Workplace pensions overhaul

November 7th 2014

The Government has announced changes that should standardise, and in most cases reduce, the charges made to administer funds on behalf of contributors.

Draft regulations published in October confirm that charges to invest and manage the default funds of all qualifying schemes will be capped at 0.75% annually.

Small differences in charges can have a major impact on a pension pot by the time a person retires. An average earner due to accumulate a pension pot of around £30,000 could benefit to the tune of £1,600 by saving in a scheme charging 0.75% compared to one which charges 1.5% - and for many the boost could run into tens of thousands of pounds.

The draft regulations also ban unfair charges and hidden costs that could, without action, severely reduce people’s pension savings over decades.

The Government will bring forward further rules and regulations to ensure that from April 2015 members of workplace personal pensions will not be charged consultancy fees for advice to their employer, and from April 2016 savers in all types of scheme will no longer be charged commission or consultancy fees. Nor will they have to pay charges for pension savings which increase when they change jobs.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

"Consumers have had a raw deal from the market for too long. A pension is one of the biggest investments you can make in your lifetime, yet many people have seen the savings they have put by all their working life whittled away by high or needless charges they may not even be aware of.

We are taking strong action to restore confidence in pensions by capping charges, banning hidden costs and putting new standards in place to ensure everyone saving in workplace pensions get the best possible value for money.

With millions of people now saving through automatic enrolment, we want to give them confidence that their hard-earned money is working for them and not disappearing in opaque charging structures and ending up lining the pockets of the pensions industry.”

The level and scope of the charge cap will be reviewed in 2017.

The new governance standards will apply across all money purchase workplace pension schemes and will ensure that people running schemes understand the key components of scheme quality and have members’ interests as their priority.

Under the changes, trustees of pension schemes will be required to design default funds in members’ interests, keep them under regular review and ensure that core financial transactions are processed promptly and accurately. They will have to assess the value of costs and charges borne by those saving in a pension, and they must have a chair of trustees who will be responsible for signing off an annual statement on how the quality standards have been met.
The 0.75% cap will cover all charges excluding transaction costs.

Please feel free to contact DSC Chartered Accountants in Harrogate if you wish to discuss this article in more depth.