Pension freedoms begin to take effect

Pension freedoms begin to take effect

The retirement freedoms have come into effect on 6 April, allowing retirees to take out their pension savings as a lump sum. Now many providers are encouraging consumers to seek financial advice prior to making lump sum withdrawal enquiries.

Unadvised investors are more likely to seek guidance following the pension freedoms, according to Suffolk Life. The company reported that around 90 per cent of their investors are advised, and that its consumer data showed that an unadvised investor was 10 times more likely to make contact for further information on beginning withdrawals from their pension.

Suffolk Life also reported a low number of requests so far from investors to withdraw their pension fund in full, but almost all of those who did request the lump sum were non-advised investors. This highlights the need for consumers to understand the tax implications and wealth planning that must accompany taking their savings out in full.

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Canada Life stated that customer enquiries had tripled following the reforms, and that three quarters of calls have been about cashing in pension pots in full, while flexi-access drawdown or annuities have been other popular requests.

Research from Cofunds determined that the retirement reforms are 2015’s biggest challenge for 18 per cent of advisers. The study found that 60 per cent of advisers currently expect fewer than a quarter of their clients to take advantage of the increased flexibility of their pension funds, and 12 per cent expect none of their clients to access the funds in full.

Now that an annuity is no longer required, attention has turned to other products as investment vehicles for retirement savings, though it is still early to gauge whether this will result in a steep increase in business for some products.

On the increase in use of investment trusts in pensions, Wouter Volckaert, manager of the Henderson Global Equity trust, said, “[It has been} less than I thought, and not just our trust but trusts in general.

I thought trusts would come out as more of a winner on the back of regulation and pension reforms. I thought it would be more, but it is still early days.”

Providers are emphasising the need for consumers to seek advice prior to making pension withdrawal requests. The greater number of options available should not be taken lightly by consumers, and professional financial advice is key to making the best possible plan.