Atkin trustees, actuaries, consultants & administrators

GPs: a timely dose of medicine

Last month the Royal College of General Practitioners sent the Prime Minister’s office (and the press) a 26 page analysis of the Governments proposal for the NHS, welcoming some parts and challenging others. ( Should the actuaries equivalent the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries take a leaf out of their book?

For too long the only item on the Faculty and Institute’s agenda appears to have been whether the two should merge – which finally happened last year. Instead I believe that it should take a leaf out of the RCGP operating manual and be encouraging debate within the profession and, when appropriate, bringing together those views to come up with a single voice (or a summary of the various disparate voices which is, admittedly, far more likely) to challenge or question the Government on it’s pension policy. We should really be leading the debate on pensions not trying to find ways to work around it.

I believe that the profession has been remiss in the past by not actively debating and challenging Government policy, for instance Gordon Brown’s raid on dividend tax rebates and the recent requirement to equalise GMP without any guidance. Whether or not a public debate would have had any impact on policy we will never know but at least we would be able to say that we did our best to ensure that the decision was made after a full, frank and thorough debate and that the Government made the change with their eyes fully open to all the possible consequences.

Pension issues that immediately spring to mind that the profession could usefully discuss include;

  • Equalisation: Is there a pragmatic compromise
  •  Investment strategy: Long term out performance versus matching
  •  Funding strategies: Taking into account the covenant or just assume there isn’t one
  • Solvency 2: Should this apply to pension schemes and what are the potential consequences
  • The Pensions Regulator: Is there sufficient independent oversight and disclosure
  • DB schemes versus DC schemes: Are DB schemes worth saving and, if so, how
  • Pension schemes and their role in the economy: Can they participate in the recovery? Should the PPF have a responsibility to encourage UK investment?

The Faculty and Institute of Actuaries appear to recognise this in their proposed strategy document which includes the aim that the profession should have “a greater presence in public affairs, speaking out on issues where the Profession can contribute, raising public awareness of the work of actuaries and the value we add to society whilst working with government and others who shape policy”. It will be interesting whether the profession as a whole falls behind this, until then I guess I will have to be satisfied with my blog.

First published: 31.05.2001

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We have worked with Atkin Trustees for many years on a wide range of cases and issues. They adopt a sensibly practical approach to trusteeship, focusing on outcomes for members. They’re also a nice bunch of people to work with.

Philip W Sutton, Partner, Squire Sanders (UK) LLP