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13 May 2015

Campaigner Ros Altmann Named As Government Pensions Minister

David Cameron has appointed former Saga Group director and consumer campaigner Ros Altmann as the government´s new pensions minister, This Is Money reports.

Replacing previous minister Steve Webb, who has so far been praised for the ground-breaking reforms introduced during his time, Altmann is expected to continue ensuring that the new system is as effective as possible.

Altmann was originally offered the position back in April, but rejected the proposal and requested that she be considered for the role of minister for consumer protection, instead.

“One of the obvious roles for someone like myself would be pensions minister because that uses all my expertise,” she explained. “But I think I can make a much bigger difference [as consumer protection minister] to a lot more people given that Steve Webb has already done a lot of the pensions reforms.”

However, the academic economist and former fund manager was asked again following the election, and this time she accepted – although her portfolio, which as yet has not been announced, may include some consumer protection policies, as well.

Commenting on the new hire, Adrian Walker - a retirement planning expert at Old Mutual Wealth - applauded Webb´s “sound reputation for engaging with both consumers and the pensions industry,” and expressed that “it seems sensible to appoint industry expert Ros Altmann, a long-time supporter of the Freedom and Choice in Pensions reforms.”

Meanwhile, Professional Pensions reports that chief executive of the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), Joanne Segars, stated there was “much more to do to make sure savers´ interests are kept safe in the wake of the flood of recent reforms.”

For example, the NAPF would like to see the new minister consider how an independent commission could benefit the industry - “By providing impartial and independent expertise and analysis a commission would allow the minister to make policy that stands the test of time,” she noted.

But not everyone agrees that more needs to be done. Portal Financial´s managing director, Jamie Smith-Thompson, argues that pensions should be a “no-go area for a while” and that the dust should be left to settle on the newly-launched reforms.

“We may see further adjustments, especially if the new minister feels as though there are big shoes to fill, and this could lead to more confusion for consumers,” he explained.

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