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Pension regulator's trustee attack puzzles experts

FINANCIAL experts have questioned why the head of the Pensions Board, Brendan Kennedy, attacked trustees of pension funds.

Mr Kennedy had criticised trustees for what he claimed was their failure to ensure pension money was invested safely.

At the launch last week of the annual report of the Pensions Board, which is the regulator for the industry, he claimed that trustees had over-invested in risky shares in the past few years. But actuarial consultants Invesco yesterday questioned why the pensions regulator seems to be suggesting that all the difficulties of schemes in this country were down to the investment strategies pursued by trustees.

Brian Sexton, a director of Invesco, said the role of trustees was voluntary and unpaid.

Trustees can be sued for breach of duty, and they are personally liable for their decisions.

Mr Sexton said: "The absence of remuneration to a pension scheme trustee is in contrast to the salary and pension benefits paid of €204,484 in 2010 (declared in the annual report) to the chief executive of the Pensions Board.

"Mr Kennedy's pension contributions are paid to the public sector defined benefit superannuation scheme which has no trustee.

Public sector

"As the public sector scheme is unfunded, it is not subject to the funding standard imposed by the Pensions Board on the trustees of private sector defined benefit schemes."

For the past three years the Pensions Board has stalled on updating scheme rules on the minimum funding standard.

New legislation means that anyone working today who is under the age of 50 will not be able to retire until they are 68, while 43,436 fewer people are now members of schemes.

The new private sector pensions levy will put additional strain on already under-pressure funds, he added.

"The need to promote private pensions is needed now more than ever, but the Pensions Board is not assisting in increasing the number of people in private pensions," Mr Sexton said.

A spokesman for the Pensions Board defended Mr Kennedy, pointing out he has been stressing the over-exposure of pension funds to equities for years now.

Meanwhile, new research from investment company Aviva shows that most people who are close to retirement expect to rely on the State to fund their senior years.

People who are over the age of 55 but are not yet retired are anxious about their situation on pension income.

But three quarters of them believe they will need an income of half their current earnings when they retire.

Peter Towers, of Aviva, said: "But many are relying on the state pension and other assets to provide the level of income they will need to turn this retirement dream into reality."

Irish Independent