A growing community of 60+ firms have signed up to the STAR initiative, which officially launched in January 2019 and has companies and organisations committed to shaping recognised, industry-wide standards to promote good practice in transfers. The STAR initiative, backed by the regulators and the government, is the only cross industry solution bringing together platforms, providers, life companies and transfer / asset managers. The initiative is galvanising the industry, to create the long-term solution to improving customer experience of transferring pensions, savings and investments between companies, by setting and measuring against a best practice framework. The Working Groups and Steering Group have been meeting monthly and in March 2020 moved into the Implementation Phase. In December 2019, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) confirmed it was happy with progress made by the industry through the STAR initiative. The FCA has encouraged firms not already involved in this initiative to consider taking part as a way of improving the switching process and achieving better outcomes for consumers.
Andrew Marker (Dip PMI), Head of Retail Pensions, Vanguard Asset Management Ltd has been announced as the new Chair of the Steering group. He succeeds Tom McPhail who was the founding Chair and left the industry in June. The Steering Group is made up of senior members, and is overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority, the Department for Work and Pensions, The Pensions regulator and other consumer groups.
Andrew has extensive technical experience in respect of retail and occupational pensions as a result of a 25-year career in pensions that has spanned roles from operations, proposition, and product design. He has worked with the UK regulators and through various trade bodies to help shape the UK retail pension regulations to further improve the pension industry in the UK. He is an active member of the ABI Platforms Working group and in Europe the EFAMA Pension Standing Committee working on the Pan European Personal Pension (PEPP). Andrew is currently the Head of Retail Pensions for Vanguard in the UK, responsible for their retail pension product design and implementation. In addition, he represents Vanguard at various trade body working groups and committees which cover the retail investor and retirement market.
Commenting Andrew said: “I am committed to taking a stand for retail investors, ensuring they are treated fairly and giving them the best chance of investment success. I am also firmly committed to the time I need to dedicate to achieve this. I strongly believe in the development of a robust set of transfer standards adopted by all within the industry and the importance this will play in the success of the financial services within the UK market. Government and regulators have set a clear challenge to the industry: fix this for the benefit of your customers or we will impose regulations on you. It is essential that the perspective of the end retail investor is taken into account in the formulation of transfer standards.
Within this framework it is also important to understand the challenges certain proposals may have on organisations operating in the UK market, both from a cost and practicality perspective. Implementing and evolving standards within the market will need to balance all of these challenges and also has the benefit of improving the robustness, competitiveness and value-for-money of the UK pension and savings market. I am honoured to chair the Steering Group and am passionate about the role STAR is playing in making transfers easier and more successful for UK investors.”
For more information on STAR and how to get involved, please visit www.joinstar.co.uk.
STAR was created as a collaboration between Criterion and TeX, combining the industry-reach, unique strengths, experience and shared ambition of the two not-for-profit organisations.
Criterion was formed for the industry in July 2017, as an independent, not-for-profit industry body providing Standards and Governance services. It was originally part of Origo Services Ltd and has been publishing process and integration standards for over 25 years. Criterion is uniquely positioned to facilitate and drive cross-industry engagement, helping organisations achieve higher levels of collaboration, reduce costs and achieve better outcomes for their consumers.
TeX is a not-for-profit organisation which works with the industry to ensure that the maximum benefit is provided to all members. This new company is financially independent from TISA but benefits from being linked to the TISA brand through name, the expertise provided by the two corporate entity directorships and the administrative support provided by TISA. This gives the industry a number of benefits, including:
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