FSCS bill for two pension advice firms hits £6m

The FCA issued a supervisory notice against Bank House in December 2016 in which it stated the firm had carried out pension switching into high risk, unregulated investments and had entered a voluntary agreement in July 2016 to immediately cease any pension switching or pension transfer activity.

But the firm breached this agreement later in the year and lied to the FCA about its pension switching activity, the regulator said.

The FCA found the firm had advised 72 customers on 78 transactions involving pension switches to a Sipp account administered by a single provider between 5 October 2015 and 13 October 2016.

The firm also advised five customers to switch pensions to Sipp accounts offered by two other providers between 8 October 2015 and 10 November 2016.

Same as Henderson Carter and Financial Page, Bank House had processed business through an unregulated third party.

The FCA had told all three firms to cease their pension transfer and switching business as well as immediately secure all books and records.

It had also banned them from disposing of, dealing with or diminishing the value of any of its assets without the prior consent of the authority.

But Ricky Chan, Chartered IFA at IFS Wealth and Pensions, said more needed to be done by the FCA to protect consumers and advisers.

He said: "I’m always surprised at the sheer volume of poor advice relating to Sipps and non-standard or unregulated investments, especially as this was caused by just two relatively small advice firms.

"The FCA needs to be more proactive, rather than the usual reactive approach a few years down the line, to spot trends in poor advice and be more decisive in its actions."

He thought claims in these particular cases may have peaked because they related to advice given a few years back.

But moving forward Sipp providers should also be asked to "shoulder some responsibility instead of turning a blind eye", he said.

The FSCS has already started to find against Sipp providers in what could mark a turning point in its approach to handling such claims.

In January it announced it would compensate investors in relation to 150 claims against Brooklands Trustees, Stadia Trustees and Montpelier Pension Administration Services, which it declared in default.

The claims were in relation to high risk, unregulated, non-standard investments such as storage pods, oil fields, diamonds and overseas property.

The FSCS confirmed the action was related to the way in which the firms established, operated and administered the Sipps through which the consumers invested, signalling due diligence failings.