TPR calls for continued trust amid industry support for its Covid-19 response

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has emphasised the need for continued trust in its approach, after industry research revealed that the majority of stakeholders supported the regulatory approach and easements adopted amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

TPR's Annual Perceptions Tracker Survey found that just over a quarter of pension schemes made use of regulatory easements introduced amid the pandemic, ranging from 16 per cent for deficit reduction contribution easements to 10 per cent for late payment easements.

Pension professionals were most likely to have made use of any of the easements, at 38 per cent, compared to 13 per cent of lay trustees and 12 per cent of employers.

However, this was attributed “at least partially” to the fact that 82 per cent of pension professionals were working with more than one scheme, compared to 53 per cent of employers and 20 per cent of lay trustees.

In addition to this, 79 per cent of respondents were aware at least one of the regulatory easements, with each easement rated as “very useful” or “fairly useful” by at least 93 per cent of those who made use of it.

More than two thirds (68 per cent) of respondents had read some of TPR’s Covid-related guidance, although this dipped to 51 per cent for employers, compared to 68 per cent of lay trustees and 74 per cent for pension professionals.

Seventy per cent of respondents also rated TPR’s overall response to the Covid-19 pandemic as 'very good' or ‘good’, while just 2 per cent rated it ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, which was also broadly in line with perceptions of TPR's broader approach over the past year.

The main reasons given for the positive rating were the clarity and usefulness of guidance (36 per cent), its quick reaction and response (26 per cent), the frequency and quality of our communications (20 per cent) and the regulatory easements introduced to support employers and schemes (10 per cent).

Commenting on the results of the survey in a blog, TPR director of communications, Liz Hickey, stated: “As a regulator, gaining the trust and respect of those we work with is crucial. It is essential that the industry believes what we say – from following our guidance to understanding that we will take enforcement action where we need to.

“Having the backing of our regulated community also means we can advocate effectively for them when working with government and other organisations.

“This is why we welcome the survey results which show 75 per cent of respondents rate our overall performance as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, 95 per cent believe we were trustworthy and more than 77 per cent agree we are visible, fair, clear and evidenced based."

Hickey also pointed to the findings of the regulator’s Stakeholder Perceptions Survey, which found that the “vast majority praised the decisiveness, fairness and timeliness of TPR’s Covid-19-related activity”.

She stated: "This type of research is crucial. It informs the way we regulate so that the people who manage and rely on pensions schemes – employers, trustees and scheme advisers – have the tools and information they need to make workplace pensions work for savers."

She highlighted the "encouraging results" as demonstration that it is right to "set the bar high for ourselves and the industry we regulate, so that all savers are protected".

However, she clarified that the regulator cannot realise its commitments without the "regulated community all pulling in the same direction and trusting that we are doing the right things as a regulator."

She stated: "We have already started to deliver for savers including launching new strategies for climate change, which increases our focus on managing savers’ exposure to climate change risk, and for equality, diversity and inclusion which seeks to build a workplace pensions system that works for everyone.

"We will do all we can maintain and build upon that trust – so that we all continue to work successfully together to achieve the best for savers."

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