For several months now, we have talked about our commitment to change as a regulator – to be clearer, quicker and tougher.
We are now delivering on this commitment; we are already a very different organisation compared to when I joined four years ago. Our new approach is being noticed and is having an impact with our stakeholders and particularly the schemes and employers that we regulate.
The evidence for this sits in our latest Annual Report and Accounts for 2017-18, published today, which shows how we have performed against the corporate priorities we set for the last financial year across the full extent of our wide remit.
We now have more people in our frontline regulation teams and we are using data more efficiently to scan the horizon for problems as they arise. We have intervened more quickly when faced with underfunding or avoidance in defined benefit pension schemes and we have brought prosecutions against those who seek to hinder our investigations.
We are being clearer about when we will act, and quicker to spot problems as they arise as we become more visible and more proactive.
For example, when we became aware of the possible takeover of GKN by Melrose we wrote to and met with representatives from both companies to clearly set out our concerns about the potential impact on the pension schemes. This led to improved protections for the pension schemes in the takeover.
We have achieved a number of ‘firsts’ as we flex our muscles and test our powers. We issued our first fine to a public service pension scheme, launched our first criminal prosecutions for wilful non-compliance with automatic enrolment and secured a court order to force scammers to repay money to their victims.
Through new guidance and our 21st century trustee programme, we have worked to drive up standards of trusteeship. Our Code of Practice for Authorisation and Supervision of Master Trusts has now been laid in Parliament, a significant step in improving protection for 10 million savers in these schemes.
Last year we reviewed the way that we work as a regulator and launched TPR Future, a programme to deliver a revised and sustainable approach to regulation across our broad remit. We have designed a new regulatory model and are now piloting, testing and refining new approaches which are being incorporated into our day-to-day work.
We have made year-on-year improvements in hitting our KPIs over the past five years but it is the past 24 months that we have accelerated along a new, bolder path to fundamentally change the way we work.
It is important to understand the context of this achievement. It comes after several years of rapid change across the industry in which we have faced new risks and absorbed a wider remit, including successfully rolling out automatic enrolment for more than 9.7 million savers, planning an authorisation regime for master trusts, monitoring and responding to the impact of pension freedoms to ensure savers are protected from scams, while continuing to meet our underlying statutory objectives.
Maintaining our performance in the coming year, in the face of an increased focus on our work, will be no easy task, but we will stay focused on the job at hand, to be clearer, quicker and tougher, while we continue with the implementation of the significant changes to our regulatory culture.
By Mark Boyle
Chairman of The Pensions Regulator