Defined Benefit  

Regulator to publish consultation on DB transfers

Regulator to publish consultation on DB transfers

The Financial Conduct Authority has confirmed it will publish a consultation paper on defined benefit to defined contribution pension transfers.

The confirmation came in the FCA's latest guidance consultation on the Financial Advice Market Review.

The relevant statement read simply: "We are expecting to publish a consultation paper on advising on safeguarded benefits in due course."

The City watchdog gave no timetable on when to expect the paper to appear.

Its announcement comes during a surge of interest in DB to DC transfers, as people look to take advantage of the flexibility, and in particular the inheritance tax advantages, of DC in the post-pension freedoms world.

In the first quarter of 2017, Scottish Widows, for example, saw the number of requests for its transfer value analysis report (TVAS)  service increase by 170 per cent on the previous year's figures.

Prudential, meanwhile, has seen an eightfold increase in demand for its TVAS report service over the last two years.

Demand has also been driven by record transfer values, which have been soaring in the 10 months since the EU referendum thanks to plummeting gilt yields.

According to Xafinity's most recent figures, average transfer values now stand at around £235,000 for a pension worth £10,000 a year at age 65.

That's £25,000 more than the same pension was worth on 1 June 2016, before the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Transfer values have been hovering around that level now since January, after peaking at almost £245,000 in October.

These dramatic changes have led many to call for the FCA to change its approach to DB to DC transfers, including its default stance that in most cases such transfers will leave individuals worse off. 

The regulator has also been urged to rethink its focus on critical yield - as measured by compulsory TVAS reports - over cashflow modelling.

But so far, the FCA has maintained its tough stance, even firing a warning shot earlier this year at advice firms that it considered were providing sub-standard advice.

Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, welcomed the regulator's decision to consult on DB to DC transfer rules, and urged it to publish the paper "as soon as possible".

"Such transfers are amongst the most complex areas of advice and it’s important regulation fully reflects the many pros and cons," he said. 

"The current TVAS methodology is based on the critical yield needed for the transfer offered to buy the pension given up through an annuity.

"This is no longer the default retirement income choice with many people considering DB transfers to allow them to access the pension freedoms, choosing from when and how to draw retirement income to meet their personal circumstances."

Kusal Ariyawansa, a chartered wealth manager with Appleton Gerrard, said he believed the FCA would resist calls to loosen the regulatory framework for DB transfers.

"As a strong regulator, I would expect it to do the right thing, which is to maintain the strict regulations," he said.