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PLSA releases trustee guide to ‘subjective’ good value assessment

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The UK’s national pension fund association has published a guide to help trustees of defined contribution (DC) workplace pension schemes meet their new legal requirement to assess good value, stepping in with the assistance in the absence of a statutory definition.  

Under new regulations effective in the UK this past April, trustees of DC occupational pension schemes providing money purchase benefits have to assess and explain the extent to which costs and charges in their scheme represent good value for members.

The outcome of the assessment has to be explained in an annual governance statement from the chair, another legal requirement introduced in April.

However, there is no statutory definition of good value, and regulatory guidance is limited.

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) has therefore developed a six-step plan and a guide to best practice to help trustees assess good value.

It said the assessment involved a subjective judgement and that “there is no single right answer”, but it highlights what can be expected of trustees and the key steps involved in assessing value for money.

The guide was developed in association with the law firm Eversheds.

Mark Latimour, head of pensions investment at Eversheds, said the question of what constitutes good value and how trustees should assess is prompting much debate in the pensions industry.

“Similar questions are also being debated in the context of the new independent governance committees, which have been established to scrutinise the value for money of workplace personal pension schemes,” he said.

The PLSA’s guide draws on the UK regulator’s new draft DC code of practice and discussions with scheme members and the regulator.

The association notes that, in the code of practice, The Pensions Regulator (TPR) says a scheme is likely to offer good value where “the combination of costs and what is provided for the costs is appropriate for the scheme membership as a whole, and when compared with other options available in the market”.

In other words, value cannot be assessed in a vacuum, the PLSA said.

Amy Hennessy, policy adviser at the association, said the new guide offered trustees practical guidance on approaching the assessment and sets out best practice “in this evolving area”.

“Assessing value for members is not a tick-box exercise,” she added. “Neither is it a static one. Trustees are committed to ensuring members get the best retirement outcomes possible and will use this assessment as part of their ongoing efforts to review, revise and improve their scheme to ensure it continues to deliver for members.”

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