The UK’s Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) has established a master trust committee to promote and defend the master trust model of pension provision to government and regulators.

The announcement of the committee’s creation comes shortly before a pensions bill is expected to be laid before Parliament, with the government having indicated that it will introduce stricter regulation of master trusts, something for which the UK pensions regulator has been arguing. 

Opening the PLSA’s annual conference in Liverpool today, Lesley Williams, chair of the association, said that, although master trusts have been around for decades, there are “new breeds” taking on millions of new auto-enrolment savers, and that master trusts had become a bigger part of the pension market than many would have imagined.

Regulation will have to adapt to cope with the risks and benefits of master trusts, she said, noting that the pension providers would help shape the agenda of the 2017 review of auto-enrolment.

Chris Hitchen, chief executive at RPMI Railpen, will chair the Master Trust Committee, while Emma Douglas, head of defined contribution at Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), was voted vice-chair by the other members of the new committee.

Comprising 13* senior executives in total, the committee will set the PLSA’s strategic direction on master trust policy, promote and support the development of the master trust market, and help savers in master trusts achieve a better income in retirement.

Joanne Segars, chief executive of the PLSA, said a “top priority” for the association was to represent the entire workplace pension “community”.

“Master trusts are a major force in today’s pensions landscape, counting many millions of the newly enrolled pension savers as their members,” she said.

“As they grow in scale and in number, they face a growing number of complex issues – many of them unique to master trusts.

“Our new Master Trust Committee will ensure there is a dedicated voice for master trusts to government and regulators.”

She said the committee would advocate for master trusts “as a model of strongly governed and value-for-money schemes” and help to develop a strategic and pro-active policy framework. 

Hitchen said master trusts had played a key role in the success of auto-enrolment, especially among smaller businesses.

“With the government’s plan to regulate master trusts within the Pensions Bill, the PLSA’s Master Trust Committee will relay the message that master trusts embrace high standards and wants to ensure the regulation and legislation governing master trusts continues to benefit savers,” he said.

The Committee will meet four times a year and may on occasion hold a joint meeting with the PLSA’s defined contribution council and/or defined benefit council. 

Walk the talk

In other news, the PLSA is to carry out a comprehensive review of the organisation’s governance to ensure it supports the PLSA’s work on behalf of its members and all stakeholders, operates effectively and attracts the right people.

Announcing the review at the association’s annual conference in Liverpool today, Williams said: “We have to make sure we walk the talk of 21st-century governance.”

Last year, the association announced it was reinventing itself to capture changes in the way people save for retirement.

Williams said “great progress” had been made but that “there is more to do”.

The review will start immediately and run until October 2017.

The board will consult with members on any potential proposals in the New Year. 

*The other members of the master trust committee are Ken Anderson, head of DC solutions at Xafinity; Helen Dean, chief executive of NEST; Tony Filbin, chair of BlueSky; Jamie Fiveash, chair, PLSA DC MES Forum; Patrick Heath-Lay, CEO of The People’s Pension; Bruce Kirton, CEO of Welplan; Fiona Matthews, CEO of Lifesight; Elspeth McKinnon, CEO, Cheviot Trust; Gary Smith, chair, Atlas; Michael Ramsey, CEO of The Pensions Trust; and Andy Waring, CEO of Ensign.