Regulation 

Pensions guidance questions remain as brand announced

Pensions guidance questions remain as brand announced

The Treasury has finally revealed the brand of the new pensions ‘guidance guarantee’ service will be Pension Wise, with the tagline ‘Your money, Your choice’, though the government’s older workers tsar has highlighted questions which remain unanswered about the service.

The new name and logo will be used by all those involved in providing the online, face-to-face and telephone guidance, including delivery partners Citizens Advice and The Pensions Advisory Service.

In order to protect consumers from imitators of the service and ensure the guidance brand is trusted, the government will make it illegal to imitate Pension Wise through the Pensions Schemes Bill, with anyone seeking to pass themselves off as the service facing prosecution.

Andrea Leadsom, economic secretary to the Treasury, called it a distinctive brand, “making it easy for consumers to know where to go for help and guidance”.

Ros Altmann, the government’s older workers’ champion, responded to the announcement by stating that it will need an extensive publicity campaign to ensure Pension Wise becomes a recognised and trusted brand.

She warned that the project is still very much a work in progress and highlighted that a number of questions remain unresolved, including the specifics of the content of the sessions and the information individuals will need to provide.

From 6 April 2015, over 300,000 individuals a year with defined contribution pension savings will be able to access them as they wish from when they turn 55.

From today (12 January) anyone with a DC pension who is approaching retirement and would like the chance to access the service as part of Pension Wise’s piloting activities can register their interest via the new website.

“The Pensions Advisory Service and Citizen’s Advice Bureau are hurriedly trying to sort out further details and recruiting new staff. They will be running pilot schemes prior to April, to learn what works well with the public.”

Only last week, job adverts for roles at both of the delivery partners showed evidence of different approaches.

Ms Altmann also called for the guidance service to explain the hidden commission costs and charges of buying without advice.

“At the moment, most people do not realise that buying an annuity direct from their pension company still costs them money as the provider deducts commission (around 1.5 per cent of their fund) when they sell you an annuity.”

She added that this would be a great opportunity for financial advisers.

“The free guidance session should help people understand the complexity of pension decisions. There will be even more options available to people in future and, therefore, expert professional independent advice could be even more valuable.”

Questons have also been raised as to what take-up of the service will be, with several surveys published last year showing wild disparities between results, though at this time very little was known about the service.

peter.walker@ft.com

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