Emma Ann Hughes  

Do-it-yourself pensions were bound to backfire

Emma Ann Hughes

Emma Ann Hughes

Just because you have the option to do something yourself, it doesn't mean that you should.

Self-invested personal pensions (Sipps), which allow investors to pick their own investments to produce a retirement income, were originally pitched as a niche product.

Two decades ago the product was presented as complex, requiring the help of a financial adviser to set up and aimed at self-employed professionals who wouldn't have access to a company pension.

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Then big name insurance houses started pushing Sipps to the mass market as a do-it-yourself pension. Why not take control of your own investments and financial future?

But do most people have the expertise required to build a sustainable retirement income?

Along with saving for a pension the purchase of property is the other biggest financial commitment in life and, with the roof over your head, you have many DIY options.

While you could buy a property built by a construction company you could also try and "B&Q it" (other stores selling paint, etc, are available) and put a home together yourself.

Given the cautionary tale of the three pigs that many of us were told in our childhood, most people opt for a home built by a construction company.

Most of us know even if we are good at grouting or capable of hanging some mighty fine wallpaper, we aren't a plumber, electrician, plasterer or bricklaying expert.

When it comes to finding a home most of us are sensible enough to know the potential saving from doing it yourself is outweighed by the risk you will get something wrong and a strong gale could blow your house down.

So, why don't people realise that in the same way that building your own home is really only a sensible option for the few, equally a self-invested personal pension should be only for those capable of making sense of the investment universe?

Berkeley Burke hit the headlines earlier this year when it was accused of 'mis-selling' Sipps.

The company is now fighting a decision made in 2014 by the Financial Ombudsman Service ordering the company to repay Wayne Charlton after he lost part of his pension to a fraudulent company, Sustainable AgroEnergy.

Representing the company, Jonathan Kirk QC said Berkeley Burke's primary obligation was to carry out the instructions of its clients under the FCA's Conduct of Business Sourcebook.

Mr Charlton had instructed the company to invest in Sustainable AgroEnergy, so the duty to execute instructions took primacy.

"The question that is to be asked is, 'Alright, so they had a duty, why is that incompatible with the duty of enquiry?