FCA enforces stricter reporting regime for pension freedom data

The reporting could cost £900,000 per year

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set out how it will collect data on how savers are using pension freedoms, with first reports due in September 2018.

The watchdog will mandate providers of pensions, annuities and income drawdown to provide a range of information – including the rate of withdrawal from income drawdown plans, the types and features of annuities bought, defined benefit (DB) transfers, and where there is partial withdrawal from pensions.

The reporting period will start from 1 April 2018, with the first submission due within 45 days of 30 September 2018.

Data will not be split between occupational and personal pensions, the FCA said in its final rules, as this would “be challenging for firms to provide” and the format it has planned will sufficiently meet its needs.

The FCA will require firms to submit three reports per year: a retirement income flow data return, which includes data collected during the reporting period, once every six months; and a retirement income stock data and withdrawals flow data return, which includes data measured at the end of the reporting period, once per year.

The data will include information on how many DB transfers have been completed, the value withdrawn via lump sum payments, the number of plans fully enchased, and the value used to purchase annuities. It will also include the number of people who accessed these types of withdrawals, with breakdowns by demographics.

The FCA said: “The sub-categories of data collected on withdrawal rates are important to our understanding of the market. We use the data split by age and pot size to see if the age groups defined in the form are using pension pots differently. The pot size categories allow us to understand the relationship between the size of a pension pot and consumers’ choices. Consumers make withdrawals for very different reasons so collecting separate data on regular and ad hoc withdrawals is essential to understanding how products are being used.”

However, the stricter reporting regime, an expansion of the current ad hoc basis, has raised concerns that support for savers may be weakened.

Hargreaves Lansdown senior pension analyst Nathan Long said firms may be distracted from their clients by these forms.

“Understanding the choices people are making when accessing their pension is absolutely critical in ensuring the pension freedoms are as successful as they are popular,” he said. “These rules could help but data must not dominate and regulators should still take time to speak to people.

“The rules require firms to report back around the end of the tax year period, traditionally a time when clients are busy planning their finances. Forcing firms to report at this point risks dragging resources away from where they are needed most, helping people with their pensions.”

Set-up costs for the industry as a whole will range between £600,000 and £1.2m, the watchdog estimated, with ongoing annual costs then totalling between £500,000 and £900,000.

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