Hornbuckle may offer discounted exit to disgruntled adviser

Hornbuckle has revealed to FTAdviser it could seek to offer a disgruntled adviser who had been subject to a pre-RDR incentive deal a discounted exit ‘settlement’, after fresh complaints relating to legacy issues came to light.

Two financial advisers have contacted FTAdviser in recent days on separate issues to complain about service standards at the self-invested pension firm.

This follows the revelation in October that the firm is preparing for a stream of legacy issues as it overhauls its business and undertakes a migration of data to a new digital platform. In particular it said it expected to uncover a number of errors relating to incorrect tax relief submissions.

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Colin Johns, director at Principal Financial Planning, told FTAdviser that he was incentivised to transfer around 17 Sipps over to Hornbuckle in 2008, with the provider offering him reduced rates across its fees, including exit fees.

However, this failed to materialise due to what Hornbuckle termed in correspondence “a major breakdown in communication”. Seeking to exit the provider amid claims of poor service, Mr Johns’ clients now face being charged £800 per asset for in-specie transfers to another provider.

Speaking to FTAdviser, Patrick Van de Steen, Hornbuckle’s managing director and head of proposition, who joined in February 2014, said these incentivised deals were offered pre-RDR and had since been withdrawn.

Mr Johns said administrative errors include overpayment of maximum Gad income, annual reviews not being carried out and pension input dates errors. He said Hornbuckle had threatened to report clients to HM Revenue and Customs.

Mr Johns told FTAdviser that Hornbuckle since apologised to clients stating they do not need to report them to the Revenue as they had only overpaid by less than £250.

As a consequence of these catalogue of errors, Mr Johns wants the exit fees removed so his clients can move to another provider.

Mr Van de Steen stopped short of saying fees would be removed, stating that it is standard for Hornbuckle to charge exit fees, but he said “settlements” would be reached for advisers in this position who wish to leave.

Mr Van de Steen said: “We understand that he is not happy and we... don’t want to hold him hostage to our firm. We are going to not create an unreasonable barriers for those that are dissatisfied and want to leave.

“Our firm has changed and with this our business practices are changing and that’s the way it is. We have a new way of business and we want all of our business to be conducted in that fashion.

“We are sorry that creates upheaval; of course it will. We are looking to do a deal whereby those that don’t want to abide with these new rules can leave the firm.”

In a separate complaint that is now with the Pensions Ombudsman, an adviser who wishes to remain anonymous told FTAdviser that over half of the clients he has invested through the firm have had some form of miscalculation of their accounts, with one having to pay back in excess of £500,000.