Aries monitors every development in new and proposed legislation and official guidance.   Clients are kept up to date via the website, email alerts and tweets.   Aries serves as a one-stop source of intelligence on everything that is going on and coming up.   Aries doesn't miss anything of significance.

Here is a selection from our most recent headlines. You can get the fuller details by sending us an email - just click here to fire one off.

Alongside an announcement of a new role of Head of Restructuring, the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) has released new guidance on situations involving new or successor schemes.

The PPF approach will depend on the specifics of the restructuring and proposed successor scheme; The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is consulted on all cases.

This new guidance summarises the full guidance on the 'restructuring principles'

used by the PPF:

  • The proposal should provide a significantly better return than an administration or liquidation and be proportionate considering the section 75 debt that is being eliminated.

  • The PPF will seek at least 33% of the equity in the restructured company for the scheme. Should the future stakeholders (such as

shareholders/owners/debt providers) be entirely unconnected or involved with the company prior to restructuring, the PPF may agree to receive a smaller percentage but this will never be less than 10%.

  • Creditors should be treated equitably and the scheme not be disadvantaged. In particular the PPF will look at connected and . . .

11 July 2019  

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published a speech by Edwin Schooling Latter, Director of Markets and Wholesale Policy, setting out its strategic priorities for the pensions sector. (Spoiler: significant growth in the pensions market subject to FCA regulation.)

The pensions sector is of course already formidable: over 34m 'consumers' and over £2tn of assets. However, demographics, macro-economic conditions and government policy mean

the industry is expected to expand in terms of the level, the length and the breadth of provision.

So what of the FCA's role? It wants to ensure the markets work and members are protected. It will focus on two phases of the pensions life cycle: accumulation (saving) and decumulation (accessing that saving). The FCA has already published its joint strategy with The Pensions Regulator. Interestingly, on this subject of co-operation the House of Commons

Public Accounts Committee has published a report highlighting that regulators in a number of industries often have inconsistent approaches to protecting consumers; it urges closer cooperation.

The FCA's first immediate priority is defined benefit (DB) pension transfers, or at least the proliferation of people transferring their DB rights into defined contribution (DC) schemes. It is . . .

11 July 2019  

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has launched a new consultation exploring its future vision for fewer, better run, occupational pensions that deliver good value.

TPR will actively play a part in this consolidation to support efficiency ('economies of scale') and close the quality gap for schemes that don't meet the standards it expects. Quite bluntly, in its own words, TPR's view is that "many smaller schemes are simply not good enough".

Authorised master trusts offer a route to consolidation for occupational defined contribution (DC) schemes, with Group Personal Pensions (GPPs) providing an alternative route for securing individual savers' benefits. TPR is working with the DWP to find a solution to support defined benefit (DB) consolidation, via DB superfunds - although there are some suggestions this might feature in the upcoming Pensions Bill. So, fewer schemes, better run, is the message.

TPR is considering how to promote more diversity on trustee boards; encouraging changes to the make-up of the board to reflect the savers it represents. There is also consideration of whether an accredited professional trustee should sit on every board.

    Aries comment
    Good news for savers it would seem; it might reduce the . . .

08 July 2019  

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Pensions Minister Guy Opperman states that the Government respects the decision of the Supreme Court ruling in the Walker v Innospec case: ie that paragraph 18 of Schedule 9 to the Equality Act 2010 should be disapplied so that Mr Walker's husband is entitled to a spouse's pension for the whole of Mr Walker's service, provided they remain married.

"It is now clear that same sex civil partners

or spouses are entitled to survivor benefits in the same way as opposite sex spouses".

The Government has decided that in public service schemes, surviving male same-sex and female same-sex spouses and civil partners of public service pension scheme members will, in the majority of cases, receive benefits equivalent to those received by widows of opposite sex marriages. All same-sex survivors of a public service pension scheme member

will benefit from this change.

The exception to this may be in specific schemes where, in the past, improvements in female members' survivor benefits have led to increased contributions.

The statement also provides the Government's response to the review of survivor benefits in occupational pension schemes. It has concluded that, . . .

06 July 2019  

The latest Countdown Bulletin from HMRC majors on scheme financial reconciliation, reminding administrators of the imminent revised deadline of 19 July 2019.

Financial allocations exercises have been developed to offset any unallocated money, received from administrators, against outstanding money owed to

HMRC at scheme level, by the scheme on behalf of its members. The Bulletin outlines the steps the automated process will take to allocate receipts and receivables.

HMRC notes that service availability should be checked if problems are experienced accessing the Shared

Workspace service. Error messages can be reported to the IT helpline.

In other HMRC related news, it has updated guidance about the current process for dealing with relief at source . . .

06 July 2019