Where were you all? IFAs absent from pensions bill debate

Tony Hazell

Tony Hazell

The pensions bill recently went through the committee debate stage in Parliament.

All sorts of experts were invited to give their views to a committee of MPs.

Witnesses included pensions regulator Mark Boyle, FCA director of policy David Geale and Michelle Cracknell from The Pensions Advisory Service. All good solid witnesses.

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There were also appearances from the Money Advice Service. That was day one. But where, I wondered, were the people who will be delivering the advice on these changes? Where were the IFAs?

They must be appearing as witnesses on day two. So I checked the agenda. This was headed up by David Pitt-Watson, author of the devastating pensions report which turned the spotlight on the corrosive effect of charges.

There were representatives from Cardano, First Actuarial, KPMG, Aon Hewitt, the Financial Services Consumer Panel and the Confederation of British Industry. But as far as I could see, no one with experience of giving advice directly to the public.

Day three brought in pensions campaigner Ros Altmann and Jane Vass, head of public policy at Age UK. There were people from consumer rights group Which?, the TUC and the Pensions Policy Institute, and Dominic Lindley, formerly of Which? financial services policy team.

And so to day four. We had the National Association of Pension Funds, the Association of British Insurers, a regulation expert from Towers Watson, pensions journalist John Greenwood and someone from a body called the Strategic Society Centre, before pensions minister Steve Webb came in as the headline act.

So, unless I have missed something, there was not a single frontline IFA in four full days of taking evidence.

What does it say of MPs’ attitudes to IFAs that none were called? What does it say of the lack of coherence within the IFA sector that it has nobody deemed worthy of representing it? Surely IFAs should have been there putting forward their views on pension reforms implementation, how their businesses might be impacted and how their clients might be affected.

So where were you all, why were your views not considered to be sufficiently important for anyone to be called? That is surely something the IFA community should be thinking through very carefully.


Higher-tax bracket risk if cashing in pension pot

There hasn’t been too much written on the tax implications of next year’s pension freedoms so far. But Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves Lansdown, has produced a fascinating analysis based on a survey of 1,247 adults aged between 45 and 65.

It suggests up to 200,000 investors are preparing to cash in their pension savings next year. Based on the median pension pot of £29,000 Mr McPhail estimates this could generate a windfall of between £800m and £1.6bn for the Treasury.