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Master trusts facing final countdown

Master trusts facing final countdown

Thirty-eight master trusts have until the end of March to apply for authorisation with The Pensions Regulator or else exit the market.

These are the master trusts that are left from an initial group of 90 players.

Since announcing its new authorisation regime for the market last year, the watchdog has authorised one master trust, received applications from 12 further providers, and has seen eight exit the market.

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A further 31 providers have notified the regulator that they intend to exit the market and will transfer their members to an alternative master trust scheme or other appropriate vehicle.

In its monthly update on master trust authorisation, the watchdog also revealed that one of the schemes has been granted an extension for applying of up to six weeks beyond the deadline.

Under the new registration process, master trusts will have to hold enough capital to cover the cost of a worst-case scenario, such as the cost of transferring their members to another scheme or of winding up, without charging members.

The government and the regulator have been discussing these rules since 2016 and have been expecting them to drive consolidation in the market.

Speaking at the Pensions Administration Standards Association annual administration conference 2019 last week (February 27) in London, Kim Brown, head of master trust authorisation and supervision at TPR, said the regulator was ready for a peak in applications.

Ms Brown also shed some light on what the regulator would consider a good motive to give an extension to a scheme.

She said: "A good reason would be a significant scheme change that is going to take place just after the window closes, as a change in key persons, or changing the scheme administrator.

"That seems like a good reason to wait until the changes take effect to submit their application."

Sharon Bellingham, senior consultant at Hymans Robertson, said it was sensible for schemes to take time to ensure a "solid and robust application" given the scale of what’s involved and what’s required in the authorisation process.

However, she added she hoped TPR was prepared for a "possible tsunami of applications which are expected ahead of the March 31 deadline".

She added: "But submitting the application is not the end of the process and it is definitely not a case of sitting back and relaxing.

"Subsequent engagement, including face to face meetings, will take place between TPR and key stakeholders involved with the operation of the master trust, as well as with the trustees.

"Equally, post authorisation, we will move into the new landscape of heightened supervision and the bar will continue to rise, and quite rightly so."