Q&A with Dougie Elliott, Chair - Isle of Man Association of Pension Scheme Providers

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Dougie Elliott is Chair of the Isle of Man’s Association of Pension Scheme Providers.  He has spent the last decade leading pensions businesses on the Island following 30 years in the banking and investment sectors and is now on the Board of Sovereign SIPP Specialists as well as being principal of a boutique advisory business.  As Chair of the APSP, Dougie is perfectly placed to assess the Island’s retirement benefits proposition past, present and future.

How have you seen the Isle of Man’s pensions industry develop over the years?

The Isle of Man has been innovating and pioneering on behalf of international pensions customers, from large multinationals to private individuals, since the 1970s.  A pivotal point in that development was the move to establish pensions-specific legislation in 2000 and, with it, a dedicated regulatory framework for retirement benefits, distinct from other financial services.  The goal at that time was to build a reputation for strong pensions governance aligned with service excellence and product flexibility – that has certainly been achieved.  Continual refinement and enhancement of the proposition has enabled the Isle of Man to remain at the vanguard of this space.  A great example of that was our early engagement on FATCA and the Common Reporting Standard which led to a simple, clear and concise reporting regime, enhancing our offering yet further.  It’s no accident that we have, over the last 5 years, represented 63% of the global IPP market for trust-based schemes, as surveyed by Willis Towers Watson in 2021.

What do you think are they key strengths of the Isle of Man pensions industry?

The Island has a strong history of innovation and adaptability to the continually evolving international retirement and savings landscape. This is partly due to the regulatory framework which is in equal measure both robust and flexible, allowing corporate clients the freedom to tailor international retirement solutions to the diverse demands of their international operations, as well as to private clients seeking the kinds of long-term financial benefits best-suited to their future goals.

Governance is paramount in pensions and all our scheme administrators undergo a rigorous regulatory approval process and on-going monitoring of their fitness and propriety.  On top of that, individual schemes are subject to stringent regulations governing operational standards. This framework has developed over 2 decades and remains, to this day, an international benchmark to be proud of.

The Isle of Man is also committed to being a respected and responsible global citizen, always out in front when embracing international compliance standards such as the prevention of money laundering, countering of the financing of terrorism and tax disclosure.  Underlining this, our regulator – the Financial Services Authority – is a member of the International Organisation of Pension Supervisors (“IOPS”).

Our simple and transparent tax environment, geared towards maximising pension benefits, is extremely attractive too.

All of this has led to many recognisable global brands, both product providers and professional services, choosing to locate specialists in the Isle of Man.

What are the biggest challenges facing international retirement benefits provision today?

Our industry’s client base is truly international and multi-jurisdictional, so the biggest challenge for us is continually stepping up to the cross-border compliance challenges, especially in the face of a lack of regulatory and tax harmonisation, both regional and global.  Post-pandemic, I can only see an upward trajectory for remote working and living, so we need to be ready to embrace the increased complexity that inevitably goes with that.  It is gratifying to see how pro-active the APSP members are in getting ahead of these challenges, beefing up technical support and digital propositions with a premium customer outcome in mind.  With the continued high-levels of support for our pensions ecosystem across both the public and private sectors, I certainly do not consider any of these challenges to be insurmountable.  Actually, I see them as an ideal opportunity to further enhance our reputation.

How does the Isle of Man Government support the industry?

In short, exceptionally well – as it does across the whole financial services sector.  We work

very closely with government in a number of areas, for example developing and optimising the legislative and regulatory environment, marketing campaigns and leveraging the quality services available in our wider financial services community.  This support has been ever-present and is undoubtedly a significant contributor to the Island’s eminence in the competitive world in which we operate.

And what does the future hold for international pensions from the Isle of Man?

I have every reason to be confident that the Island can continue to meet the growing demands and complexities of the sector.  We will continue to be innovative in the supply of products and development of technical solutions to meet the needs of an increasingly mobile global population, including but, by no means, limited to:

  • - developing solutions for employees where traditional domestic pensions don’t fit, using bespoke designs for long-term reward arrangements;
  • - working with Fintech and Insurtech applications, developing and incubating propositions to meet the ever-growing demand for digital solutions;
  • - maintaining an unflinching dedication to a first-class, customer-led experience;
  • - preserving the value of our pensions governance, and;
  • - exploring opportunities to broaden the employee benefits offering available from the Isle of Man.

 

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