Auto enrolment: A perfect storm for accountants

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Lethargy among small business owners, combined with a potential capacity crunch among expert advisers could lead to the perfect storm for accountants when it comes to auto enrolment (AE), says Anthony Carty, group financial planning director at Clifton Wealth.

Much has been written about the ‘how to’s’ and ‘wherefores’ of AE. The fact is, the initiative is underway; has already seen more than one million employees sign up to pension schemes; and, in general, the large corporates have coped relatively well with the infrastructure changes and communication surrounding AE.

Among the early surprises – even to The Pension Regulator (TPR) itself – is that despite predictions of around 30% of staff choosing to opt-out of the mandatory scheme, only some 10% have actually done so, according to the latest government figures.

Equally, TPR is clearly taking its remit extremely...

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06th Sep 2013 17:51

I had a large client ask about it...

I asked the local IFA ...said he wasn't interested...nothing in it for him

Spoke to big pension co...they wern't interested either


I told the client I couldnt find anyone to help


The result was after they looked around the client decide to go to  NEST






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22nd Aug 2014 17:24

No help out there

Tom 7000 wrote:

I asked the local IFA ...said he wasn't interested...nothing in it for him

Spoke to big pension co...they wern't interested either


I told the client I couldnt find anyone to help


The result was after they looked around the client decide to go to  NEST






Tom there is plenty of help out there you need to decide what is the best route for your clients and you as there payroll provider
Steve Preston
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04th Sep 2013 17:24

Auto enrolment

Anthony is right and our experiences at Clear Workplace would seem to mirror his. Demand for our middleware is increasing all the time.

This is a massive opportunity for accountants to add value and earn additional fee income. Our accountant partners are already seeing a steady stream of enquiries from employers and having the right middleware solution in place is vital to getting it right.

Auto enrolment is a great 'excuse' for accountants to be proactive and differentiate their payroll bureau offering to win more clients.

Happy hunting, everyone!

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05th Sep 2013 09:50


@Tom, sales puff aside down at the dirty end that sort of thing is going to be what we we end up doing. The main issue is the advice side which I don't think we are able to provide?

As ever I imagine the answer is to get a workable system to cope with the volume and charge enough to make it worth the bother, no doubt there will be huge changes at the NEST end once they get hit by the tidal wave of small co's with one or two employees so its going to be hard to price until they sort out what they want people to do when its mass volume/small value.

Its a bit like the director only payrolls for RTI being a "surprise" to HMRC when by volume they are by far the most numerous set up.  

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05th Sep 2013 16:22

Financial Advice

Recent ICAEW/QAD seminar says that NEST is a financial product and therefore we are not qualified to recommend it. Could be interesting.

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22nd May 2014 10:41

ICAEW are changing their position in light of clarification

HudsonCo wrote:

Recent ICAEW/QAD seminar says that NEST is a financial product and therefore we are not qualified to recommend it. Could be interesting.




The FCA and Pension Regulator have issues a joint communique in March that states clearly that advising employers on workplace pensions (including advice on the financial product) is a non-regulated activity.


The confusion has arisen because advising individuals about workplace pensions is a regulated activity.


I'm prepared to risk my firm's reputation on this and have been to the ICAEW who now accept that their previously held position is no longer right.



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05th Sep 2013 17:01


@hudson, I was afraid that would be the case. We are going to end up with a fudge on this along the lines of having to do a  "I cant advise you as we are not independent financial advisors,  but what I can tell you what we have done as a firm, and if you chose the same route - having taken independent advice - we can do the same for you". 

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06th Sep 2013 13:54

AE compliance

 ....aside form the regulated advice, which as you have quite rightly pointed out needs to be provided, where required, by an IFA there is the issue of compliance with the other 95% of the legislation.

An employer will need to establish their staging date, segment their staff both at outset and every subsequent pay ref period into three distinct sub sets, communicate with them separately and auto enrol the eligible jobholders. The employer will need to record anyone who opts out, without being able to opt them out themselves and where applicable issue refunds of contributions to members who chose to opt out within the opt out window. This will be notified by your chosen pension provider but may some some time after teh individual has opted out....could be two months!

All of this activity/communication will need to be recorded and kept for a minimum of six years...oh and you have re enrol all of those who opt out every three years so best start marking diary dates on each members' file who opts out....unless of course they opt out within twelve months of the triannual anniversary of your staging date in which case they are re enrolled after four years.

