A busy year of pension policy consultations could cause complexity and confusion

During this year to date, the financial regulators, certain government departments and parliamentary select committees have released numerous consultations and calls for input regarding a number of pension-related policies and changes in legislation.

But what do they actually mean to advisers and members? Self-invested pensions technical specialist James Jones-Tinsley believes they could create additional complexity and confusion, unless industry responses are taken into consideration. Here he takes a look into the developments so far.

Rise in the Normal Minimum Pension Age (NMPA) from 55 to 57

The increase in the age at which pension funds are accessible was first set out in 2014, but not legislated for at the time. This year’s HM Treasury Consultation examines the increase in the NMPA from age 55 to 57 with effect from 6 April 2028, but potentially overcomplicates the increase by proposing yet another protection regime to maintain the age of access at 55 for certain groups of people.

Call for evidence on Pension Freedoms

This year’s call for input from the Work & Pensions Select Committee is the second of three investigations by it into the impact of 2015’s ‘Pension Freedoms’ on consumer outcomes. Whilst the first one focused on pension scams, the second one examines the range of retirement options open to consumers, and the availability of guidance and advice about their options.

Members’ statutory right to transfer

The Department for Work & Pensions has launched a consultation this year that gives trustees and managers of pension schemes the potential to block a transfer out, where they believe the receiving scheme may be a scam. Though laudable, the potentially protracted four-stage process to decide if a transfer should be blocked where a scam is suspected, appears at odds with the regulator-backed ‘STAR initiative’ to reduce pension transfer times.

FCA’s stronger nudge to pensions guidance

The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) Consultation examines ways of encouraging more individuals to undertake a free guidance session with “Pension Wise”, before they access their pension fund. The FCA propose that the nudge to guidance takes place at the precise moment when the individual wants access to the money, as well as expecting pension providers to book the appointments.

Responding to consultations and calls for input takes time, and there is always the concern as to whether our thoughts and comments are actually taken into consideration. Too often we are subjected to a ‘number nine bus’ scenario, where days of silence are then followed by the issuing of consultations within quick succession. It would be helpful if there could be coordination between the regulators and government departments as to the issuing of their consultations to allow for enough time for everyone to digest, understand and implement without the feeling of consultation suffocation.

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