CompaniesNov 5 2015

Firing Line: Simon Massey

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For Simon Massey, wealth management director at MetLife, the oft-quoted retirement revolution is under threat by a dearth of product innovation.

According to Mr Massey, the revolution started when the Chancellor of the Exchequer ascended the despatch box and delivered the groundbreaking pension changes in his 2014 Budget speech.

However, industry providers have appeared preoccupied on updating their existing propositions and are yet to step up to the plate and offer a truly innovative solution to meet the needs of pensioners in the new retirement landscape, he said.

“I think providers have been busy getting themselves pension-freedoms ready. I also think that some of them have shown reticence to providing guarantees on their balance sheet for consumers.

The demand for guaranteed income and investment growth has resulted in the proliferation of hybrid products combining an annuity and drawdown.

Mr Massey said: “The problems with those propositions is that, superficially, it might look like you are getting the best of both worlds, but, actually, what you are really getting is the worst of both worlds.

“It is fundamentally a repackaging of last century’s solutions to last century’s challenges to income provision. This century’s challenges are income provision and flexible access, and those propositions simply do not deliver what the customer wants.”

A lot has to be said about the future of annuities in the post-pension reform marketplace amid dwindling sales figures. According to Association of British Insurer statistics, the number of annuities sold continues to fall, with 20,600 annuities sold during the first quarter of 2015 – more than three times less that the 74,100 sold over the same period last year – prior to the announcement of the pension reforms.

Meanwhile, the number of income drawdown contracts sold by ABI members during the first quarter of 2015 increased by 64 per cent over the past year, from 6,700 to 11,500.

He said: “Annuity and drawdown will have a role for certain customer groups, but most consumers want to remain in control of their pots, but like the idea of a guaranteed income. That is why we have innovated in this area.”

The innovation Mr Massey is referring to is Retirement Portfolio: a flexible guaranteed drawdown product launched in September, offering daily lock-ins and a guaranteed income deferral rate of 5 per cent for those investing in the secure income option from the age of 50.

He said that the product was designed in light of research conducted by the provider, which, among its findings, highlighted a significant appetite for three key assurances at retirement: certainty of income, value for money and flexibility.