Financial Conduct Authority  

FCA's overseas advice study targets DB transfers

FCA's overseas advice study targets DB transfers

FTAdviser understands the Financial Conduct Authority is investigating the processes surrounding overseas advice with particular respect to defined benefit transfers.

It is understood the investigation has been taking place by asking a number of international pension providers to provide information on the current landscape and processes in place.

At the end of September, it became clear that the Department for Work & Pensions was considering ditching the advice requirement for overseas pension transfers, as the government believes it is important individuals have the freedom to access their pension savings in the way that suits their needs best.

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Paul Davies, director of BDH Sterling, formerly known as Global Qrops, told FTAdviser representatives of the firm had a conversation with the FCA, which focused on how to regulate the overseas advice market going forwards.

He said this was with respect to consumer protection in mind and for those in defined benefit schemes.

At present, anyone transferring out of a defined benefit scheme to the value of £30,000 or over is required to take regulated financial advice before a transfer takes place.

Mr Paul Davies said: "They are looking at advisers and how they monitor advice overseas. We spoke to the FCA the day before the paper came out. There's a lot of issues as the rules stand at the moment."

He explained these issues are surrounding how easy it is for someone overseas to obtain the advice needed for a transfer, and that local advisers in other countries would not have defined benefit advice qualifications.

The other issue is that is they are taking advice from someone who is not regulated and qualified, the regulator has concerns surrounding whether this person is the best to provide the advice.

Mr Paul Davies added the names of some overseas advisers came up in conversation, but the FCA did not appear to be singling out one particular firm.

FTAdviser understands other firms have been contacted to discuss similar topics with the regulator.

Bethell Codrington, global head for international pensions at TMF Group, said: "The FCA are looking a defined benefit benefits to recognised overseas pensions being signed off to UK registered IFAs, and how one individual in one company can take responsibility for 20-40 in a week, when each takes six to ten hours to complete.

"Realistically a pensions specialist can only do four to five in a week."

He added at current rates, some companies would be doing 100-200 hour weeks, and that it begged questions about whether proper transfer value analysis statement reports were being done.

Geraint Davies, managing director at Monfort International, told FTAdviser he had "long predicted" the FCA would be looking into this area.

He said his firm sent a letter to the FCA on the matter in 2008.

At that time the then Financial Services Authority responded by stating they did not expect most advisers to be conversant with overseas tax regimes unless they were purporting to be specialists in such advice.