Thursday 27 October 2016

Anger over plan to end role of staff pension reps

Published 08/10/2015 | 02:30

Brendan Kennedy, head of the Pensions Authority which will be discussing the role of lay trustees at a conference today
Brendan Kennedy, head of the Pensions Authority which will be discussing the role of lay trustees at a conference today

A body that represents pension funds has hit out at proposals that would effectively end the role of lay trustees.

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The Pensions Authority is proposing that it would be mandatory to have a professional pension qualification to act as a trustee, a move that would remove most worker trustees.

But the Irish Association of Pensions Funds said that dispensing with lay trustees would be a retrograde step.

Jerry Moriarty of the association said the proposed change would lead to a "mass exodus of unpaid trustees" to be replaced by a limited number of professionals in fewer schemes.

The proposal that all trustees should have professional pension qualifications is contained in a consultation document issued by the Pensions Authority, the regulator for schemes.

It said there were around 200,000 people acting as trustees and questioned their commitment and lack of expertise.

"The authority does not believe that all of these trustees have enough knowledge and commitment to fulfil their duties in a way that optimises the outcome for the members whose savings they are responsible for," it said.

But the Irish Association of Pensions Funds disputed the 200,000 figure, which it said was inflated.

Mr Moriarty said that lay trustees made valuable contributions, something that would be lost if the proposals were implemented.

He added: "Voluntary lay trustees, in particular those representing scheme members, offer an independent view and have a strong sense of acting on behalf of their colleagues."

Mr Moriarty said lay trustees had knowledge of the employer and members that external professionals would not have.

The association, which will be discussing the issue at its annual benefits conference in Dublin today, suggested that any mandatory qualification requirements should apply to the trustee group as a whole, rather than to each individual trustee. This would mean that the skill sets would exist within the trustee board.

However, the head of the Pensions Authority, Brendan Kennedy, insisted that if the proposals were put in place for schemes, they would be voluntary in nature.

He denied that it was an attempt to make the authority's job easier by reducing the role of amateurs and increasing the involvement of professionals.

Irish Independent

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