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Performance against service standards 2019

The Regulators’ Code requires us to publish details of our performance against our service standards, on a regular basis. This includes feedback received from those we regulate, such as customer satisfaction surveys, and data relating to complaints about them and appeals against their decisions. 

This report contains the relevant details for the period April 2018 to March 2019.

This report refers to two annual pieces of research that The Pensions Regulator (TPR) commissions to both monitor our performance, and to understand customers’ perceptions of our performance.

The Perceptions Tracker audience covers lay trustees, employers and pensions professionals; including professional trustees, lawyers, actuaries, administrators and investment consultants.

The Customer Satisfaction Survey is a telephone survey consisting of interviews with TPR customers who had an interaction (be that by phone, email, or letter) with TPR.

How we communicate and how we can be contacted

We have two customer support teams, one focused on scheme regulation and scheme maintenance, and one focused on automatic enrolment (AE). These are the first points of contact for our regulated community, and we measure performance through a combination of management information and our annual customer satisfaction survey.

Our customer support team in Brighton is the first point of contact for trustees, administrators and scheme advisers looking for support with running a scheme, understanding regulations and using our online services. This year, regarding scheme regulation and scheme maintenance, 90% of customers rated the overall quality of service positively, and 94% were satisfied with the time taken to resolve their enquiry.

Our specific automatic enrolment (AE) contact centre is for employers and AE advisers, and includes an AE frequently asked questions library, as well as a call centre for more specific automatic enrolment enquiries. This year our AE team answered around 135,598 phone calls.

When asked about the service they had received, 92% of AE customers rated the overall quality of service when contacting TPR positively, with 92% of AE customers agreeing TPR were professional in our handling of the enquiry, while 86% agreed TPR gave clear and easy to understand responses. Satisfaction with time taken to resolve enquiries reached 94% in 2018-2019.

In addition to our customer support teams, we also pursue proactive communications campaigns. In August 2018 we launched our joint campaign with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to raise awareness of pension scams. The number of people seeking information about pension scams soared following the launch. In the 55 days after the launch the number of people who visited the ScamSmart website rose five-fold (462%) to more than 173,000 people - an average of 3,145 per day and the equivalent of one every 27 seconds.

We also ran a number of publicity campaigns called ‘Know your pension’ with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which aimed to reinforce the importance of employees getting to know their workplace pension scheme and employers getting to know their responsibilities.

We continue to proactively communicate through webinars and stakeholder events. During the year, we undertook 228 speaking events. This is in addition to surveys supporting our communications and policy development in a range of areas including our broad regulatory approach.

How to complain to us about the service provided and routes to appeal

If someone is not happy with how TPR has acted, they can use our formal complaints process, of which instructions are documented on our website. We only deal with complaints against us within that process. This includes: mistakes or lack of care, unreasonable delay, unprofessional behaviour and bias or lack of integrity.

We always suggest contacting the member of staff or team that the person first dealt with to discuss their concerns as they may be able to resolve their concerns there and then.

However, if they are not satisfied with how we handle their concerns they can make a formal complaint, ideally in writing unless they’re unable to do so. The formal complaint should include main areas of concern and all relevant information.

Our approach to providing information and guidance

Our 2018-2021 Corporate Plan set out our plans to become a clearer, quicker and tougher regulator by taking action in a broader and more visible way to improve outcomes for retirement savers. Along with using a wider range of regulatory tools to help our regulated community better understand our expectations. We achieve this in a variety of ways, including the publication of our regulatory decisions and our research analysis; guidance on our website; the provision of elearning opportunities, and updates by email. We measure our performance in this area through a combination of management information and the results of our annual Perceptions Tracker.

Our regulated community continue to highly rate our website, with 85% of respondents to our Perceptions Tracker agreeing the content provides enough support, and 91% agreeing it is pitched at the right level for the intended audience.

This year we updated the look of our website and the content in respect of 233 publications, including our Annual Funding Statement for defined benefit (DB) schemes, which was well received across a broad spectrum of the UK pensions audiences. Guidance statements in key areas of concern (such as guidance on DB Superfunds, winding up a defined contribution (DC) scheme and cyber security) and the launch of our joint regulatory strategy with the FCA. These have clarified our expectations and set out how we will act if our expectations are not met.

The effectiveness of this work continues to be demonstrated by the results of our Perceptions Tracker, in which 91% of respondents regarded us as being a trusted source of information; and 84% agreed that trustee boards are clear what legal requirements apply to them in relation to pensions legislation - while an increase of 80% agreed with the same statement in relation to employers.

The same survey also asked respondents to rate the usefulness of the information they obtained from us via email, elearning, and the website. The majority of those who accessed information found it useful, with around nine in ten agreeing that our emails (90%), elearning (94%), and website (95%) were fairly or very useful for getting information about pensions.

