Charles Counsell will be stepping down as chief executive of the Pensions Regulator in 2023, as he will not be seeking a second term at the watchdog’s helm.
Counsell took up the post of CEO in April 2019 and will step down at the end of March 2023. He had previously spent six years at TPR as executive director for automatic enrolment.
TPR’s chair Sarah Smart will lead the search for a successor, which will have to be approved by the Department for Work and Pensions.
During Counsell’s leadership, the regulator made progress in the implementation of its new legislative powers under the Pension Schemes Act 2022, which provided the watchdog with new grounds to issue contribution notices, creating new criminal and civil offences and broadening its investigatory powers.
During his tenure, TPR has also worked with Financial Conduct Authority to help drive better value for money for savers, agreeing to push for a “consistent and structured” approach in the proposed new value for money framework governing defined contribution schemes, shifting the focus away from costs and towards “long-term value for pension savers”.
The regulator also brought a number of high-profile prosecutions and enforcement cases under Counsell’s direction, such as Norton Motorcycles, which has been the target of criticism by the chair of the Work and Pensions committee Stephen Timms, and was recently successful in a case which saw a pair of fraudsters jailed for a total of 10 years after a £13.7mn pension scam.
Counsell noted that his time as TPR’s CEO “has been tremendously rewarding”.
“In the face of rapid legislative change, and against a backdrop of the pandemic and challenging economic conditions, I am immensely proud of the work we have delivered. It has been a huge privilege to work with so many dedicated and passionate colleagues”.
He stressed that the watchdog’s 15-year corporate strategy “is well-embedded and has led to a fundamental shift in our focus to embrace the changing face of pension saving”.
“From April 2023, there will be an excellent opportunity for a new chief executive to take the strategy into its next phase. I am confident TPR will ensure that the needs of savers, at all stages of their pension journeys, remain the driver of how we operate, underpinned by our priorities for value for money, security and scrutiny of decision making.”
Counsell said he remains fully committed to his role until the end of his mandate.
“There is much to do in the next months, from consulting on our new [defined benefit] code, working with trustees to prepare for dashboards and pushing on with our work to improve scheme governance and value for money in line with the gathering pace of consolidation.”
Smart added that Counsell “played a pivotal role in reshaping TPR as an organisation which, at its heart, is now focused on ensuring savers have the best chance of realising the retirement outcomes they deserve”.