NOW: Pensions coming off the master trust list
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) announced last week that NOW: Pensions has been removed from the master trust assurance list. ICB carried an article about this and highlighting its concerns that such a prominent pensions options for ICB members and their clients as NOW: Pensions was in some sort of difficulty. TPR has now responded with the following statement:
The following information is provided in response to ICB’s specific questions in its article of 25 July:
What does this mean? What this means is that we [TPR] have identified that NOW: Pensions has some issues that it needs to address, most of which were identified following a system migration. We have been engaging with the scheme in relation to these issues, and will continue to do so, but we fully support the Trustee’s decision to voluntarily request that we remove them from the master trust assurance list at this time. The scheme continues to be an operating master trust and, once it has addressed the issues, it can apply to be put back on the list.
- Where exactly are they [NOW: Pensions] falling down? As explained in our press release, the concerns relate to the governance and administration of the scheme, including delays processing some contributions and communicating with a portion of members.
- Why have a list in the first place? We maintain a list of schemes who have obtained master trust assurance. Master trust assurance is a framework we developed in partnership with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). It enables schemes, on a voluntary basis, to commission an independent review by a reporting accountant to report against a series of 'control objectives' related to the scheme’s governance and administration. We also provide a list for employers (and their business advisers such as bookkeepers) who need to choose a pension scheme to meet their automatic enrolment duties. This list signposts employers to schemes that are open to small employers, and that have either obtained master trust assurance, or are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
- What should ICB members tell their clients who are enrolled on a Now: Pensions scheme? Employers who have used NOW: Pensions to meet their automatic enrolment duties are not required to take any action.
NOW: Pensions has a plan to address the concerns and we are working closely with them to ensure that members’ benefits are protected. Therefore, we currently believe that there is no need for ICB members to recommend that their employer clients look to unravel automatic enrolment arrangements. While we are unable to discuss the details of our ongoing engagement, if ICB members or their clients have any specific questions or concerns about the scheme, then they should contact NOW: Pensions directly on 01298 890250 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
TPR has worked closely with the ICB for a number of years to ensure its members and their clients have the information they need to meet their employer duties. We value this constructive partnership, which has contributed to the successful implementation of the automatic enrolment policy to date, and we look forward to continuing to work together.
Stakeholder Affairs Manager
As the release says, ICB has a good relationship with TPR, as is witnessed by the fact that the former pensions minister, Steve Webb, was a keynote speaker at the 2016 Bookkeepers Summit and the former TPR executive director of Auto Enrolment, Charles Counsell, was a regular at Summit and at the various Auto Enrolment seminars that ICB has run over the years. Whilst ICB is grateful to TPR for trying to clarify the situation, albeit that it is unable to say too much as their work is on-going, some members have pointed out that their clients are being faced with punitive fines for failing to submit returns and forms and have questioned whether NOW: Pensions will be similarly treated.
ICB remains in dialogue with TPR and will update members when any further news is issued.