The Pensions Advisory Service – A Good Use of Public Money?

Brian Spence

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The former Chairman of The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) is quoted as saying that TPAS is in danger of being “dumped or carved up” whereas Government Minister Angela Eagle states that TPAS has embarked on a “modernisation and efficiency programme.”

Members of trust based pension schemes have trustees to protect their interests (increasingly schemes have professional trustees)  backed by legions of advisers and with the might of the Pensions Regulator behind them if necessary.   Trust based schemes are also required to have their own Internal Disputes Resolution Procedure. Usually complaints are resolved either informally or through the Scheme’s disputes procedure. If a member is unhappy with the final decision of the trustees, which is often subject to an internal appeals process as well, their complaint can go to the Pensions Ombudsman.

In contract based schemes there is the provider’s complaints procedure, the Financial Services Authority and the Financial Services Ombudsman.

In the last resort pension scheme members also have recourse to the Courts.

The question is does the taxpayer really need TPAS at all?

Pensions issues are complex detailed and the more difficult issues can often only be resolved with the assistance of highly skilled pensions lawyers and actuaries. Many TPAS advisors are well intentioned but are often volunteers with a busy day job.

Can TPAS really actually add much value to the work of all the professionals involved?

TPAS advisers are meant to be neutral arbiters and not in any sense a member’s “champion” and the majority appear to understand this. However, on occasion, particularly where the issues involved are complex and outside the particular area of expertise of the adviser, they can be more of a hindrance than a help (and arguably add significantly to the professional fees involved in resolving an issue).

If there is a problem with the quality of governance then the root cause should be dealt with and the Pensions Regulator has made great strides in this area.

Is TPAS a sensible use of public money at all in these straitened times? We think not.

Brian Spence is a founder of actuaries Spence & Partners Limited and a director of independent trustee Dalriada Trustees Limited.  You can follow him at @briandspence or @PensionsEndgame on Twitter or link to him on LinkedIn.  Dalriada provides professional trustee services and Spence & Partners can provide support to employers in appointing an independent trustee.  Brian has written a series of articles on appointing an independent trustee.

Follow @SpencePartners and @DalriadaTrustee on Twitter.

Brian Spence

Post by Brian Spence

Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and Society of Actuaries in Ireland, scheme actuary, professional pension trustee