Simoney Kyriakou  

Where now for abridged advice?

Simoney Kyriakou

Simoney Kyriakou

The clocks go back this month and, no doubt, many financial advisers may feel the regulatory clocks are turning back too – or at least repeating themselves.

In the heady days of 2014, after the former chancellor's gleeful April Budget in which he announced the death of compulsory annuitisation, the advice industry and pensions practitioners banded together to impress upon policymakers the importance of financial advice within the pensions arena.

Keeping advice independent, useful, informative and holistic – and as cheap as possible – was stressed again and again. 

But what happened in 2015 was a strange mishmash of law in the form of the Pensions Act, and we all know what happened afterwards: mass confusion and frustration for people with smaller defined benefit pots who were falling between the desire for financial advice and the lack of affordable advice available to them.

In every subsequent year, a patchwork of sticking plasters has been put on this ill-executed piece of legislation, as problem after problem leaked through: the rise of pension scammers, inappropriate DB transfers, enforced qualifications in order to carry out said transfers and ever-rising professional indemnity insurance costs as a result of legacy pension transfer business. 

Come October, the ghoulish spectre of 'abridged advice' has, like Banquo, raised its head and risks further confusing consumers who think they might be getting quality advice at a bargain price, but in fact, it's not really 'advice' in the proper sense of the word. 

As reported, abridged advice sits in between triage and full pension transfer advice but can only result in a personal recommendation to not transfer out of a DB scheme.

What's the use of advice that only results in one monitory 'personal recommendation'? 

Coming on top of the ban on contingent charging – except in specific incidences where it would be in the client's best interests to prevent them from financial hardship – one wonders if this sticking plaster really is worth the electricity used to turn on the computer screen and read it? 

If the reader permits a shift in popular references, from Macbeth to McCoy, it might be advice, Jim, but not as we know it. 

Trouble is, it's not as the consumer knows it, either. SimplyBiz's chairman Ken Davy is right: you need to call it something else or it just won't help fix the pensions problem.