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Altmann turned down pensions minister job

Ros Altmann was offered the role of pensions minister by the Conservatives but turned it down, Money Marketing can reveal.

Instead, Altmann will be made a peer and appointed minister responsible for financial consumer protection and education.

Former pensions minister and LibDem Steve Webb lost his seat in today’s general election, leaving the Conservatives without a pensions spokesperson.

Prior to the election, Altmann was offered Webb’s job by Chancellor George Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron if the Conservatives were able to form a Government.

But Altmann decided not to accept the offer because she thought she could have more influence in a broader role, she says.

She says: “Everybody knows I’ve been supportive of the changes the Government has made, it’s things I’ve been talking to governments about for years.

“Since the reforms the Treasury had been asking me to help them implement the changes, things like Pension Wise, because I think they saw me as in touch with customers and ordinary people.”

Altmann drew criticism from some in the industry for accepting the appointment, but she says she will retain her independence and hold the Government to account.

She says: “I will do my absolute best to work on behalf of the ordinary silent majority of this country to improve financial fairness and education from within Government.

“The problem for someone like myself – and I’ve been criticised for accepting the role – is that I spent years as an independent outsider and I know what it’s like. I’ve achieved a lot but if you really want to make the biggest difference you have to be inside, not outside.”

She reveals she advised the Tories not to restrict tax relief on pension contributions before they unveiled pre-election plans to limit the lifetime allowance to £1m and taper relief for those earning over £150,000.

Altmann is due to conduct a review of “financial fairness for consumers” when she assumes office.

She will be investigating whether a charge cap should be applied to pension products – an idea first explored by Labour – rights for older people in the mortgage market and extending Pension Wise beyond at-retirement guidance.

Altmann says the guidance service should be included in auto-enrolment legislation.

She says: “Ideally you’d want included in the member cost of an auto-enrolment scheme a charge for financial education modules.

“Whether those modules are developed by Pension Wise or another body we’ll see but it should be part of the regular communication that you have to have with auto-enrolment. Preferably encouraging employers with tax incentives to offer courses at work.”

A complete ban on commission, which can still be paid for non-advised business, will also form part of the review.

And Altmann says she will crackdown on high pension charges.

The ABI’s audit of legacy schemes found £26bn of assets in schemes charging over 1 per cent.

In March some providers agreed to cut charges on £10bn of savings.

But Altmann says: “It is clear there are a number of companies who are paying well in excess of a far price, often on legacy products.

“We need to name and shame going forward if we are going to be serious about this.”

She gives an example of a saver who contacted her after a provider said they would charge 3 per cent a year for the first five years after increasing contributions to an old pension policy.

She says: “I’m not against the industry, I want to see a successful thriving industry which treats customers fairly, earns good profits and produces good value.”

The full interview with Ros Altmann will be published in Money Marketing later this month.

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Comments

There are 17 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. How about @henryhtapper for Pensions minister as Ros doesn’t want it?
    (Happy to do Protection minister if asked…)

  2. They ought to offer Steve Webb a seat in the Lords and let him keep the job

    • The frozen pensioners are glad he has gone. He did nothing to end the injustice after proclaiming it was ‘unfair’ and ‘an anomaly’ when he was a member of the opposition, once he was pensions minister he turned his back on them and ignored them for five years. A state pension that has been paid for should not be frozen for the few, were one lives is irrelevant, ALL are entitled to annual cost of living increases. So good riddance Mr Webb you will not be missed by the 4% who are victims of this blatant discrimination.

    • A touch undemocratic – In that case, why not put any of the people the public rejected back in because they ‘should’ have been re-elected.

  3. Yes. Let’s do everything as cheaply as possible because that’s the best way. I propose that all those who espouse to be experts or ministers do so at the minimum wage on the same logical basis. Surely that will deliver better consumer outcomes? Won’t it?

    Muppets.

  4. True. Sure Henry would approve. Think he’s busy anyway.

    • Er, was replying to
      Paul Greaves 8th May 2015 at 5:57 pm They ought to offer Steve Webb a seat in the Lords and let him keep the job
      Tho’ I do see Jane D has a good point to make too!

  5. Offering Steve Webb the job with a seat in the Lords would be a great way for the Tories to be seen as treating Pensions as too important to be a political football and provide an opportunity to build cross party comcensus. It would also be a great way of retaining the knowledge and experience Steve Webb has built in this area. Could be a very smart move by The PM

  6. David Stoddart 8th May 2015 at 6:54 pm

    I would like to see Steve Webb continue in the role if this is possible.

