Probe exposes wide disparity in Sipp transfer fees

The full scale of the disparity in self-invested pension transfer out fees can be revealed following an investigation by FTAdviser that found costs ranging from zero to £250 per asset for standard assets and up to £800 for commercial property.

FTAdviser spoke to 14 self invested personal pension operators to gauge the range of costs when transferring in and out of a Sipp, following industry concerns.

Last month, Sipp providers highlighted frustration over some firms’ charges to transfer out, which they claimed are so high - and have been recently hiked - to discourage clients from transferring out of their existing scheme.

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Dentons Pensions’ director of technical services Martin Tilley and Greg Kingston, head of marketing and proposition for Suffolk Life, in particular highlighted instances where the costs to transfer out were higher than to transfer in.

Mr Tilley said: “Costs are lower to bring assets on than to move them off - that cannot be right can it?”

Mr Kingston even suggested there may be breaches of Treating Customers Fairly principle six, which states that customers should not “face unreasonable post-sale barriers... to change product [or] switch provider”, in cases where associated fees take costs “into the thousands of pounds”.

The table below shows the costs for surveyed providers, covering most of the larger players in the sector, to transfer out standard assets and commercial property.

ProviderTransfer in (per holding)Transfer outComm property inComm property out
AJ BellVariesVaries£750£400
ATS£50 plus VAT£150-£200N/AN/A
AvivaFreeFree£1,450 (service provided by Suffolk Life)£600 (service provided by Suffolk Life)
Barnet WaddinghamTime-cost basisTime-cost basisTime-cost basisTime-cost basis
DentonsTime-cost basisTime-cost basisTime-cost basisTime-cost basis
Hornbuckle Mitchell£150£95-£250£500£800
James Hay£50 to a maximum of £200 per annum£150 cap£600-£800£450-£650
Scottish WidowsFreeFreeN/AN/A
Standard LifeOne-off charge of £265 A maximum of £350 per year£728£617
Suffolk Life£150£150£1,450£600

Source: FTAdviser research. All costs are per holding, unless it says otherwise.

In the case of four firms - Alliance Trust Savings, Hornbuckle Mitchell, James Hay Partnership, Standard Life - costs to transfer out standard assets either are or are likely to be higher than to transfer in.

In contrast, five firms do not charge anything to transfer a standard asset in or out: Aegon, Aviva, LV, Fidelity and Scottish Widows. Of the remaining four firms, two charge the same to transfer in as to transfer out: Liberty Sipp (£50) and Suffolk Life (£150).

Three more have variable fees based on time-cost basis charges: AJ Bell, Barnett Waddingham and Dentons.

These charges can still be considerable: Dentons for example charges an hourly rate for administration at £100 plus VAT. Mr Tilley said total time taken for most transfers will be less than five fours.

Barnett Waddingham said it was likely transfer out costs would be higher than those to transfer in due to additional administrative work needed to ensure the next Sipp provider can rely on information provided “at face value”.

Where commercial property is concerned, costs are higher due to greater complexity involved but still vary considerably. Charges per asset range from £450 to £1,450 to transfer in and £250 to £800 to transfer out.