Industry figures could not agree on whether the pensions market should move towards offering fewer, large scale products to employers.
The discussion arose at the launch of Scottish Widows' UK Pension Report when the panel was asked how small businesses will pay for advice following the abolition of consultancy charging.
TUC assistant general secretary Kay Carberry said offering fewer products underpinned by quality guarantees in a trust-based model would reduce the need for employers to seek advice and lead to better member outcomes.
Shadow pensions minister Gregg McClymont agreed. He said: "This is not like going into a supermarket to choose a tin of beans. There is a difference between providers offering services that people don't understand and a market where a smaller number of providers offer quality tested products."
The suggestion was countered by Scottish Widows chief executive Toby Strauss who said: "While commercially such a proposition sounds attractive there is a counter argument in terms of having a vibrant and competitive market."
Pensions minister Steve Webb also expressed concern and likened the scenario to the energy market. He added: "I'm not sure I would want this for the pensions market. What we need to do is crack on with quality standards."
However, the suggestion was rubbished by Carberry.
"Those of us who favour fewer large scale products aren't doing this just for the sake of it," she said.
"Better governance is not the same as the energy market as such a market would be governed by trustees who want to put their members first. I'm all for a vibrant market but only as long as the consumer benefits."
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