politics out of pensions for the good of one nation.”