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New pensions watchdog head puts savers at heart of vision

The Pensions Regulator’s new chief executive Charles Counsell has outlined how the watchdog will ensure savers are treated fairly in his first major speech today.

Counsell who took up his post in April was speaking to delegates at the Pension Benefits UK conference.

He explained how the pensions landscape has changed and what the regulator will focus on over the long term.

He noted the significant changes in consumer behaviour brought on by the introduction of the pension freedoms.

Counsell pointed out 84,000 people withdrew £1.5m funds from defined contribution schemes through flexible payments in Q2 2015.

But the money withdrawn jumped to just over £2bn in Q1 2019 when 284,000 accessed their pensions through flexible payments.

Counsell also said the regulator’s priorities include focusing on the saver and the delivery of the ‘TPR Future’ programme that began in 2017.

He said: “People are now, more than ever, being encouraged to engage, plan and understand their pension. This is a huge cultural change. And it’s why we at TPR must increase our focus on savers.

“They are people who need to be better supported and, crucially, better protected. It’s right that we hold to account those who put savers pensions at risk. We have used more of our powers, more often and been creative in using the law to protect savers.”

He added: “We’re not shy to prosecute when people abuse their position and put savers at risk. We have used more of our powers, more often and been creative in using the law to protect savers. We’re testing our powers in the courts.

“We’ve prosecuted people for a range of offences such as fraud, making employer related investments, computer misuse, and wilful noncompliance with auto-enrolment.”

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