I actually dont think the pension is the problem here...........


Come April next year in excess of 10,000 employers a month will be staging....come 2015 that will be nearly 60,000 each month and come 2016 it peaks at 137,000 employers each month.

Something tells me a manual solution just wont cut it!


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27th Sep 2013 17:46

Funnily enough ...

I went on a course yesterday when this subject came up. The speaker predicted that come April next year everyone will suddenly wake up to Auto enrolment, - that is employers, employees and accountants - the financial services wont be able to cope with the numbers applying so the ones who havent planned in advance will have no choice but to go into NEST.

The speaker also said that there was a 3 month 'lead in' time for setting up a non NEST scheme so clients should be being advised now.

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By 0098087
01st Oct 2013 14:48

But nest will not administer the scheme. Which means the employer will..nightmare!!

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26th Jun 2014 14:46

Auto Enrolment


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25th Sep 2014 13:18

AE in a Box

The shift from a small number of large employers to a large number of small employers makes it unattractive for the more traditional pension providers and for financial advisers charging fees for their work.

The reality is that most of the small companies with 50 or less employees will most likely to have to do most if not all the work themselves and will expect their accountant to help.

We have come up with AE in a Box, which launches on 1st October which will help employers to work in conjunction with their accountant or whoever does their payroll to ensure each and every task is completed when it's. Not just in the lead up to their staging date but for as long as they're in business. 


AE in a box is a tool designed to empower the employer to do the job. To do this we’ve broken down what they need to do in clear and simple tasks and provide guidance on how to complete the task. The employer will be able to choose a suitable pension scheme, choose a middleware solution (if required) and work out which basis of earnings to use with our Scheme Certification Calculator.

It's also a lot cheaper than hiring a financial adviser!

Find out more at which goes live on 1st October 2014


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28th Oct 2014 17:01

Payroll Software

Extract from The Pension Regulators Quarterly Bulletin

Completing a declaration of compliance

without choosing a pension scheme

In another case, an employer completed the online declaration of compliance (registration) to inform us that they had complied with their employer duties. However, the information provided by the employer about the pension scheme being used for automatic enrolment was not matched to a particular provider.

Following investigation it transpired the employer had not taken any steps to choose and set up their pension scheme. The employer had incorrectly assumed the payroll software they used had the functionality to interface directly with a pension provider without them needing to take any steps to choose and set up a pension scheme.

Employers need to choose a pension scheme and then work closely with the scheme provider to get the scheme up and running. There are a number of things an employer will need to find out and agree with the scheme provider, such as what information they need to make someone an active member of the scheme, and agreeing contribution rates and due dates for payment. All of this should be done ahead of the staging date so that staff are automatically enrolled at the right time. 

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30th Mar 2015 16:25

An Exciting Prospect

Automatic Enrolment could be an incredible opportunity for accounting firms because preparing for AE can be a lengthy process, even if your staging date is a while away. 

We're hoping that a lot of our clients see the value in starting to plan early, otherwise we might be in for a bit of a shock come crunch time! 

Great article, thanks! 

PK Group

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03rd Apr 2015 06:18

Accountants needed

More employers will stage this August (approx 50,000) than have staged in the previous 3 years.

Research suggests that most of these SMEs will turn to their accountants to help them comply.

TPR originally suggested 18 months of preparation is ideal.  The reality is that while some SMEs are well prepared, most are not.  A minimum lead time of 3-6 months is reasonable.

As per threads above - advising an employer on a workplace scheme is not a regulated activity.  This is less of an issue where a master trust is used (TPR regulated where trustee is fiduciary), rather than a GPP (FCA regulated individual contracts), for regulatory reasons.

Besides this is only an issue if you are recommending one scheme over another.  Accountants can simply charge for implementation, i.e. assisting an employer participate in a master trust (such as NEST or TRUST|Pensions)).

For AE, employers therefore need either an IFA or an Accountant, but not both. Many of the accountancy firms we speak to were unaware of this.

At TRUST|Pensions, we are working directly with accountancy firms to help them provide a straightforward AE scheme for their clients as a more flexible alternative to NEST.  We can provide bulk staging plans for your corporate clients, and have developed a simple to follow AE in Ten Steps.

Have a look at our page on AW: or direct to

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