Five minutes with… Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association chair Lesley Williams

Lesley Williams

What are the biggest challenges the pensions sector faces?

I think the three biggest challenges are completing auto-enrolment, finding a solution to scams because that’s a growing problem that we have the ability to solve, and ensuring that UK pension plans have some longevity by making sure that they are properly governed.

What challenges lie ahead?

The next chapter of auto-enrolment is crucial. The 2018 and 2019 increases need to land really well. And for that to happen, we need some positive media interest in pensions rather than the negative coverage pensions has had in the wider media over the past year.

We also shouldn’t overlook the challenge of defined benefit schemes. The PLSA taskforce that I’m involved with is focusing on what to do with a DB market that is becoming more and more mature. We need to figure out how to make it more efficient, how we reduce the drag of DB schemes on UK companies, and ideally address potential intergenerational unfairness with DB.

What can those at the heart of the pension industry do to help?

Governance is really important, so a strong board of trustees with diversity – something that I’m really passionate about – is vital. We need to make sure we have trustee boards that are fit for purpose in today’s world of pensions, which is very different to twenty years ago.

As an industry we really need to focus on not adding to the complexity of pensions. We need to be mindful that the more complicated we make it, the less accessible it’ll be for savers. It’s pretty hard to backtrack on the complexity we have, but let’s not make it worse.

Pensions might be complicated under the bonnet, but we really need to focus as an industry on making them simple for savers.

How can schemes get the best possible value for members’ contributions?

If schemes are governed properly by people who are experienced and focus on the right things, then we will get value for money for members, so governance is really important for that too.

I’d also again mention reducing complexity. Let’s try and keep things as simple and efficient as possible.

As an industry we must also continue to look at ways of consolidating pension schemes because there is no doubt that scale will improve member value.