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Pensions cannot escape the RDR

As MM’s regulation reporter was living the dream in Ibiza last week it fell to me to attend Osney Media’s financial services distribution summit.

Leaving the wider scope of the RDR aside, there were some heated debates on the pensions front which particularly focused on annuities and the open market option debate.

The Red House director Gareth Marr pledged his support for OMO as the default option and asked why the RDR was doing nothing to address this.

Marr said that a single centralised annuity bureau should be set up to provide competitive annuity rates for investors as this would save millions of pounds for consumers.

Is this a viable proposition and would it help to solve the problems in the annuity market? Comments welcome.

Continuing the theme of saving consumers millions, Scottish Widows has released some research which shows investors are losing out on £5.5bn per year because they are not taking advantage of tax relief from a personal pension.

Apparently, 18m investors are not using pensions and two fifths of UK adults are unaware that they can receive tax relief from personal pensions – shocking really, seeing as the very definition of a pension is a long-term savings vehicle with tax relief.

It just serves once again to emphasise the lack of financial education among consumers and how important it is that financial education is built into the national curriculum as a matter of urgency.

The breaking news this week was that former Pensions Commission commissioner Jeannie Drake has been appointed non-executive director of the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority from September 17.

Drake will be working alongside Paul Myners who was recently appointed chairman of PADA.

She currently serves on the board of the Pension Protection Fund, the Equal Opportunities Commission, and the Employment Appeals Tribunal and was commissioner on the Pensions Commission between 2002 and 2006.

She also has experience in the private sector and is currently a pension scheme trustee for both O2 and Alliance and Leicester so is well-served to take up this role.

Recruitment for a chief executive and other appointments to the board is continuing.

On the life office front, Royal Liver says it is to launch a new-style with-profits investment product in the new year.

It has over three million with-profits policies on its books but says interest in traditional WP funds has dried up.

Chief executive Steve Burnett is confident that investors are still attracted to stockmarket-linked investments that offer smoothing.

But Cazalet Consulting principal Ned Cazalet is doubtful about the profitability of such a venture.

He says: “Rightly or wrongly, advisers have been turned off with-profits and, as far as I am aware, sales of new-style with-profits bonds or smooth managed funds have tended to be disappointing. It could be a challenge.”

And finally, in case the MM diary isn’t keeping you up to date enough as to what is happening in the life of Tom McPhail he has now set up his own blog at tommcphail.blogspot.com.

He will be waxing lyrical about the latest developments in the pensions industry and will no doubt be attempting to take on pension blog maestro Steve Bee. Could another battle of the blogs be brewing?

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