BLOG: Why Steve Webb was right to delay the pension charge cap

Angela Seymour-Jackson of Aegon UK reacts to pension minister Steve Webb's controversial decision to shelve a price cap on pensions charges until April 2015.
BLOG: Why Steve Webb was right to delay the pension charge cap

According to the latest NEST report, saving for retirement is now our third biggest savings priority, jumping up from seventh place in 2011, when clothes, cars and home improvements came higher up the list.

Of course most of us know we should be saving more for retirement, but pensions can still be a bit of an unknown, and paying money into a savings pot that you won’t see for a few decades is understandably an easy thing to put off.

To help get the UK saving for retirement the government launched an auto-enrolment programme in October 2012, requiring workers to actively opt out if they don’t wish to benefit from a pension selected by their employer, and so far it’s been a real success. According to the Pensions Regulator (TPR), 2.6 million more employees from the country’s biggest companies find themselves with a workplace pension, often for the first time.

If you haven’t been affected by the changes yet, chances are you’ll be hearing from your employer soon, as the scheme is rolled out to a further 22,000 companies between April and July.

Of course this is great news for those employees who’ll benefit, but it’s a big ask for employers who will now be choosing a pension on behalf of their staff. The pensions industry, including Aegon, sees this as both an opportunity and a challenge, and we’re committed to supporting this process. We’re also committed to being at the forefront of making pensions easier for everyone to understand and compare – and we’re under no illusion, this is going to take some time to get right.

How for example do we make sure companies are choosing a good pension plan for their staff? One answer the government recently put forward is to place a cap on pension provider charges, somewhere between 0.75 and 1 per cent each year, so employers can only choose pension products with fees that fall below this limit.

This has surface appeal, but we need to make sure this emphasis on charges doesn’t unsettle the many good plans already in place. We need to make sure that a healthy level of contributions remains a top concern. That’s why I welcome the Pensions Minister’s announcement last week that any cap won’t be imposed before 2015. Giving employers at least 12 months to review their scheme will be good for employees.

As we look ahead to the Spring, and auto-enrolment reaches more workers, it’s important not to lose sight of the incredible opportunity this offers to those hoping to take their first steps on the retirement savings ladder. It’s going to be a big year for pensions providers like Aegon to show we’re working with employers and employees to help people get themselves ready for retirement and the lifestyle they hope for.

Angela Seymour-Jackson is managing director of workplace solutions at pensions provider Aegon UK

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