Helen Morrissey talks to Mike Morrison about his role as chairman of the Association of Member Directed Pension Schemes (AMPS) and how he sees the SIPP and SSAS markets developing
How long have you been involved with AMPS?
I've always been Winterthur's representative on both the SIPP Provider Group which represented the SIPP market and the Association of Pensioneer Trustees which aimed to represent the SSAS market. These organisations merged to form AMPS in the wake of A-Day. As I'd been involved for such a long time it was a logical step to get involved in the committee which I did a couple of years ago and I was made chairman in October 2007.
What are your priorities going forward?
My main priorities are to raise the profile of AMPS as we represent the SIPP and SSAS market. These products were traditionally aimed towards small businesses and high net worth individuals - basically anyone who wants to do things for themselves. Sometimes their interests get a bit lost in the commoditisation of pensions and the purpose of AMPS is to ensure their voice is still heard. If after my time as AMPS chairman people are more aware of what AMPS is and what we represent then I'll be happy I've done something.
What do you see as the main challenges for the industry going forward?
Regulation remains a big challenge. SIPP regulation seemed to pass without too much problem but issues remain around FSA requirements and projections and illustrations etc. The FSA is also very interested in the issue of SIPP suitability and ensuring that people who were sold SIPPs actually needed a SIPP in the first place. HMRC has also expressed real interest in how these schemes work and they want to know what people are investing in. As a result they often seem to ask for an inordinate amount of reporting. Sometimes their methods are hard for providers to address so if we can act as a facilitator in dealing with HMRC, FSA and DWP in issues such as protected rights for instance then we can help smooth the way so we get something that is appropriate for people to use.
The issue of what is a SIPP continues to rumble on - how can we move forward from this?
I'm not sure whether we are defining things for the right or wrong reasons. We know they are all personal pensions and we know there are differing ranges of investments providers are prepared to allow. They can all be called SIPPs to a greater or lesser degree and I don't think we should be too hung up about defining everything so precisely. If people have choice and the ability to move from a personal pension to something with more options then that choice for the individual is key and we should have a broad enough outlook to allow for this.
How do you see the role of AMPS developing going forward?
I think the first thing is to be a focal point for members to bring issues to and knowledge sharing will always be a key part of what AMPS does. Ultimately lobbying for change will be part of where we go next and we need to make sure we have the right relationships in place with regulators and government to enable us to do this. We've got a good committee but we are nothing without representation from members and what I would like to achieve is greater representations from members feeding their views back to us. I also need to raise the profile of AMPS within the industry so we can ensure we are automatically considered as a representative body that people know and respect. If we go back to the APT they were one of the most successful lobbying groups for SSAS issues in the 80s due to the commitment of the representatives.
How do you propose to meet member needs and develop the support AMPS gives to members?
We have the website which is currently enjoying record numbers of hits http://www.ampsonline.co.uk Every month or so we issue a newsletter updating all the main issues we are discussing with authorities or what members bring us. We have at least two open meetings per year where representatives can listen to presentations of the main issues and have an open forum. We've also run an annual AMPS conference for the past two years which has been an important step forward.
The issue of service standards has been discussed a lot this year. How can the industry address concerns around falling service standards?
It's not easy to enforce prescribed service standards across the industry. We deal with so many different types of organisations from small SIPP and SSAS providers right through to large multinational companies. I think service is key but also a commercial imperative if people wish to succeed in this market. I think there are many variations on investments and if you look around the market you will find a provider able to do the investment you need so long as it is allowed under regulation so there is a great deal of choice available. The FSA also has its Treating Customers Fairly regime and that to some extent will impose a degree of service culture on providers.
How do you see the SIPP market developing?
I think SIPP and SSAS will develop as pension schemes where individuals can get increased investment flexibility. The only grey area will be what people determine as a SIPP but do we need to worry about it too much? They are part of the personal pension regime and if a particular company chooses to offer a narrow range of investments versus someone with a wider range then so be it. In many ways it links back to service; a company may decide not to enter into a particular area because they can't guarantee the right level of service. You will get the companies that do most things very well and the specialists that do the more esoteric things to a high standard.
The SSAS market has been overshadowed by the growth in SIPP since A-Day. How do you see this market evolving?
I think there's room for both SSAS and SIPP. SSAS still has a positive role for small family companies in particular so there are advantages to having one. If we can bring these benefits to people and encourage them to engage with pensions then great let's do it.
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