Interesting to read Fraser Sparks from Hammonds views expressed at the recent Professional Pensions Show that trustees should not be getting involved when employers chose to run an Enhanced Transfer value (ETV) exercise for their scheme members. His view is that getting involved exposes trustees to additional dangers and is outside their legal obligations. Whilst this would have been our view prior to the publication of the Regulatory Guidance, clearly it is at odds with the Pension Regulators view as set out in the aforementioned guidance.
Hammonds position makes sense, if you think about it. Trustees will not have, nor should they have, sat down with an individual member to assess his personal circumstances, and analysed their financial position, so any actions that trustees take which influences a member one way or the other leaves them open to possible future complaints.
This places trustees in a difficult position and may encourage them to take legal advice on their position. In addition there are practical issues. The trustees, in conjunction with the Scheme Actuary, set the scheme transfer basis and clearly this will have an impact on the shape of any offer produced. In addition the trustees have to decide if they are prepared to share information on scheme members and their benefits to allow the employer to issue an offer. I would agree that perhaps some trustees have become too involved in the minutiae and have potentially risked imposing their views on their scheme membership but it must surely be in everyone’s interest for members to be given a reasonable choice and clear guidance and advice and this would be very difficult without at least some trustee involvement.
However the Pensions Regulator appears to want trustees go beyond this and to regulate transfer advice. This is an area which is already heavily regulated by the FSA and we would argue that this provides sufficient protection for members, and if it doesn’t, then that is a matter for the FSA not trustees.
See UPDATE on the latest position following the July 2010 Consultation document from the Pensions Regulator.