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Pension scheme data: fundamentally important not a consulting opportunity

Topic:

Hot topic

Date published:

Friday, 10 May 2013

I do wonder why it needed the Pensions Regulator (tPR) to issue guidance and then to maintain focus on record-keeping before so many people seemed to recognise the vital importance of good, clean pension scheme data. When I started working in the pensions industry, data (and customer service) was one thing that we always focused on.

The idea of ‘quality’ data is therefore not new. It was one of the key issues highlighted by Raising Standards in Pensions Administration (now the Pensions Administration Standards Association), and pension scheme trustees and administrators should have wanted accurate records long before tPR started pressing for it. After all, without correct scheme data, benefit calculations, actuarial valuations and investment advice will all be inaccurate. Pensions could come into payment at the wrong time, with incorrect amounts being paid, and the level of member queries could be high. Data is fundamentally important.

In practice, the responsibility for ensuring scheme data is correct sits with many parties. The pension scheme administrator and trustees are obvious ones, but scheme members and the employer’s HR and payroll teams also play a significant role. If members want their correct pension paid on time, they can help make sure it happens by checking their pension scheme administrator holds the right information about them.

To a degree, all these parties have been guilty of creating the mess we now have – whether through ’cheap’ administration, insufficient investment in systems or the knock-on effect from the latest ‘improvement’ in the way administration teams or businesses were structured. We now need to ask ourselves how we move forward and improve data quality from here.

One thing I think we need to be clear about is that you should not need to pay high fees to get scheme records up to date. After all, trustees may have to refuse additional work if the cost is too high and that serves no-one’s best interest. However, initial cleansing work is only one part of the story.

We must also find better ways of capturing data and then ensuring it remains in good shape going forward. Reminding members of the importance of keeping trustees informed of changes to their personal circumstances is one small step in the right direction - and one that is easy for trustees to incorporate into their annual plan.

Ann Geer - Pension scheme secretary

 

 

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