TPR must ‘increase focus’ on savers – Counsell

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) “must increase its focus on savers” in light of rising membership through auto-enrolment and increased saver risk due to pensions freedoms, according TPR chief executive Charles Counsell.

In his first speech since becoming chief executive, Counsell said that he intends to “deliver the standards savers rightly expect and deliver robust protection for them”.

He added: “I want savers to have confidence their pensions are safe. We have lots of work to do.

“TPR can’t do this alone and we'll be collaborating closely with the DWP, FCA, Maps, but also, importantly, with you.”

He reiterated TPR’s promise to be ‘quicker, clearer and tougher’ with trustees and employers, as well as members, and warned that the regulator is becoming more active in exercising its powers.

“In the past, it’s fair to say TPR has waited until there was evidence of wrongdoing before we intervened,” Counsell said. “That was the ask of us and maybe the approach fitted the nature of the market at the time.”

He continued: “We will intervene before problems arise. We will anticipate, rather than react. We’re not shy to prosecute when people abuse their position and put savers at risk. We have used more of our powers, more often and been creative in using the law to protect savers.

“Trustees should be in no doubt that if they abuse their position they should be prepared to go to prison. It’s right that we hold to account those who put savers pensions at risk.”

Counsell stated that the regulator has “real concerns” about the “very long tail” of smaller DC schemes and encouraged them to ensure that they are meeting TPR standards. If they were unable to achieve this, Counsell urged them to consolidated into master trusts.

He concluded: “Let’s work together to create the best environment for savers: an environment which is fair, safe, where people feel protected from those who seek to undermine good outcomes - an environment which is fit for the next generation of savers.”

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