Pension panellists reveal 4 ways to improve pensions policy

Challenging Conversation Tom McPhail header image
By CA Today

6 September 2018

Ahead of ICAS’ Challenging Conversations event on pensions, we asked four of our panellists what change they would like to make to current pensions policy.

At the September event, host Sarah Pennells, Financial broadcaster, journalist and creator of, was joined by:

  • Josephine Cumbo, Pensions Correspondent at the Financial Times;
  • Chris Curry, Director of the Pensions Policy Institute and a co-chair of the DWP’s Automatic Enrolment Review Advisory Group;
  • Gregg McClymont, Director of Policy and External Affairs at B&CE;
  • Tom McPhail, Head of Retirement Policy at Hargreaves Lansdown; and
  • Sir Brian Souter CA was immediate past President of ICAS and is one of the country’s leading entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

If you could change one thing about current pensions policy, what would it be?

Tom: Too many people find pensions complicated and confusing and this acts as a real barrier to saving and to people engaging with their retirement planning.

There are lots of things which need to be addressed to fix this, including the structure of tax relief and the allowances, the way information is disclosed, the way people are forced to join company pensions even if they’ve already got a scheme they’re happy with.

As a starting point I’d like to see the government set a priority on helping individuals take responsibility for their retirement provision; if they really committed to this then all the other policy reforms will follow.

Sir Brian: We need to be careful that current proposals for enhanced pension regulation and scheme funding do not inadvertently lead to a one-size fits all approach to investment.

We need to remind regulators and professional advisers that the scheme-specific legislative framework allows alternatives to gilts-based funding.

Gregg: The assumption that providing people with more information leads to better outcomes.

Chris: One of the problems with UK pensions policy is its fragmented nature.

In some ways this is hard to avoid, as there are so many different aspects of both state pensions and private pensions – benefit levels, contributions, tax arrangements, governance, transparency, and then links to other areas such as savings, working and health care.

Because of this it often appears as though policy is made in a piecemeal way, trying to achieve a particular aim but without necessarily fitting into an overall strategy.

An agreed, publicised long-term strategic plan for what good pension outcomes look like and how the pension policy framework is supporting the plan would be really beneficial.


  • Pensions
  • Thought leadership
  • Challenging Conversations

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