Following the FCA's Retirement Outcomes Review, wake-up packs are finally being revamped. Rachel Vahey analyses the implications.
Rachel Vahey reflects on the FCA's work on DB transfers and retirement outcomes, and the ever-elusive pensions dashboard.

Rachel is a product technical manager at Nucleus where she delivers technical training to users of the platform and also provide technical expertise in the form of factsheets, blogs and other content. She also has a policy role working with government, regulators, industry bodies and advisers. She has over 20 years’ experience of working in pensions. She’s well known within the pensions industry, and writes, presents and tweets widely on the subject. All of which she thoroughly enjoys.

The Autumn Budget is now only days away.

Although a shift to a single rate of pension tax relief is probably unlikely, one aspect of pension tax that could be changed is the annual allowance.

There are three different pension annual allowances for Chancellor Philip Hammond to choose from when it comes to Budget changes.

It’s well understood that pension freedoms have changed the retirement income landscape.

It’s been over three years since the reforms were introduced, and we are beginning to understand their impact.

For a start, we know people are taking their pension benefits in a different way, with many withdrawing the whole amount. The latest FCA statistics show a total of 137,777 pension plans were cashed in between October 2017 and March 2018. A further 90,504 pension plans entered drawdown in the same period, three times the number buying an annuity.

Are pension freedoms a success or not?

This is a question the pensions industry never tires of discussing. While everyone has an opinion, we are now beginning to slowly build up the evidence needed to truly discuss the issue.

The FCA has been collecting data on retirement income trends – based on six-month periods – since April 2015. This month it published its latest data bulletin looking at the period between 1 October 2017 and 31 March 2018.

Since flexi-access drawdown was introduced in April 2015, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has repaid almost £300m to drawdown savers due to overpaid tax on lump sum withdrawals.

At the end of last month, it announced it had added another £29m to that total between April and June.

The Treasury Committee has recently rattled through several key issues facing the UK’s savings and retirement agenda at breakneck speed.

Its report on Household finances: income, saving and debt found that households are finding it increasingly difficult to save, partly due to the pressure on finances and the current environment of low interest rates. MPs are interested in how people can be incentivised to save more.

Is three years a long time in financial services?

On one hand it seems like an age since pensions freedoms were introduced in April 2015. My fundamental worry is that the market framework should have been developed by now to help the 1.5 million consumers who have already made their retirement choices.

The government has missed the deadline to publish regulations on banning pensions cold calling.

Instead, it plans to launch a short consultation on the draft legislation, and publish the final regulations before parliament in the Autumn.

This wasn’t a soft deadline, and there are consequences for missing it.

The Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018 sets out that if the regulations have not been published by the end of June, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) secretary of state Esther McVey must stand up in front of government in July and explain why.