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Based on the report of OASIS (Old age social and income security), which was a national project that the Government of India had initiated to examine policies related to old age income security in India, the government decided to replace the then defined benefit pension system to defined contribution pension system with respect to all new joinees of Central/State Government except armed forces. Accordingly, IPRDA – Interim pension fund regulatory and development Authority bill was passed by Union parliament in February 2003, which established IPRDA to promote, develop, and regulate pension system in India.

IPRDA was passed in order to have a system in place till the final and fool-proof system is prepared, re-approved, and implemented with the acceptance of all political parties including the opposition parties. And this final system i.e., PFRDA – Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority was established with the President’s assent on 19 September 2013 and was made a permanent Act. The President was the guardian of PFRDA till Financial Year (FY) 2014-15 and it has become fully autonomous and functions independently from FY 2014-15.

1. Applicability

While the pension system was initially introduced for Government employees, it is now extended to all citizens of India and non-resident Indians including self-employed persons.

In this article, we have discussed the system which was established to promote, develop, and regulate pension system in India i.e., PFRDA.

2. PFRDA and its functions

PFRDA, as already mentioned, is the pension regulator and works towards its promotion and development. It is a Central autonomous body and is a quasi-government organisation and has executive, legislative and judicial powers similar to other financial sector regulators in India such as Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) and, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI).

PFRDA administers and regulates the National Pension System (NPS) and also administers Atal Pension Yojana.

Functions of PFRDA

  • Regulate NPS and pension schemes to which PFRDA Act applies
  • Establish, develop and regulate pension funds
  • Protect the interest of pension fund subscribers
  • Register and regulate intermediaries
  • Approve schemes, terms and conditions, and laying down norms for management of corpus of pension funds
  • Establish grievance redressal mechanism for subscribers
  • Promote professional organisation connected with the pension system
  • Settle disputes among intermediaries and also between intermediaries and subscribers
  • Train intermediaries and educate subscribers and the general public with respect to pension, retirement savings and related issues
  • Regulate the regulated assets
  • Call for information, conduct inquiries, investigation and audit of intermediaries and other entities connected with pension funds

3. National Pension Scheme

NPS is a defined contribution pension system introduced by PFRDA whereby subscribers’ contributions are collected and accumulated in an individual pension account using various intermediaries. Under NPS, individual contributions are pooled together into a pension fund and is invested as per approved investment guidelines. Funds are generally invested in diversified portfolios consisting of government bonds, bills, corporate debentures, and shares, based on subscribers choice. Subscribers also have an option, at the time of exit, to purchase a life annuity by using accumulated pension fund.

As already mentioned,, NPS is governed by PFRDA. PFRDA also established an NPS trust under Indian Trust Act, 1882 in order to manage assets and funds under NPS in the best interest of subscribers.

NPS Trust is managed by a Board of Trustees appointed by PFRDA who is the settlor of the trust. Legal ownership of trust and funds is entrusted to the board of trustees. The Board consists of a Chairman and up to 5 members including the chairman, and the Board meets once in 3 calendar months.

NPS Trust is responsible for executing individual pension accounts in its name with the subscriber, protecting the properties of NPS, safeguarding interest of NPS and its subscribers, approving various documents and reports including audited financials submitted by various intermediaries of NPS trust, monitoring and evaluating operations of such intermediaries, exit the subscriber from NPS etc.

4. Intermediaries, stakeholders of PFRDA, NPS Trust

PFRDA has appointed various intermediaries for the purpose of collection, management, recordkeeping and distribution of accumulations. Various intermediaries of PFRDA are as follows:

Pension Fund

Pension fund is one of the intermediaries which has been granted a certificate of registration by PFRDA as an authority for receiving contributions, investing them, and paying the subscribers in a specified manner. List of pension funds registered under NPS are here.

Primary functions of the pension fund are as below:

  • Collection of subscribers funds (subscribers who have given their choice of investment and subscribers who have chosen auto allocation of funds) from trustee bank for the purpose of investment
  • Constitute investment committee and risk management committee
  • Maintain proper books of accounts for pension fund schemes
  • Declaration of Scheme NAV (Net Asset Value) at the end of each working day and communicating to Central Record Keeping Agency (CRA) for unitization in subscriber’s Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN)
  • Reporting operational activities to NPS trust at regular intervals

Central Record Keeping Agency (CRA)

CRA is an agency registered under PFRDA to perform functions of record-keeping, accounting, administration, and customer service to Pension scheme subscribers. National Securities Depository Limited e-governance infrastructure Ltd (CRA1) is the first CRA appointed by PFRDA and Karvy Computershare Private Limited (CRA2) is the second CRA.

