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Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD has announced key reforms to strengthen pension governance and regulation including a newly-structured Pensions Authority and Pensions Regulator among series of changes to improve consumer confidence in pensions system and the amalgamation of the Offices of the Financial Ombudsman and the Pensions Ombudsman.

Additionally, the Minister will move to fully implement the recommendations in the 2012 Report on Pension Charges.

In line with expert recommendations, the Pensions Board will be renamed as the Pensions Authority and split into two separate bodies with different roles.

The new Pensions Authority will have two distinct arms: a three-person Pensions Commission with an independent chair to provide oversight of pensions regulation; and a separate unpaid Pensions Council, with a majority of members representing consumer interests, which will advise the Minister on pensions policy. The CEO of the Pensions Board will be renamed the Pensions Regulator.

The Minister also announced the amalgamation of the offices of the Pensions Ombudsman and Financial Services Ombudsman and welcomed the decision of Paul Kenny, Pensions Ombudsman, to defer his retirement and continue in office to assist in the merger of the two offices. This, the Minister said “will provide the consumer with a one-stop shop for queries on pensions and financial products.”  

The moves are aimed at improving governance, ensuring greater public awareness of pensions oversight and increasing consumer trust in the pensions system.

These moves recommendations, in relation to the Pensions Board and the Ombudsmen, are made in a Critical Review conducted by a steering committee chaired by Richard Hinz, Pension Policy Advisor at the World Bank. The Minister said that following publication of the OECD report, it is clear that the pension system needs a far stronger consumer focus and these changes represent the first step in the process of creating a pension system that is responsive to the needs of members of pension schemes and pensioners. The separation between regulatory oversight and policy development will ensure there is no perception of regulatory ‘capture’ by the industry and give greater confidence to consumers. These changes, combined with action to tackle excessive pension charges, will give the public greater trust in the pensions system.”

The new Pensions Council “will bring a fresh perspective to the formulation of pension policy that has the consumer at its heart. The first task I will be giving the Council will be to monitor the implementation of the recommendations in the Report on Pension Charges and advise me if further actions are needed.”

Implementation of these recommendations will be under reviewover the next year.