The Pensions Regulator will become more ‘agile’ when dealing with non-compliant employers, warns its chief executive

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has warned it will be more ‘agile’ when dealing with employers that fail to comply with auto-enrolment legislation, as the final 1.8 million companies reach their staging dates.

Speaking at Pensions Insight’s DC Insight conference Lesley Titcomb, chief executive of TPR, said the defined contribution code of practice had been simplified and shortened, and said the regulator would ‘act quickly’ where employers fell short of expectations.

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Titcomb said: “We need to be agile and intervene at the right time, often very quickly with the right regulatory toolkit. Where schemes are falling short of the DC code of practice we will take enforcement action where necessary.”

Titcomb also defended the government’s £8.5m auto-enrolment advertising campaign which features a computer generated monster known as ‘Workie’.

“I like Workie enormously,” Titcomb said. “I am aware that people have been sniffy in the press and on Twitter, but the advertising is not aimed at the [pensions industry].”

Titcomb expressed concern about the growing demands on DC decision makers in a post freedom and choice world, and noted that it was becoming harder to ensure good outcomes for scheme members.

Titcomb said the regulator was investigating how to improve trustee decision making with a view to removing barriers to good governance.

As part of its investigation into DC governance, TPR has surveyed 816 trustee boards and found notable inadequacies, particularly among smaller schemes.

Titcomb said: “Larger schemes are better governed; the trustees are more likely to receive training, have greater access to advisers and spend more time on their duties.”

Consequently, Titcomb said it was ‘only right [TPR] focuses on the competency and capability of trustee boards’ and called on the pensions industry to debate what an effective 21st century trustee should look like.

She said smaller schemes presented a particular challenge for the future.

“The proliferation of small schemes does represent a challenge for the future and is obviously something we will have to examine,” Titcomb said.