The scheme return deadline for Defined Benefit (DB) and hybrid pension schemes is fast approaching, with questionnaires issued by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) in mid-February and due to be submitted by 31 March 2024.

With this in mind, TPR has announced that it is requesting new information from relevant schemes in this year's return with a further batch of additional questions.

What are scheme returns?

TPR must keep a register of occupational pension schemes and, to do this, it is required to issue scheme return notices on a regular basis. For DB and hybrid schemes with 2 or more members, returns are issued every year – usually from December onwards. The process is an information-gathering exercise for TPR and allows it to manage risk and oversee regulatory requirements.

Prescribed questions include the type of pension scheme, the number of members it has, and the value of its assets. However, TPR can also request additional information which it reasonably requires to exercise its functions in relation to the pension scheme.

New questions: fiduciary managers and investment consultancy providers

This year, there is a new focus on fiduciary managers and investment consultancy providers.

Questions have been designed to monitor trustees' compliance with their legal obligations - to run a competitive tender process when appointing fiduciary managers in relation to 20% or more of scheme assets, as well as set and review strategic objectives for their investment consultancy provider.

Previously, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) monitored trustees' compliance with these obligations, requiring trustees to return compliance statements and certificates to the CMA each year. Responsibility for monitoring compliance transferred to TPR in October 2022, but trustees may remember that the scheme return in 2023 omitted any reference to fiduciary managers and investment consultancy providers.

Now that the dust has settled, TPR is requesting details on who the fiduciary managers and investment consultants are, the date on which they were appointed to schemes and their contact details.

New questions: liquidity and leverage

For the first time, scheme returns also include questions on liquidity and leverage arrangements, as well as the controls schemes have in place.

TPR has indicated that this is a direct response to the gilt market crisis of Autumn 2022, when the Bank of England intervened to restore market functioning and ensure UK financial stability. Guidance was issued by TPR in April 2023 outlining steps trustees should take to manage risks, and this year's scheme return seeks to assess whether the guidance is effective.

New questions: pensions dashboard primary contact and AVC providers

TPR has also included questions on two additional topics.

In anticipation of the connection deadline for pensions dashboards, which we've covered in a separate blog, TPR is requesting details of the primary contact with responsibility for the scheme's dashboard. It's expected that the primary contact will be sent updates and information by TPR about pensions dashboards.

Separately, TPR is also requesting details about companies administering additional voluntary contributions (AVCs). Questions are specifically focused on arrangements where members can build up DC pots by making AVCs, and the AVCs are administered by an entity other than the scheme's main administrator.

Next steps

Trustees may need to liaise with their investment advisers and managers, and they should reach out at the earliest opportunity to ensure returns are submitted prior to the deadline.

If you would like to discuss anything raised in this blog in more detail, please get in touch with a member of the pensions team or your usual Brodies contact.


Jennifer Crawford

Senior Associate

Juliet Bayne


Lauren Smith

Trainee Solicitor