Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)
Life as a senior citizen is hard enough without the added trouble of a lack of financial security. Aging often reduces your value at the workplace since your body and mind slow down as you grow older. Bad health is almost guaranteed as you age with the lifestyles people live these days.
Add to that the extremely high cost of health care these days, and you can be assured that you will struggle to survive without a regular income, which you won’t have when you retire. That’s why it is so important to have a solid retirement plan in place. The best way to do this is to invest in retirement and pension schemes while still working. Most governments also have pension schemes available to their employees and, more often than not, the general working public.
In India, the British had already installed a pension system that was followed until recently. In 1999, the central government recognized that the old system might not work anymore. To examine this issue, it commissioned a project titled Old Age Social and Income Security, or OASIS. The project was to look at the policy related to old age income security in India and develop ideas to improve it.
According to the suggestions in the report given by the OASIS, the government of India came up with a new Defined Contribution Pension system which replaced the old Defined Benefit Pension System that was in place. This new pension scheme eventually came to be called the National Pension Scheme or NPS. Later, in August 2003, a new regulatory body called PFRDA was also established to regulate and develop the pension sector in India.
What Is PFRDA?
The full form of PFRDA is Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority. It is a regulatory body established by the Indian government to promote, regulate and develop the Indian pension sector. The PFRDA was first established in 2003 for government employees only, but over time, its services have been extended to all Indian citizens, including NRIs and self-employed people.
The PFRDA was established as a single authority on pension funds that would develop a foolproof system agreed on by all political parties. It is an autonomous body with legislative, executive, and judicial powers like the other regulators of financial services in the country, including the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI).
Additionally, the authority has a chairperson and six other members. At least three of these members are whole-time and appointed by the central government.
History Of PFRDA
Before the actual PFRDA was formed in August 2003, the Union passed for an Interim Pension Fund Regulatory Authority or IPFRDA to be formed in February 2003 with the same functions of managing and improving old age income security through pension funds. It was to be in place until the final foolproof system was ready to be approved and implemented in a way acceptable to all political parties, including the opposition. The IPFRDA Bill was passed by the then-president of India, APJ Abdul Kalam.
Later, in September 2013, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill was passed by the Parliament, which made it a Permanent Act. This was the improved version of the imperfect IPRDA Bill of 2003 and was passed by president Pranab Mukherjee.
The president of India is the guardian of the PFRDA, and the Bill is subject to the president’s Financial Emergency Powers according to the Articles in the Constitution of India.
Additionally, the PFRDA also set up the NPS trust under the Indian Trust Act of 1882 to monitor the Pension Fund Managers. The NPS trust consists of members from diverse fields, which increases the amount of talent in the regulatory framework.
What Are The Functions Of The PFRDA?
The PFRDA is the authority in charge of pension funds in India. Listed below are a few of the most essential functions of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development authority:
- It promotes pension schemes to secure the financial needs of senior citizens and retired persons on a sustainable basis.
- It regulates the two most important PFRDA pension schemes - the National Pension Scheme and the Atal Pension Yojana.
- It facilitates two tiers of the NPS - tier 1 and tier 2 - to make it easier for the subscribers.
- It appoints and manages intermediate agencies like the Central Record Keeping Agency, Pension Fund Managers, Trustee Banks, etc.
- It issues public notices to educate the public about pension funds and their importance.
- It addresses grievances related to pension schemes.
- It teaches intermediaries how to educate, popularize and resolve queries about retirement plans and related instruments.
- It addresses and resolves disputes between various intermediaries and also between intermediaries and subscribers.
Which Are The Intermediaries Established Under The PFRDA Scheme?
The PFRDA has established a group of intermediaries to help with the administrative functions of pension funds in India, including organization, record keeping, collection, management, and distribution of money. The following are the intermediaries:
Central Record-Keeping Agency
As the name suggests, this intermediary is responsible for record-keeping, accounting, administration, and customer support for PRDA pension subscribers. Two CRAs established by the PFRDA each cater to specific functions from the abovementioned list. The two CRAs are the National Securities Depository Ltd., CRA 1, and Karvy Computershare Private Ltd., CRA 2.
The following are some essential points to remember about these two CRAs:
- Pension subscribers who are private sector employees can choose between the two CRAs.
- Non-employee voluntary subscribers can also choose between the two CRAs, though they have to do so independently.
- For government sector employee subscribers and those enrolled under the Atal Pension Yojana, the respective governments choose CRA.
- The aggregator chooses the CRA for NPS subscribers.
Now, here are the functions of the CRA as a mediator between the PFRDA and the public:
- It works to help all intermediaries as an operational interface to carry out activities, keep records, and administer customers' information under various pension funds.
- It issues Permanent Retirement Account Numbers or PRAN cards for all subscribers, along with maintaining the PRAN database and keeping track of customer transactions.
- It ensures the unitisation of subscriber contributions toward the pension fund.
- It collects and records relevant information from subscribers and shares it with other intermediaries.
- It monitors and manages the settlement of invested funds and the allocation of units to subscribers.
- It provides various facilities for subscribers, including customer call centers, a centralized grievance management system, withdrawal requests, etc.
Pension Fund And Managers
The Pension Fund is certified by the PFRDA to collect contributions from subscribers and invest that money for them per specific rules and guidelines. The managers are the ones who do this work.
The overall functions of the Pension Fund and its managers are as follows:
- The Pension Fund collects the money people have invested into their pension from administrator banks for further investment. This holds only for the people who have specified a certain amount to be automatically allotted to a specific investment.
- It keeps the books and manages the accounts of those who have subscribed to the National Pension Scheme.
