OPDU - Annual Meeting held at Reed Smith - 27 January 2010
The OPDU Annual Meeting was very well attended with an audience of over 120, including many eminent individuals from the pensions community. The Meeting was hosted by Reed Smith and the keynote addresses were given by Nigel Waterson MP, the Shadow Minister for Work & Pensions, and Tony King, The Pensions Ombudsman.
Nigel Waterson reiterated the Conservative Party's commitment to compulsory pension provision aimed at those not currently in pension schemes, as part of a drive to reinvigorate savings in the UK. However he stated, that if elected, the current model would be reviewed and in particular its charging structure and interaction with means tested benefits and company sponsored arrangements. The aim was to encourage both more savers and more savings.
The Party's other commitments were to restore the earnings link to State pensions and reverse over time (as the country's finances permitted) taxes that had been imposed on pension scheme investments. It would also seek to reduce pension scheme regulation and remove the current requirement to purchase an annuity at age 75, subject to certain safeguards. The State Pension Age would be increased more quickly than currently proposed, reflecting continued improvements in life expectancy.
After Jonathan Bull's introductory welcome, Peter Murray, Chairman of OPDU's Advisory Council (also ex Railpen Chief Executive and past Chairman of the National Association of Pension Funds), had outlined the work which OPDU had undertaken in the last 12 months against the background of continuing financial turmoil which had created a very challenging environment for trustees and companies. OPDU continued to provide the most comprehensive cover and support which was reflected in the continued growth of its membership that now insured more than 700 schemes holding approximately £115 billion fund assets in trust as well as providing protection to several thousand trustees. He highlighted examples of recent claims and notifications in order to illustrate areas currently giving rise to problems for trustees.
The scene was then set for The Pensions Ombudsman who provided a summary of his Office's work. This included its success in removing a backlog of case work and initiatives designed to prevent complaints reaching the Ombudsman, early resolutions where possible and less formality and greater brevity in its determinations. With the Pensions Ombudsman's Office having been established for almost 20 years, Tony King thought others were now stealing the headlines and so it may have become a bit boring! In conclusion, he urged trustees to ensure that scheme administration practice was in accordance with the scheme rules; "read the rules and then read them again!".
A reception was held after the Meeting with Reed Smith's modern offices providing a spectacular panoramic view of London at night. The success of the event, which is well established in the pensions calendar, can be gauged by the number of high profile attendees who have taken the time to express their thanks for "the excellent Annual Meeting and Reception".