Sipp transfers soar 115% since pension freedoms

Sipp transfers soar 115% since pension freedoms

Sipps have seen a surge in popularity since the introduction of pension freedoms, with the number of transfers increasing by 115 per cent since April 2015, fintech provider Origo has revealed.

The firm's Options Transfers service, which provides the technology for pension transfers, also saw a 74 per cent increase in traditional pension to pension transfers.

Options Transfers provides pension transfers for around 90 providers, including most of the big life companies, Sipp providers and master trusts. The figures represent the total volume of transfers through Options. 

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Annuities, however, saw a dramatic drop in popularity, with pension to annuity transfers falling by 77 per cent since pension freedoms. 

Origo managing director Paul Pettit said the figures reflected the "significant change" that former chancellor George Osborne's controversial policy heralded.

"Annuity transfers fell dramatically almost overnight and it was anticipated that more flexible products that provide income as well as ongoing investment, such as Sipps, would benefit as a result. This has shown to be the case with the 115 per cent increase in transfers into Sipps," he said.

He said the overall surge in transfer volumes suggested pension freedoms had "had a major impact on the way people engage with their pensions".

Mr Pettitt told FTAdviser that, while Origo had seen a modest rise in defined benefit to defined contribution transfers, it had not been pronounced because not many DB schemes used the Options Transfers Service.

Origo, which is owned by a group of major life companies, also recorded a new trend in the age at which people start transferring pensions.

Before pension freedoms, the first big spike in transfers occurred at age 60. But since April 2015, Origo said this had moved to 55 - the age at which you are allowed to access your pension.

Origo also observed a new transfer spike at age 75, which the firm's managing director pointed out coincided with the age at which tax free death benefits cease.

"The change in the peak age at which people are transferring may reflect people's desire to switch to the new flexibility from the age at which they can access their pensions - age 55 - with some no doubt undertaking the exercise in order to access their pension cash," Mr Pettitt said.

On the decline of annuities, he said that while the figure was dramatically down, it was beginning to climb again, "albeit only by a small percentage" of around 14 per cent for the year.

In July, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme revealed more than 90 per cent of the £84m it paid out in the 2015 to 2016 financial was Sipp-related - twice the amount of the previous year.

A spokesperson for the FSCS said this trend was likely to continue.

Christopher Foster, a partner at Pennines Independent Financial Advisers, said he regularly meets clients who have previously been scammed, often by transferring into a Sipp, then an unregulated collected investment scheme.

However, he said the surge in the popularity of Sipps did not necessarily mean there would be a surge in Sipp-based scams, adding that Ssas were more of a risk.