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UK roundup: Auto-enrolment, DWP, charge cap

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Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) research has shown awareness of auto-enrolment among the UK population is increasing, as the programme’s rollout continues.

Statistics from the government said 78% of those surveyed believed employers being compelled by law to provide pensions was a positive step.

The research also found around 50% of those surveyed said saving into a workplace pension was a “normal thing to do”, in a boost to the government’s policy.

Some 30% of those of working age have taken action as a result of the government’s advertising campaign for auto-enrolment, with around 25% having discussed second-pillar savings in a social environment.

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The news comes as the government announced 4m people had now been auto-enrolled into a workplace pension scheme since the programme began in October 2012.

Pensions minister Steve Webb said: “Increasingly, people are waking up to the fact it pays to think about the future and consider the kind of retirement we want.

“But we still have a mountain to climb. Recent DWP research found that close to half of working-age people are failing to save enough to maintain their standard of living into old age, so there is more to do.”

In other news, the DWP’s charge cap, aimed at protecting members being auto-enrolled into default investment strategies, has come under fire from one of the UK’s largest insurance mutuals.

Royal London Group (RLG) has told its shareholders the government grossly underestimated the impact estimates on pension companies.

The cap, which comes into force in April 2015, stops member-borne charges in DC auto-enrolment default investment funds being above 75 basis points.

The government estimates that, at the time of legislating, said industry revenue would be reduced by £200m (€250m) over a 10-year period.

Chief executive of RLG, Phil Loney, said the policy would have the opposite consequence to its intention.

“This government intervention will only distort a market that was already moving in favour of lower charges,” he said.

He said the impact at his own firm, plus other impact provisions from other pension providers, showed the DWP’s estimates to be incorrect.

Royal London said the £200m estimate could realistically increase to as high as £1bn.

“This seems to me to be an unacceptable margin for error in the government’s understanding of the impact of its actions and the size of the impact,” Loney said.

Despite the estimated £200m hit on the entire industry, insurers Standard Life and Scottish Widows have each already stated individual provisions of £160m and £100m, respectively.

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