In case of private sector employee pension subscribers, an option is given to the employer to choose between either CRA1 or CRA2 and in case of non-employee voluntary subscribers, option to choose the CRA is with the subscribers themselves. In case of government sector subscribers and subscribers registered with Atal Pension Yojana, the respective Government will choose the CRA and in case of NPS-Lite subscribers, it is the aggregator who has to choose the CRA. Here are the contact details of CRAs.

Functions of CRA

  • Acts as an operational interface for all intermediaries under the CRA system and liasons with all necessary external agencies to accomplish operations and commissioning
  • Issuance of PRAN and despatch of PRAN card, digitization and maintenance of the database of PRANs, and record transaction related to subscribers
  • Unitization of the contribution made by subscribers to their PRAN account
  • Receive instructions from subscribers and aggregate the instructions and pass it on to other intermediaries such as Trustee Bank, Annuity Service
  • Providers and Pension Fund Managers
  • Facilitate credit subscribers’ account and timely allocation of funds to
  • Pension fund managers
  • Offer various services directly to subscribers, including consolidated account statements
  • Provide call centre facilities to subscribers
  • Provide centralised grievance management system
  • Process exit or withdrawal request of subscribers etc

Point of Presence (PoP)

PoP is another intermediary registered under PFRDA as a point of presence and has electronic connectivity with the CRA for the purposes of receiving and transmitting funds and instructions and pay out of funds.

List of PoPs registered under PFRDA can be found here.

Functions of PoP

  • Facilitate registration of subscribers, verify KYC documents
  • Initial contribution processing at the time of registration
  • Receive and upload grievance received from subscribers and other intermediaries in the Central Grievance Management System (CGMS) of CRA, which in turn routes the grievance to respective intermediaries
  • Perform due diligence in accepting subsequent contributions and remit the funds to the trustee bank

Trustee Bank

It is a bank and an intermediary responsible for the day-to-day flow of funds, and also provides banking facilities, receives NPS funds from all nodal offices, and transfers the same to intermediaries such as pension fund/annuity service provider/other intermediaries as per operational guidelines.

Axis Bank has been appointed as Trustee Bank from 1 July 2015 and the appointment is valid for 5 years subject to annual review by PFRDA. Details of the Trustee bank are available here.

Functions of Trustee Bank

  • Collect NPS funds from nodal offices received through online and physical mode
  • Reconcile the amount collected from nodal offices and amount paid by subscribers
  • Consolidate all contribution records and prepare Fund Receipt confirmation file
  • Assist CRA in settlement process by transferring funds to CRA etc

Custodian

Custodian is responsible for the safe-keeping of securities or assets held under NPS or any other pension scheme and providing incidental services including maintaining accounts of securities or assets, undertaking activities as a Domestic Depository, collecting the benefits or rights accruing on the securities or assets, etc.

Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited is the custodian appointed by PFRDA. Contact details of custodian can be found here.

Aggregator

Agrregator is another intermediary registered under PFRDA to perform subscriber interface functions under NPS-Lite/Swavalamban, such as carry out changes to subscribers database as requested by subscribers, processing of subscribers contribution to NPS-Lite/Swavalamban and grievance redressal, etc.

List of registered aggregators can be found here.

Annuity Service Provider (ASP)

ASPs are entrusted with the task of providing annuity payments to subscribers at the time of exit/periodic annuity payment depending on the annuity contract opted by subscribers, addressing queries of potential subscribers with respect to purchase of annuities, facilitate subscriber registration for purchase of annuity, grievance redressal of subscribers who purchased annuity from it, etc.

List of ASPs can be found here.

Retirement Advisor

Retirement adviser can be any person i.e., individual, firm, company, trust, society, etc. registered under the PFRDA to provide advice on NPS or other pension schemes regulated by the authority to subscribers or other persons or group of persons.

5. Online Services offered by PFRDA

PFRDA is not behind in making use of digitization and making pension system operation smooth for its subscribers. PFRDA enables its subscribers to perform the following activities online:

  • Opening of NPS account
  • Contribution to PRAN account except NPS-Swavalamban and Atal Pension Yojana accounts
  • Activate Tier-II Account i.e., voluntary savings facility which does not have restrictions on withdrawals and also no tax benefit
  • Modification of personal details on the database
  • Modification of investment pattern
  • Change of pension fund except for government subscribers and subscribers of certain corporates
  • Download statement of transaction at any time, physical copy of which is generally despatched to subscribers once in a year and soft copy periodically to registered email id
  • Exit/withdrawal requests
  • Lodging of complaint
  • Print e-PRAN

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