Perception of TPR’s performance worsened in 2021

The perception of The Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) performance quality was found to be lower in 2021 than in 2020, according to the regulator’s Perceptions of TPR report on the 2021 Perceptions Tracker survey.

The report showed that 69 per cent of respondents provided the regulator with a good or very good rating, a 6 percentage point drop from 75 per cent the year before.

Covid-19 performance was found to have continued to have affected perception in 2021, as 18 per cent identified this as a reason for providing a good or very good rating.

The report showed that ratings for TPR’S effectiveness on its statutory duties, core roles and activities were generally consistent with the 2020 survey.

One highlighted change in the ratings compared to the 2020 survey was the proportion that rated TPR as effective at protecting the benefits of DC members, which fell from 85 per cent to 75 per cent, returning to a more similar level to that seen in 2019/20 (71 per cent).

Another finding in the report was that TPR’s average rating for the statements relating to the six ‘PACTT Better Regulation’ principles remained broadly consistent with previous years at 75 per cent, showing limited change from the 79 per cent and 72 per cent in 2020 and 2019/20 respectively.

There was also found to be a decreased perception that TPR is effective at bringing about the right changes in behaviour among its regulated audiences.

Respondents reported limited agreement with statements like ‘TPR is effective at bringing about the right changes in behaviour among its regulated audiences’ (63 per cent) and ‘TPR takes a system-wide view across the pensions markets responding to risks appropriately’ (63 per cent).

More than nine in 10 (92 per cent) believed that TPR was trustworthy, while 79 per cent felt it was clear and 78 per cent believed it was risk based.

Just over a third (34 per cent) agreed TPR was bold, 35 per cent believed it was innovative and 40 per cent felt the regulator was flexible.

When asked about TPR’s corporate strategy, almost half (45 per cent) were aware of it, with 54 per cent of pension professionals having heard of it compared to 45 per cent of lay trustees and 24 per cent of employers.

The majority felt that each of the five priorities outlined in the strategy were very or fairly important areas for the regulator to focus on: security (98 per cent), value for money (92 per cent), scrutiny of decision making (94 per cent), bold and effective regulation (88 per cent) and embracing innovation (83 per cent).

Overall, 80 per cent judged TPR to be effective on security, 62 per cent on value for money, 61 per cent on bold and effective regulations, and 58 per cent on scrutiny of decision making.

However, less than half (40 per cent) felt that TPR had been effective on embracing innovation.

Similar proportions of lay trustees (96 per cent), professional trustees (92 per cent) and employers (96 per cent) were confident that they were fully aware of their legal responsibilities, while professional trustees were comparatively more likely to be ‘very confident’.

As in previous years the most common interactions with TPR were found to be related to accessing information or guidance, with relatively few experiencing direct TPR intervention, including 2 per cent that had been subject to direct enforcement action.

The survey found that reading a TPR code or guidance (40 per cent) was most likely to result in the trustee board spending more time on governance and administration, followed by the Trustee Toolkit (29 per cent) and visiting TPR’s website (24 per cent).

Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of respondents were aware of TPR’s approach to regulation, with the majority (84 per cent) agreeing that it would improve pension scheme governance and administration, and 76 per cent thought it would provide better outcomes for members.

TPR’s survey also found that most schemes communicated warnings about scams to members on a regular basis (78 per cent, up from 68 per cent in 2019/20), while the proportion that had added scams content to their website also increased (42 per cent, up from 34 per cent).

The survey comprised quantitative telephone interviews, which were conducted from
May - July 2021. They covered a range of different stakeholders, including both
employers’ ‘in-house’ groups (i.e. employers, lay trustees and in-house pension
professionals) and ‘external’ or ‘out of house’ stakeholders (i.e. audiences appointed
by a governing body of an occupational pension scheme to carry out activities on their
behalf, such as professional trustees and actuaries).

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