Defined Benefit  

DB transfers more than double in a year

DB transfers more than double in a year

Defined benefit pension transfers surged by 166 per cent in the first three months of 2017, compared to the same period last year, figures from Xafinity have suggested.

The consultancy revealed the unprecedented surge began in October last year, suggesting rocketing transfer values, rather than pension freedoms, were behind the rise.

Xafinity's 166 per cent figure is based on the pension schemes it works with, and is therefore not necessarily representative of the entire industry.

But it corroborates figures provided by other pension companies and advisers, which have all reported increased interest in transfers.

Most cite the 2015 Freedom and Choice pension reforms and higher transfer values resulting from the post-Brexit slump in gilt yields as the two factors behind the rise.

Few, though have extrapolated an industry-wide estimate from their own figures.

In addition to the 166 per cent increase in executed DB to DC transfers, Xafinity also recorded a 70 per cent increase in requests for DB transfer value quotations.

Paul Darlow, head of proposition development at Xafinity, said that until October last year the number of DB transfers was "relatively stable" month on month.

"However, since October last year the amount of transfer activity has increased significantly. Indeed, the number of transfers being completed has more than doubled and the trend looks set to continue with transfer values (as measured by the Xafinity Transfer Value Index) remaining high," he said.

He said there had also been an increase in the number of people requesting "partial transfers" as well as full transfers.

"Whilst the flexibility around partial transfers would be a good thing there are still barriers to overcome, with the main issue for many scheme providers being the administration complexity," he said.

Calls for more schemes to offer partial transfers have increased in recent months, with former pensions minister and Royal London director of policy Steve Webb calling for partial transfers to be made a legal right.

The Financial Conduct Authority and the Financial Ombudsman Service have both warned financial advisers that the must ask pension schemes whether or not they offer partial transfers when advising on DB to DC transfers.

Currently only a minority of pension schemes offer partial transfers.

Overall, Mr Darlow said the industry should expect the FCA to ramp up its scrutiny of DB transfers.

"With two documents on DB transfers published by the FCA already this year and the possibility of a thematic review impending, it is clear 2017 is going to be another interesting year for DB schemes," he said.

The FCA will shortly publish a consultation paper on changes to the rules governing DB transfers.