  7. Steve Webb’s the man. Get him involved.

  8. I think Ros is a wise Lady.

    What we need is a pension minister who is prepared to rein in George Osborne’s daft ideas. Personally I’m glad to see the back of Webb – his views were as daft as Osborne’s. The idea is to protect pension holders – not allow them to do stupid things.

    Then there is the policy on the hoof. So you can pass your pension income tax free before 75. So you take an annuity (single impaired life) – how will that work then? Selling your annuity – more holes than Gruyere cheese. Pension freedoms? Great – just wait till the benefits bill rises.

    Freedom to blow the wad on the one hand, but compulsory AE on the other and individuals HAVE to go through an intermediary for Annuities, transfers and goodness knows what else – not much freedom there.

    It’s all about raising taxes as far as the Government is concerned and about a continuing income stream as far as the industry is concerned all wrapped up in the pretence of client advantage.

    Yes it might work for those at either end – the tiny pots – which could have been solved by the raising of the Triviality limited – and the truly enormous protected pots, but as ever those in the middle will get shafted.

  9. Harry, as usual I agree with every word.

  10. Andy Robertson-Fox 9th May 2015 at 12:40 pm

    “All State Retirement Pensions in payment to pensioners living outside the UK shall be subject to annual uprating by the same percentage rate as is applied to such pensions payable to pensioners living in the UK” – Steve Webb, in opposition.

    Not only diıd he renege on this in respect of existing frozen pensioners but he exacerbated the problem by incorporating the discrımination as Clause 20 in the 2014 Pension Act….it has implications for all future pensioners and their families. It is also costing the UK economy a potential £1.5 billion savings per year as shown in the ICBP Cost/Savings Analysis on Unfreezing Pensions and on which the Treasury seem to be sitting.

    Anyone who witnessed Webb’s pathetıc, error strewn basıcally flawed apology for an attempt at justıfyıng the polıcy before the Scrutiny Commıttee consıderıng that bıll before ıt was enacted wıll be delıghted to see the back of him.

  11. Hopefully Ros will take into account that being impartial/independent is not just a case of rising above party politics. It also should mean being open-minded about the impact of the reforms and any potential customer detriment, and basing decisions on evidence and consultation rather than ideology and dogma.

    Her comments in the last few weeks have been very concerning, such as using anecdotes from some providers about calls taken on the first day of the reforms (a bank holiday!) and using that to support the notion that people are “prudent” and can be trusted with their money. It appeared to be a case of fitting evidence around the theory, rather than an objective analysis. Likewise, she has blamed the providers for the mess surrounding insistent client pension transfers, when it is clear it is due to dysfunctional legislation/regulation.

    If you speak to staff on the front line about whether people are being sensible with their pension funds, you will get a completely different story. There is a huge amount of work to do with raising consumer education (which Ros can certainly help with), but it has probably come too late due to the reforms being rushed through. So much emphasis has been on whether the industry has been ready, but the reality is that the public haven’t been ready for the increased freedom and this will inevitably lead to negative consequences.

  12. George Morley 9th May 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Ros Altmann has said that she is aware and sympathetic to the Frozen pensioners and we will see if she does a ‘Webb’ and now turns her back on them. Hopefully this pathetic theft of uprating by successive governments will finally be put away but I’m not holding my breath.
    Others commenting about this policy will know of the travesty that was the scrutiny of clause 20 when the Pensions Act was passing through parliament as mentioned by Andy Robertson-Fox.

  13. Steve Webb pros and cons:
    I do agree the current risks of pension pot losses are too great as things stand, conversely the reality of trying to access the freedoms when it’s a good idea is randomly frustrating, and I’ve had a good old moan (at bit.ly/1Ih5BKk) about the average £20,000 loss from inflation linking that most people haven’t even noticed.

    But despite that, if Steve was prepared to continue in the job but as a LibDem in the House of Lords, he would be less constrained to tread a line so pleasing to ex coalition partners. The Tories have had the political gain out of what’s been done so far. I suspect we would see Steve free-er to follow a more clearly ethical path to straighten the rest out, (and no doubt to blame the shonky bits on the said ex colleagues). There’s a risk I could be disappointed by Steve. But I’m sure I’d be disappointed by the alternatives.

    So for that reason I’ve signed up to the petition asking to keep Steve Webb in the job. It’s at http://chn.ge/1IrGCCx should you like to do the same.

  14. So that was Friday’s news – today the lady evidently changes her mind. (A lady’s prerogative).

    But what do we have? The same old Westminster farrago.

    A new Government? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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