Personal Pension  

Guidance hopefuls being sifted

Nearly 10 months have passed since George Osborne launched his groundbreaking announcement that will change the face of the pensions market for a long time to come.

Not least the option for those aged 55 and over to delve into their defined contribution pots as and when they see fit rather than having it tied into an annuity.

To guide those approaching retirement on the options available to them from April, the government unveiled a new free impartial guidance service, complete with a logo, recently branded Pension Wise.

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“We want people to be empowered to make informed and confident choices,” is the government line on the aim of the new service, voiced by Andrea Leadsom, economic secretary to the Treasury.

She added: “Pension Wise: Your Money. Your Choice is the brand name for the impartial guidance service we are building.”

It will be run by the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Pensions Advisory Service. Any imitation of the service will be made illegal through the Pension Schemes Bill.

Those eligible will be able to get help online, over the phone and face-to-face about what they can do with their pension pot, the different type of pensions and how they work, and what is and what is not tax free.

The guidance sessions will be approximately 45 minutes long and be piloted from February. Consumers can already register their interest to use the service

The creation of the new service follows the announcement by the chancellor that the government will provide access to free and impartial guidance on how to make the most of the new pension freedoms.

Pension Wise has finished the application process to find the brightest and best to form a team of agents and case workers to provide face-to-face pension and retirement information and guidance – the latter will deal with more complicated pension cases.

Agents will receive an annual salary of between £18,000 and £24,000 and case workers can expect a wage of between £22,000 and £30,000.

According to the job descriptions posted by CAB, both roles require a host of essential skills including numerical skills to understand financial matters and proven ability in financial capability or consumer advice generally.

However, competency in conducting interviews tops the list of requirements, according to a CAB spokeswoman.

She said: “It is vital that staff delivering the pensions guidance have strong interviewing skills in order to understand people’s needs and respond appropriately, particularly when helping vulnerable people or those with complicated circumstances.”

Those recruited will receive rigorous training and deliver the pensions guidance as developed by the Treasury, TPAS and CAB, she added.

She said: “A high-quality and rigorous training programme will ensure all staff have the required pensions knowledge, whether they are delivering guidance face-to-face or over the phone.”

Staff will be assessed to ensure they meet FCA standards before they start offering guidance to the public.

Though unable to disclose the number of people who applied for the vacancies, the spokeswoman said they were pleased by the “very significant” turnout.