Workplace pension provider Now: Pensions has received a £70,000 fine by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) due to administrative issues with collecting contributions, and to failing to communicate these problems to members.
The watchdog fined the company’s trustee £50,000 in November for “failing to ensure that all employee and employer contributions were collected and invested promptly over the period from 6 April 2015 to 8 August 2017”, it said.
In January 2018, TPR issued a second fine, of £20,000, due to the trustees failing to keep some members properly informed.
Now: Pensions is the third largest auto-enrolment provider in the country, with 1.5 million people saving into its scheme.
The regulator has also determined that Now: Pensions trustee must complete a number of steps to fix the “long-running issues” of its pension scheme, by specific deadlines over the period to July 2018.
To guarantee this, TPR issued a third-party notice to the provider’s trust manager, Now: Pensions Ltd (NPL).
In July, the provider withdrew itself from the regulator’s list, which signposts employers to schemes that have obtained an independent audit of their governance standards and controls.
At the time, TPR expressed concerns about the governance and administration of the scheme, including delays processing some contributions and communicating with a portion of members.
According to the provider, the administration problems started when Now: Pensions received inaccurate, incomplete or missing payroll data from employers – such as a missing date of birth, National Insurance number or information relating to the wrong pay period.
“This data has been held in our system and hasn’t been able to move forward to the next stage where it’s verified and ultimately invested,” it said.
Troy Clutterbuck, Now: Pensions interim chief executive, argued that the firm has reviewed and improved its processes and controls to stop this from happening again.
He said: “As part of this, NPL has invested more than £4m in our own market-leading auto enrolment system called the Now: Pensions Gateway.
“Over 85 per cent of our clients are already on Gateway and the platform ensures that poor quality or incomplete data is not accepted and that employers receive immediate detailed feedback as to the reasons why so that the data can be correctly and successfully resubmitted.
“All remaining clients will be moved onto this system by April and it is working extremely well.”
According to Nigel Waterson, chair of trustees at the provider, all the money received from employers and employees “is completely safe”.
He said: “We’ve analysed each and every member record and if a member has experienced a delay, we will make sure we put them back in the same position they would have been in had their contributions been processed in a timely manner.
“Our average pot size is £385 so the typical adjustment will be less than £2. Our approach to doing this has been shared with the regulator and approved by an independent actuary.”
The provider said that he penalties will be paid by the company and will not come out of members’ funds.