Ticket to Accreditation – Choices for Professional Pension Trustees

Buses in busy traffic

It turns out that accreditation systems are like buses – you wait patiently for what seems like ages, and then two come along at once.

Many in the pensions industry were surprised by the Pensions Management Institute’s (PMI) announcement on 13 February that it has launched an accreditation system for professional pension trustees. This followed press reports on 11 February that the Association of Professional Pension Trustees (APPT) would be launching its accreditation programme in April. (This was originally planned for last summer.) Both of these programmes will follow the standards published by the Professional Trustee Standards Working Group in 2019.

The PMI’s accreditation will be open for applications from 24 February. The APPT has not yet confirmed the date from which it will accept applications, but the press has reported that this will be in April. Continue Reading

The Tortoise and the Hare approach to pensions change

tortoise and hare race

If you were expecting The Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) response to consultation on the Future of Trusteeship and Governance to create headline news, then you will have been disappointed.

The response feels like more of a “holding document”, designed to let the pensions industry know that TPR has taken away a lot of action points but needs time to address its “to do” list.

Speed is not always a good thing. Some of us remember the desire for rapid change following the Maxwell scandal in the early 1990s, when the government and the pensions industry were buzzing with the need to “do something”. The “somethings” were largely enshrined in the Pensions Act 1995 – and it is fair to say that some of the somethings did not stand the test of time. Remember the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority? And the Minimum Funding Requirement? Many provisions of the revolutionary Pensions Act 1995 were abolished or amended by the Pensions Act 2004. Continue Reading

Stewardship Code – A Long Engagement

couple on beach at sunset

Unlike the best romantic stories, this proposal was expected, grounded in practicalities and wholly lacking in passion. Part of it was borne from the principle that pension trustees and investment managers should develop a closer working relationship.

The Need for a Committed Relationship

Responsible investment and investment stewardship are hot topics at the moment in the pensions world. Trustees need to not only ensure their decision making takes into account responsible investment and ESG factors, but also that they can publicly account for their actions. Continue Reading

IR35 Reforms – A Taxing Time for Pension Trustees and Corporate Sponsors

IR35

The off-payroll tax rules (commonly known as IR35) are changing on 6 April 2020.  Pension trustees who have members of their board paid for their services through a personal service company (PSC) may need to start making those payments net of income tax and NICs under PAYE.  Although the rules have not been finalised (and HMRC are now reviewing some operational aspects), now is the time for trustee boards and corporate sponsors of pension schemes to check any arrangements involving PSCs to assess whether they need to take action. Continue Reading

A pithy precis of parliamentary process (for passing pensions law)

leg-is-la-tion

“There is broad agreement on the principles, but there are huge dangers lurking in the detail… Those dangers have to be flushed out before the bill is sent to the other place.” (Baroness Sherlock)

Yesterday the pension schemes bill (the bill) had its second reading in the House of Lords. There was much comment and concern around the framework style of the bill, which is deliberately widely drawn to leave the detail to be picked up in regulations. Where does this leave us? Continue Reading

Should Veganism Feature on the Pensions Menu?

Close-up-view-of-a-restaurant-table

The recent Employment Tribunal case of Mr Jordi Casamitjana, which caused quite a stir in the media, focused on the Tribunal’s decision that ethical veganism was eligible to qualify as a “protected characteristic” under the Equalities Act 2010. In that case, Mr Casamitjana was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct by his employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, where he was a policy adviser. More details on the case can be found in my colleague David Whincup’s blog.

A little reported feature of the case was that the straw that broke the camel’s back (as it were) for the employee was that when he rejoined his company’s employment, after a break of several years working on other causes, he was automatically enrolled in a defined contribution pension arrangement where the default fund, among other things, invested in companies which engaged in animal testing, contrary to his philosophical beliefs. Mr Casamitjana chose to invest his contributions in an alternative ethical fund but believed that his colleagues were unaware of the default fund’s investments. He decided to take matters into his own hands and publicised his views to his fellow workers to encourage them to switch to one of the ethical funds offered. The employer concluded that he had failed to follow an instruction not to provide what could be construed as financial advice to his colleagues and he was dismissed. He subsequently challenged the grounds for his dismissal and the outcome of that part of the Employment Tribunal’s deliberations is still awaited. Continue Reading

A long time ago in a member state far, far away…

On 19 December 2019, an epic story with multiple twists and which many thought would never happen will reach its conclusion. And there will be no droids or Wookies involved. Yes, it’s the day we are expecting the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Communities (“CJEU”) in connection with the German case known as Bauer. *This blog does not contain spoilers!*

In a nutshell, Mr Bauer suffered a reduction of around 7.5% of his overall pension benefits as a result of financial difficulties suffered by his former employer. One of the questions the German courts have asked the CJEU is whether an employee could be said to have suffered losses, as a result of the insolvency of his former employer, which are “manifestly disproportionate” if those losses do not amount to more than 50% of his accrued pension benefits. Continue Reading

2005 revisited? Civil partnerships are back in fashion

Heart Sparkler

It has gone relatively unnoticed in the media, but the government has brought in legislation (effective 2 December) enabling civil partnerships to be formed by opposite-sex couples in England and Wales, with the first ceremonies being possible from 31 December 2019.

Opposite-sex civil partners will be treated in much the same way as same-sex civil partners. It remains to be seen whether there are many unmarried members of defined benefit pension schemes who are in an opposite-sex relationship and will wish now to formalise their relationship as civil partners. The likely impact this will have on pension scheme liabilities is therefore unclear at present, and of course there will only be an additional benefit cost if the scheme does not already provide full survivors’ benefits for unmarried partners. Continue Reading

What do Antigua and Barbuda and pension trustees have in common? (And it’s got nothing to do with rum or pirates!)

Brave-buccaneer-standing-at-the-helm-of-a-pirate-ship

9 December 2019 is an important date in each of their respective calendars, albeit for different reasons.

9 December is national heroes day in Antigua and Barbuda and it is also a date that should be of note for pension scheme trustees. Not only is it the eve of the coming into force of various provisions of the CMA’s order in relation to the investment consultancy and fiduciary management market, but it is also the day on which the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is replacing its Approved Persons Regime with the Senior Managers Certification Regime.

Why is this important to know? Well, first, it’s only important to know for trustees of schemes that provide safeguarded benefits. Broadly speaking, this means that the benefits will include an element of defined benefit. Continue Reading

Time to check for hidden gems in your insurance cover

Keep Calm And Carry On Sticky Note With Pin

Let’s start with the key point. If you get a knock on the door from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) then take a deep breath, do not panic and check your insurance policy as soon as you possibly can.

TPR has promised to be “clearer, quicker and tougher” and we have certainly seen the regulator ramp up its enforcement activity this past year. And the pension schemes bill, if passed by the new Government, will give TPR greater powers than ever before in terms of its ability to investigate suspected wrong doing and bring enforcement action against, amongst others, trustees and employers if TPR thinks something may be going wrong with a scheme. So, we anticipate more investigations and enforcement action against more schemes. Continue Reading

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