- The Pension Fund also declares and communicates the daily net asset value (NAV) of the PFRDA scheme to the CRA for unitisation, which is the consolidation of several units into a single unit in PRAN.
- It also keeps the NPF Trust updated with the operations of the PFRDA.
Point Of Presence (PoP)
Point of presence or PoP is the intermediary under the PFRDA that is responsible for public welfare. Its typical functions are as follows:
- It oversees the registration of new members to the pension scheme and verifies their KYC documents.
- It collects and verifies subscribers' contributions, regardless of their channel (demand drafts, cash, cheques, etc.)
- It keeps track of and uploads the various changes in the contribution files of subscribers to the CRA.
- It collects the NPS application fees from customers and furnishes them with receipts for the same.
- It handles the grievances of customers and records them in the Central Grievance Management System (CGMS) of the CRA.
- It accepts contributions from customers and sends them to the Trustee Banks.
As the name suggests, the trustee bank is the trusted bank appointed by the PFRDA to manage the day-to-day flow of funds and provide banking services to all NPS customers. It also receives funds from all nodal offices and remits them to various other intermediaries. The appointment of trustee banks changes every five years and they are chosen based on reviews done by the Pension Fund Regulatory Authority on each bank every half-decade.
The functions of the trustee bank are as follows:
- It receives and oversees the funds for NPS through online and offline portals from all over the country.
- It verifies the amounts received from nodal offices.
- It checks all fund transfers for discrepancies and verifies them before putting them through.
- It consolidates all the funds to NPS and prepares fund receipts.
- It maintains and reports daily balances of funds.
- It transfers the funds received diligently per the rules laid out by the PFRDA.
The custodian is an intermediary that ensures the safety of funds, securities, and assets of the NPS or other pension funds. The functions of the custodian are as follows:
- They keep track of and maintain the assets and securities that customers hold.
- They collect the accrued benefits on securities and assets.
- They act as a domestic depository and perform the functions related to the same.
- They maintain and reconcile the records of all the activities taken by the issuer of securities.
- They ensure the provision of incidental services, including maintenance of records.
Aggregators are responsible for taking relevant actions related to subscriber interface functions. Thus, they are the first point of contact between the subscriber and the NPS Swavalamban scheme. The functions of the aggregators are as follows:
- They convey the changes in the subscriber’s database to the CRA as per the subscriber's request.
- They process the contributions to NPS-lite or Swavalamban.
- They address grievances immediately.
Annuity Service Provider
The annuity service provider is the intermediary responsible for the annuity payments carried out to the subscribers when they exit from a fund and the periodic annuity payments as per the contract chosen by the subscriber.
- They address the grievances of subscribers related to annuity payments.
- They oversee the registration of annuity purchases.
- They ensure the immediate redressal of customers that purchased annuities.
The PFRDA appoints a retirement advisor to educate and advise people about NPS and other PFRDA pension schemes. Their responsibilities are as follows:
- They spread awareness about the importance of pension schemes for old age income security.
- They encourage people to join up for pension funds and invest in them.
- They answer all doubts and queries about NPS and other such pension schemes.
Nodal offices are the regional offices that link up to make the PFRDA. They spread the reach of PFRDA pension schemes. There are both central government and state government nodal offices. Their responsibilities are as follows:
- They interact with the CRA on behalf of customers of NPS.
What Are The Online Services Offered By The PFRDA?
The Pension Fund Regulatory Authority offers many of its services online and offline to facilitate individuals to invest in pension schemes. As online applications make it much easier to apply, consumers have been greatly encouraged by these internet services offered to seek out various retirement funds. The services include:
- Opening a pension fund account under NPS.
- Processing contributions to PRAN account, excluding NPS Swavalamban and Atal Yojana accounts.
- Activating Tier 2 accounts.
- Modifying personal details of account holders.
- Modifying investment plans.
- Changing pension plans.
- Accessing and downloading transaction statements.
- Applying and processing withdrawal requests.
- Filing of complaints.
- Printing e-PRAN and other related documents.
To conclude, the PFRDA is the authority on pension schemes in India and is the one-stop source of all the information related to old age income security in the country. The PFRDA Bill was first launched in 2003 by one president and made a Permanent Act in 2013 by another.
It has created a hoard of intermediaries to help administrate pension funds, including the CRA, pension fund managers, trustee banks, custodians, point of presence, aggregators, retirement advisors, and annuity service providers. The PFRDA also launched the NPS Trust under the Indian Trusts Act of 1882.
So, if you’re looking for a pension or retirement plan, check among the schemes offered by PFRDA pension. Additionally, make sure to read and understand all the terms and conditions associated with each scheme before you sign up for one. Remember, it’s okay to ask questions if necessary and get all your doubts clarified as well.
FAQs About PFRDA
What Is The PFRDA Act?
It is an Act developed by the Government of India to promote old age income security by creating, developing, and regulating pension funds. It aims to safeguard the rights of pension fund subscribers and address connected issues.
What Is The PFRDA Bill?
The PFRDA was created in 2003 as an interim authority, and in 2011 the PFRDA bill was launched to give statutory status to the interim PFRDA. The Bill clearly defines the duties and responsibilities of the PFRDA and gives the old pension system of India some structure.
Where is the PFRDA headquartered?
The PFRDA is headquartered in New Delhi.
What Is The NPS Trust?
The NPS Trust is an intermediary established by the PFRDA under the Indian Trusts Act of 1882 to monitor and take care of NPS funds.
Which Authority Regulates The National Pension Scheme?
The National Pension Scheme is a pension fund regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory Authority.
Is the PFRDA an autonomous body?
Yes, the PFRDA is an autonomous body with legislative, executive, and judicial powers like the other regulators of financial services in the country, including the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI).