Pensions in the UK have always been the subject of highly complex regulation, and for providers it can be a challenge to stay ahead of the now rapidly evolving regulatory landscape.
Fieldfisher has a particular interest in, and reputation for, our work on pension products offered by financial institutions. Essentially these are all forms of long-term savings products that have some form of tax break, and we have been closely involved with innovations in the pension products sector.
We work with asset managers, insurance companies and some of the largest pension fund organisations, giving a particular insight into the challenges that the pensions product market faces – and how new products and services can be developed going forward.
We have been involved in many of the regulatory developments over the course of the last 25 years, for example with the move away from the complex and opaque with-profits policies often used for DB pension products to the cleaner unit-linked and increasingly DC and/or personal pension products now offered by insurance companies and other providers. Along the way, this has included close involvement in the drafting of the SIPP investment restrictions provisions for individual pension accounts, and the proposals for the simplification of pension schemes.
Our lawyers were closely involved in the establishment of the early personal pension schemes and how these have developed into more regulated personal investment products over the years and the appropriate investment powers and constraints for a wide range of pension schemes and products – and their underlying investment arrangements.
Our financial services lawyers frequently advise a range of occupational pension scheme clients on their investment issues, particularly in the light of the newer investment demands resulting from the maturity of most of those schemes.
Notable deals / highlights
Advised on the policy terms for the EasyBuild Stakeholder Pension product for B&CE, the largest stakeholder product to be established, and the establishment of The People's Pension as its replacement.
Negotiated investment documentation for pension scheme clients in respect of managing longevity and other risks by use of complex insurance wrapped Irish QIF products; and documented specific terms for use of insurance contract arrangements by a pension scheme for both DC and AVC arrangements - particular issues arising in relation to the responsibilities of a trustee as policyholder.
Advised a major insurer on its distribution arrangements for its personal pension products via employers, including its online arrangements and the possible extent of the employer's role.
Acted as an expert witness for HMRC in the Wheels case, concerning the statutory, legal and regulatory aspects of UK defined benefit occupational pension schemes compared with funds, which are regarded as special investment funds (SIFs) for VAT purposes, and in particular SIFs that are UK domiciled investment funds.
On the investment legal panel, as well as the corporate legal panel, for National Employment Savings Trust, a statutory corporation established to provide personal account pension provision particularly for no earners. We have advised on investment manager appointments.
Advised Scottish Widows Investment Partnership on drafting and negotiating the terms for a segregated portfolio for the SWIP Staff Retirement Benefit Scheme – portfolio size approximately £300m – with a significant derivatives overlay, advising in relation to the relevant Investment Management Agreement and related derivative documentation.