Pensions  

Firing Line: Andy Bell

Mr Bell is ploughing on, keeping the business on track and adapting the company to the changing business environment.

One of the changes he has witnessed since setting up the company is the altering perceptions of Sipps. Back in the 1990s, and early 2000s they were the one bright spot on the pensions landscape. Much of that has changed now, not least due to some of them investing in unsuitable assets.

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He said: “An awful lot of Sipp advisers traded on the back of the froth and excitement, but what the market has realised now is that advising Sipps is not the easy gravy train people thought it was. It’s hard work and it’s not without its risks.”

Mr Bell believes there should be a more formalised permitted investment list from the FCA – a clearer statement than that used for capital adequacy purposes. In addition, Sipps can be useful for pension freedoms.

He said: “If you look at pension freedoms, and investment flexibility, you will end up with a Sipp in some form. You will end up with a Sipp that looks very different to when it started 20 years ago – these are pension wrappers that have flexibility on investments,” he explained.

But the world keeps changing on the political front; changes of which Mr Bell does not completely approve of.

He said: “Pension policy is too important to allow the politicians of the here and now who will not be here in three or four years’ time to make decisions on tax relief. We’ve been calling for a pensions commission where the framework for pensions is set in stone.

“If people are being asked to invest over the long term, they should get some form of certainty, and I don’t think any government will give them that.”

The recent fuss over pension tax relief is one example where pension policy became subject to the government’s whim, said Mr Bell and, because of the uncertainty, ended up costing the Treasury £1.5bn, he believes, as investors thought it was about to be abolished.

Agreeing with other comments that the Lifetime Isa is just another variant of the pension Isa idea, Mr Bell said: “The Treasury has done a lot of thinking on the pension Isa, and I don’t think they wanted to scrap that work.

“The Lisa is a test. If it takes off, they will have some evidence to support their argument to scrap tax relief. If it dies a death, they will bury it.

“In isolation I think it’s a good product, but it’s started to overcomplicate the Isa regime. We need to have a single Isa product that has different rules through the life of the customer.”