Fences make uncomfortable seating

An interesting meeting this week with a representative of the Pension Regulator.  It was a shame that their industry liaison team hadn’t seen fit to liaise with this particular bit of the industry earlier in the year when their input would have been considerably more timely and, frankly, useful. 

Perhaps I should make a habit of blogging about a particular subject, then wait for the inevitable deluge of offers of help from all sorts of people and providers who have just the thing that we need to assist us.  Then I would have a supply of people who can actually help us with the events in question, instead of only discovering them too late in the day to be much practical use. 

For example, I met Barnett Waddingham, a corporate pensions and employee benefit specialist with a proposition designed specifically to help intermediary firms who do not want to engage in auto-enrolment advice themselves, whilst still facilitating adviser access to the relevant scheme information once set up (https://ae.barnett-waddingham.co.uk/ )

But then we have two well-resourced member firms specialising in offering advice on AE obligations, at lower cost and keeping it in the family : Allens in Manchester (http://www.allenspensions.com/ )  and Wow in Andover ( http://www.wowpensions.com/ ). 

And now The Pensions Regulator. A valuable resource for information on all things AE, their website is to be commended for providing access to all manner of technical and practical help for firms (and presumably their advisers) looking to meet their AE obligations (http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/automatic-enrolment.aspx ).

But one thing I hadn’t realised, which the very nice man was at pains to point out, was their role in ‘compliance’.  And yes, it’s as North Korean as it sounds.  Whilst it might be an employer’s obligation to follow all the relevant rules, TPR has the power to ‘intervene’ if they become aware of adviser firms giving incorrect information or advice, issue ‘targeting’ letters (another North Korean concept) and in the worst cases to bring criminal prosecutions.

So, while the very nice man was at pains to point out how much he would like to help us, he was also keen to make sure I understood, and communicated to you, dear members, what the penalties could be for speaking on the subject of AE without knowing what you’re talking about.

As we said at our event in July : either get involved and make very sure you know what you’re doing, or make sure you know who to call if you have no intention of getting involved. 

If there was any doubt before there’s none now : indecision is not an option, ignorance is most certainly not bliss and the middle ground, like that between North and South Korea, will be a deeply uncomfortable place to find yourself.   

Gill Cardy, 17/10/2014