Guy Opperman resignation: Industry reaction

The industry has responded to the news that the longest-serving Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, has resigned today, marking it as “the end of a fairly long period of stability”.

“The government continues to haemorrhage high profile ministers and it is the turn of Guy Opperman today who has only just overtaken Sir Steve Webb as the longest serving pensions minister since the post was first created in 1998,” Quilter head of retirement policy, Jon Greer, said.

“This marks the end of a fairly long period of stability in the post, which has typically been a revolving door with many ministers using it as a springboard to jobs in the Treasury.

"Pensions by their very nature are long term and pension policy benefits from long standing ministers. Setting retirement policy and ensuring we have a well-functioning state pension system is a long-term project but it is unlikely we'll see the kind of stability Opperman brought for some time now. In just 24 years there have been 14 ministers with only Sir Steve Webb staying for longer than two years.”

Opperman was quick to grasp the issues in pension landscape “but progress was often hampered by the political backdrop such as Brexit, Tory infighting and the pandemic”, he added.

LCP partner and former Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, commented: "The pensions system has benefited from five years of continuity after the 'revolving door' of pensions ministers which we have seen too often in the past. It is hoped that the next minister is also given time to get things done.

"Guy Opperman deserves credit for taking things forward in key areas including a greater focus on tackling climate change and promoting new forms of collective pensions. But there is a huge agenda of unfinished business.

"We have made no progress on automatic enrolment in the last five years, policy on superfunds remains in limbo, and too many errors in state pension payments are still unresolved.

"The next minister will certainly have a full in-tray and will need a strategy to deal with the Treasury obstruction which has held up progress in pensions policy for so long."

In response to Opperman’s tweet announcing his resignation, PLSA deputy director of policy, Joe Dabrowski, replied “A real shame it has come to this. Thanks for all the energy and ambition you’ve brought to the role over the last five years.”

Meanwhile, Aviva head of savings and retirement, Alistair McQueen, tweeted: “Thank you for your leadership of pensions… Always listening. Always ambitious.”

Aegon head of pensions, Kate Smith, said that Opperman's resignation "leaves pensions in turmoil".

"He was personally leading a number of initiatives to improve pensions engagement including the pension dashboard and the pension engagement season," she continued.

"We had been expecting the government response to the DWP pension dashboard consultation with final regulations any day and everything hangs off this, including the timetable for schemes to connect to dashboards. Every day delayed puts the smooth implementation of the dashboard in jeopardy.

“Initiatives to improve member engagement with their pensions were gathering momentum. These need to continue at pace to help improve understanding of pensions.

“Crucially, the minister’s resignation could also impact the next steps for auto-enrolment, including lowering the minimum age from 22 to 18 and basing minimum contributions from the first pound, as well as finding solutions for the self-employed.

"Only this week, the Pensions Minister recommitted to implementing these in the mid-2020s, and suggested increasing the minimum contributions from 8 per cent to 12 per cent over time. All of this could now be in jeopardy.”

Pensions Management Institute director of policy and external affairs, Tim Middleton, noted that the industry had become accustomed to a period of stability under Opperman.

"His style was frequently challenging, but nobody could question his determination to achieve significant reforms within the workplace pensions sector," he continued.

"The most significant aspect of his legacy will no doubt be the establishment of the pensions dashboard, and it is unfortunate that he has been unable to follow this through to its conclusion.

“The pensions industry – and the country as a whole – must now prepare itself for a period of instability before normality is to be restored and it is likely to be some time before a new Minister is appointed. However, Mr Opperman’s successor will inherit a pensions sector that has benefited from years of prudent stewardship marked by reform and development. We extend our best wishes to Mr Opperman for whatever the future holds for him.”

B&CE, provider of The People's Pension, head of pensions policy, Tim Gosling, described Opperman's departure as a "loss for the pensions sector".

"During his long tenure, he’s overseen a period of genuine change and progress for pensions," he said.

"He leaves a strong legacy but also a full in-tray for his successor, including driving forward automatic enrolment and launching pensions dashboards.”

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