Pension funds are facing a capacity crunch because of the pace and volume of regulatory change expected in the industry over the next 12 months, the National Association of Pension Funds has said.
The NAPF's warning comes in response to its findings that 81% of its pension scheme and business members agreed that the degree of regulatory change would adversely affect their ability to provide a good service to members.
NAPF chief executive Joanne Segars said: 'The pensions sector is facing a "capacity crunch". The NAPF and its members have worked hard to shape and deliver effective reforms that bring positive results for pension savers, but this stack of change threatens our members' ability to continue to deliver business as usual.'
The survey also revealed that more than three-quarters (78%) of respondents said the abolition of defined benefit 'contracting out' was a great concern. There was a particularly high level of concern among pension scheme respondents (85%). However, business members were most worried about the implementation of automatic enrolment (87%).
Segars said that, while the NAPF welcomed auto-enrolment, if pension reforms attempt 'to do so much in such a short period of time we risk not delivering the very best outcomes for workers and savers'.
The survey also found that 77% of pension schemes were concerned by the administration of pension tax relief. Pension liberation requests were also of concern to 59% of the survey respondents.
'[Pension reforms are] too important to rush,' Segars said. 'We need to press pause, prioritise what really matters and deliver automatic enrolment effectively - making sure we build the very strongest foundation on which to build sustainable and positive change for the future.'
Speaking at the NAPF's dinner conference last night the association's president Ruston Smith noted that there were nine pension consultations issued by the Department for Works and Pensions in 2013, with a third closing just between late November and Christmas.
Smith added: 'Over the last three and a half years, we've seen 47 major pension publications from the DWP - more than one a month. And there are more ideas that haven't even made it to consultation.
'Last month [pensions minister Steve Webb] talked about annuity switching - which is a radical idea that would provide more choice for savers - but would increase operational complexity. We do need to improve standards, products and services - but we need to have focused change - that we can execute effectively - and which truly adds value to pension savers.'
He said in order to build an effective and sustainable infrastructure for the long-term savings of the UK population, the pension industry 'needs enough time, capability and capacity'.
That's why Webb was right to delay the implementation of the charges cap, he added.
'Trying to do too much too quickly - creating the risk of over-complexity - could crack the strong foundations we're building.'