DWP appoints Mary Starks to lead TPR review

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DWP appoints Mary Starks to lead TPR review
Mary Starks, lead reviewer for The Pensions Regulator
BySonia Rach

The Department for Work and Pensions has appointed Mary Starks to lead a review of The Pensions Regulator (TPR).

In an update today (February 13), the DWP said this is in line with the expectation that public bodies are reviewed each parliament. 

Pensions minister Laura Trott has asked Starks to aim to deliver the report in May 2023.

Stark’s previous experience includes serving as director of competition and chief economist at the Financial Conduct Authority.

She has also served as executive director of Ofgem, focused on innovation, customer behaviour and safeguarding public confidence while moving towards a net zero carbon and digitalised energy system.

Trott said: “All public bodies must ensure that they are accountable and working for taxpayers.

“Mary Starks has a background working in the regulatory sector and with public bodies, which will help her to deliver effective recommendations.”

The lead reviewer aims to identify efficiency savings of more than 5 percent where possible.

She said: “I am delighted to be appointed to lead this review. TPR plays a vital role protecting the interests of savers and ensuring employees benefit from workplace pensions.

“As well as drawing on my own regulatory experience, I look forward to hearing from stakeholders from across the pensions sector and working closely with the teams at DWP and TPR.”

Discussing the appointment, AJ Bell head of policy development, Rachel Vahey, said TPR has an important task in making sure workplace pension schemes are operating in the best way possible for pension scheme members.

She said: “It has to make sure it works closely with its sister regulator the FCA. There are many instances where the two cross paths, and it is up to both bodies to work closely together to design a robust and consistent regulatory framework, which works well on both sides of the regulatory fence.

"However, there have been instances where it has not always been the case – for example when designing a framework for stronger nudges to guidance, where we have different requirements for personal and workplace pensions."

Vahey added: “Likewise, when it comes to illustrations the FCA oversees those on point of sale documents, but illustrations included in annual statements are regulated by the DWP.

"Rather than adopt the same basis for calculating those illustrations, we are left with two systems using different methodologies and assumption to forecast the future value of an individual’s pension policy. This is clearly unhelpful for consumers, who need extra layers of pension complexity like a hole in the head."

She argued that the two regulators need to work together to develop a value of money framework for all pension plans, and roll out the implementation of pensions dashboards.