The Department for Work and Pensions has established a working group looking at options to develop the 'statements season' proposed in its recent simpler annual benefit statements consultation.
Despite a mixed reaction from industry when DWP proposed the idea of a statement season in 2020 - which would see all workplace pension statements sent to members within a short window each year - the government is looking into ways of introducing this feature.
The DWP response to its initial consultation on simpler annual statements, published in October 2020, noted that whilst some respondents were attracted to the idea of a statement season, "others highlighted a number of issues including operational and transitional challenges, and whether this approach would clash with the trend to greater personalisation of communications".
Now, the DWP has established a working group featuring a number of industry players, with the aim of evaluating both the opportunities and the concerns of the trust-based pensions community in regards to a statements season.
Members of the group include Charlie Bramald, support and engagement team manager at Aon; Rosie Kwok, senior technical analyst at XPS Administration; Helen Ball, partner at Sackers; and Girish Menezes, board director at the Pensions Administration and Standards Association.
Pasa chair Kim Gubler said: “Benefit statements are high on the industry agenda and rightly so; the range and complexity of what has historically been provided to members is not working.
“The pensions minister is keen to standardise and simplify what’s provided to members and PASA fully supports this move.
"The proposed changes, as outlined in the DWP’s recent consultation, have far reaching consequences for pension administrators, and the formation of our Benefit Statements Working Group is in direct response to this.”
Ball, who will chair the working group, said it “will use its knowledge, skills and expertise to work through” a number of issues arising from the DWP’s proposals, including the legislative, regulatory and process changes required to implement the statements season, as well as what guidance will be needed for trustees, administrators and sponsors.
The group has already prepared an initial paper for the DWP looking at whether a single valuation date or a single publication date would be achievable for all schemes, as well as the potential for a “capacity crunch” for administrators, and how a statements season would interact with the pensions dashboard.
“It shows that we have a direct route to influence DWP strategy and represent the trust-based industry,” Menezes concluded.
Benjamin Mercer is a reporter at FTAdviser's sister publication Pensions Expert