Our new operating model means we are proactively interacting with a larger volume of our regulated community to allow us to have a greater impact on the behaviour of trustees and employers. Our Perception Tracker findings support this approach, expressing that scheme-specific engagement is the most effective way to drive improvements in schemes. 

We are committed to being open and transparent in our activities, including publishing information about our regulatory and enforcement decisions. The majority of our regulated community agrees that we explain clearly why decisions affecting occupational schemes have been made. This year we published ten regulatory intervention reports and 12 determination notices to help our regulated community understand how we are using our powers. We also publish a quarterly compliance and enforcement bulletin which covers the powers used across all our sectors. This publication complements the regulatory intervention reports and illustrates, through case studies, how we are using the breadth of our regulatory toolkit with employers and trustees.

Our fees and charges

Annually, TPR collects a general levy in respect of the schemes it regulates. The levy on occupational and personal pension schemes recovers the funding provided by the DWP in respect of the core activities of TPR, the activities of The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) and part of the activities of the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS). All three of these bodies receive grant-in-aid from DWP, which is reimbursed by levy income.

The levy is payable by the trustees of registrable occupational and personal pension schemes. The amount levied on individual schemes is calculated by reference to the number of scheme members. The levy rates are set in regulations (the Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (General Levy) Regulations 2005) (S.I. 2005 No. 626) by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The levy rates are reviewed annually by DWP. Each review takes into account anticipated levy receipts; the agreed spending plans of the bodies listed in paragraph 14; and any surplus or deficit that may have accumulated.

In addition, we collect the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) administration levy on behalf of the PPF. This levy is calculated in the same way as the general levy but uses a different banding. If a scheme fails to pay their levies, then we have the authority to take legal action.

This year DWP introduced an application fee for existing and new master trust schemes. This fee is collected by TPR on behalf of DWP, to cover the cost of assessing an authorisation application only. The application fee is higher for existing schemes as there is more paperwork and company history to look at.

Our approach to checks on compliance, including details of our risk assessment framework

Our new model promotes better oversight of those we regulate, proactive identification of risks, and alignment of the action we take to those risks and what we want to achieve. The majority of respondents to our Perceptions Tracker felt that TPR focus on the most important risks to members benefits and that we take a pragmatic approach based on individual scheme circumstances. In addition to this, almost 80% of respondents agreed that we hold trustees, governing bodies and employers to account.

In line with our commitment to be quicker in responding to risks and reconciling issues, we have made some structural changes to allow an increased oversight. Through the introduction of new supervision and enforcement teams we have increased our level of regular contact with schemes. In addition, we are identifying and responding quickly in a number of areas, including compliance with basic duties such as AE, the provision of statutory information to us, and scheme administration. This year we issued 49,032 fines for non-compliance of AE, an increase of 37% from last year. We also increased our use of Frontline (non-AE) powers by 32%, this included us exercising our trustee appointments powers 593 times, our information gathering powers 154 times and issuing 286 mandatory penalty notices where no chair’s statement or a non-compliant chair’s statement has been prepared.

In DC, we have placed a focus on value for members this year, including publishing the finding of our value for members thematic review updating our costs and charges guidance and addressing sub-standard governance of small schemes through a number of measures, such as updating our DC winding up guidance and producing new bulk transfer guidance to give information about possible options to trustees of schemes where standards are not and cannot be met.

In regards to public service pension schemes, we have developed a new high intensity regulatory oversight approach and applied it to the targeted proportion of the highest risk schemes to test and learn its effect and drive the right outcomes in the schemes circumstances. This year we proactively engaged with 10 Local Government schemes based in England, Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland. We assessed them against key governance and administration risks and subsequently sent them feedback setting out our observations and our expectations of future actions required. Scheme membership covered by this work was approximately 857,000.

This work is having a positive effect in raising awareness of our standards, in turn supporting our regulated community in complying with their duties. The majority of respondents are aware that we are required to fine trustees of schemes with DC benefits for failure to complete an annual statement signed by the chair of trustees. They are also aware that we are taking a tough stance with trustee boards that have not completed their scheme return, including issuing fines.

We judge risks in terms of the threat they pose, the extent to which we can mitigate them, and our risk appetite. This means we will not seek to intervene in all situations, but will prioritise by risk, cost and perceived benefits in a way that is targeted and proportionate (save where legislation requires us to act). This year we identified four macro trends that present risks going into 2018-2019, these are; changes in the economic and political environment; an ageing population; cyber crime and pension scams.

We addressed these risks through a range of activities, including our joint strategy with the FCA where we are working more closely together to tackle the key risks we see facing the pensions sector over the next five to ten years. We have also been working with the FCA and the MaPS on the outcome of the review of member communications following the British Steel pension transfer exercise. We will continue to build our partnerships to ensure an effective and robust UK pensions framework for savers.