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CMA proposes pension investment reforms

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The CMA has proposed a number of reforms to the investment consultancy and fiduciary management sector after identifying a range of competition concerns.

Investment consultants advise pension trustees, who oversee companies’ pension schemes, on how to invest their funds. Some pension schemes delegate investment decisions to fiduciary managers.
 
These firms have influence over half of all UK households’ retirement savings and work with pension scheme assets worth at least GBP1.6 trillion. Good investment management helps ensure people receive the pension they expect upon retirement.
 
In September last year the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a market investigation into this sector, at the request of the Financial Conduct Authority, and the CMA’s provisional decision has today been published.
 
While pension schemes can choose from a range of different firms, the CMA has identified competition problems within both the investment consultancy and – to a greater degree – the fiduciary management markets.
 
Its provisional findings, the CMA has noted that around half of pension schemes choose the same provider for fiduciary management that they use for investment consultancy. Their current investment consultant can steer them to do this. This means companies which offer both services have an advantage over other firms, when it comes to getting this business from existing clients.
 
In addition, a number of pension trustees have low levels of engagement with providers in the sector when choosing their first fiduciary manager. Only a third of trustees ask firms to compete for their business through a tender process, meaning no competitive pressure is put on their existing investment consultant or fiduciary manager to offer the best terms or highest performance.
 
The CMA has also found that pensions trustees often do not have sufficient information on the fees or quality of these services to be able to judge if they’re getting a good deal from their existing investment consultant or fiduciary manager, or if they could do better elsewhere.
 
As part of the report, the CMA has proposed a number of changes to these markets to deal with its concerns, including pension trustees selecting their first fiduciary manager must run a competitive tender. Trustees who have already appointed a fiduciary manager without doing this must also put the role out to tender within five years. This would increase competition in the market and reduce the competitive advantage held by the incumbent investment consultant when it comes to getting the new business.
 
In addition, the CMA believes that fiduciary management firms must provide clearer information on fees and how they have performed for other clients, so that pension trustees have the information they need to make meaningful comparisons between different providers.
 
The CMA is also making recommendations for new guidance from the Pensions Regulator, which would provide trustees with more advice on how to choose and scrutinise providers. It is also proposing that the government broadens the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) regulatory scope, to ensure greater oversight of the industry.
 
John Wotton (pictured), Chair of the CMA’s Investment Consultants Market Investigation, says: “We’re concerned that pension schemes are not currently putting pressure on the market to get the best value for money on behalf of their members. They may lack the information they need to compare competing offers and so could be sticking with their existing investment consultant or fiduciary manager when there are better options available.
 
“This is an extremely important sector that influences how well millions of people’s pension savings are invested, and it’s therefore vital we take steps to make sure that competition is working properly. That’s why we’re proposing a number of important reforms to the sector, including requiring pension trustees to run a competitive tender when they choose a fiduciary manager and ensuring that trustees have much better information about fees and investment performance.”
 
The CMA is inviting feedback on the provisional decision report by 24 August 2018. The statutory deadline for the CMA’s final report is 13 March 2019.

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