Pension reforms are catalyst for expertise sharing

Pension reforms are catalyst for expertise sharing

The recent at-retirement reforms have been a catalyst for “expertise sharing” between accountants and advisers, who both need to learn up on their peers’ specialisms to properly assist clients, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

Speaking to FTAdviser, their technical manager for financial planning and advice John Gaskell, explained that as accountants are already the first port of call for many in this demographic on things like inheritance tax and pension tax, they already have trusted relationships with many older people.

ICAEW has been working on professionalisation of practices, particularly collaborating with financial advisers and solicitors to create a more multi-disciplinary approach, according to Mr Gaskell.

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His comments come as research from Investec Wealth and Investment revealed more than a third of accountants have experienced an increase in demand for advice about finance during the previous 12 months.

The firm commissioned Pollright to interview a sample of 119 randomly selected UK-based accountants at the end of January, finding that three quarters were asked for advice on pensions, while close to 60 per cent were asked to give advice about inheritance tax planning.

The accountants reported that the reasons for the increase in demand by clients for financial advice related to a heightened awareness of inheritance planning (70 per cent), a rise in client liquid assets (39 per cent) and an increase in property transactions among clients (33 per cent).

More than two thirds of respondents said they referred clients seeking advice to an IFA, while one in five said they provided the advice themselves. A further 4 per cent said they referred them to someone other than a financial adviser, with 6 per cent declining to help their clients.

Chris Aitken, head of financial planning at Investec Wealth and Investment, agreed that for many with complicated financial affairs, an accountant is often the first port of call for advice on investments, especially if there are questions about tax that need to be clarified.

“High property prices with their impact on inheritance tax and the changes to the pension regime have added to the trend, so it is unsurprising that accountants are increasingly being asked questions about financial planning.”

Mr Gaskell said this trend should be encouraged, with tax and cash-flow planning experts sharing expertise with those specialising in pensions and investments.

“The freedom and choice reforms have been a catalyst for technical changes and a steep learning curve for everyone involved, given the amount of detail and potential implications.

“There is clearly a need for increased sharing of expertise, so we’ve been building teams via ICAEW workshops, so that we can develop referral networks and better practices.”