'Time for action' on pensions dashboards, says TPR

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has urged trustees and scheme managers to take action on pensions dashboards, warning that the project is “now moving at pace” and it will take action against intentional non-compliance.

Speaking at the Pensions Administration Standards Association (Pasa) Annual Conference 2022, TPR executive director of regulatory policy, David Fairs, suggested that pensions dashboards would “sail or fail” on its robust security and quality of data.

However, Fairs acknowledged that this will be a “significant undertaking” for the pensions industry, with a number of other regulatory activities currently requiring changes to data, systems and programmes.

In light of this, Fairs confirmed that the regulator will be "supportive and pragmatic" in its approach to compliance and enforcement, and will set out its proposed compliance and enforcement policies in a consultation "later this year".

However, Fairs emphasised that where TPR sees intentional non-compliance, it will take action, warning that whilst to the uninformed it could appear that things are quite static, "dashboards are coming and it's time to take action".

In particular, he urged pension scheme trustees to include dashboards on trustee board agendas, and to get the appropriate conversations going with administrators.

"Accuracy of data is absolutely vital for the dashboard success, so we're also asking everyone to take stock of data to make sure it's complete, accurate, and digitised," he continued.

"This is particularly important for the data that will be used to make sure savers are matched to their pension and returning them the right value."

In response to a query over on the proposed simplified defined benefit (DB) projection, Fairs acknowledged that there are complexities over how you make projections around retirement income comparable for different pension types.

"It's probably one of the more controversial things of how you balance accuracy and complexity with the burden that you're placing on on individual schemes, and inevitably you get to a compromise," he explained.

“As time goes on, it's going to be much more important that people start to use the dashboard in terms of decision making, and that we actually we go to accuracy over simplicity. We'll start with simplicity, but I think inevitably we'll move towards accuracy.”

Fairs also emphasised that TPR is undertaking work to support the industry in this preparation, reiterating TPR's plans for a “comprehensive programme” to support trustees and scheme managers in getting ready for dashboards, expected this month.

In addition to this, Fairs confirmed that TPR will be publishing interim guidance "shortly", and will be reaching out through media and industry events and one-on-one engagement.

“We'll also be writing to schemes with more than 100 members at least 12 months ahead of their duties in relation to the dashboard," he added.

“No matter what type or size, schemes should be taking action now. We need to make sure that they are dashboard ready because the clock is ticking."

More broadly, Fairs reiterated TPR's plans to consult on its overall approach to prosecutions, arguing that work is needed at a strategic level to understand the wider problem of scams and fraud, as this is "a difficult area to fully understand and assess".

“We've recently been working with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to review the breadth and nature of pension scams to produce a new threat assessment," he continued

"Further to input from our project bloom partner the pension scans industry group, we also received valuable input from a range of schemes, administrators and service providers.

"We will publish our findings in due course, but today I can tell you that we found a threat that was both highly complex and sophisticated."

Work is underway to address these concerns, however, as Fairs confirmed that the regulator is currently looking to establish a victim support process, whilst TPR's scam strategy is also due in "early summer".

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