Fear holding back defined benefit transfer flood

Fear holding back defined benefit transfer flood

Dread at being left worse off is a major factor keeping the wave of defined benefit scheme transfers from turning into a flood, according to research by Prudential.

The study of 1,047 private sector final salary scheme members found just under a third would not transfer because they don’t want to make a mistake.

One in five (20 per cent ) were wary of giving up the guaranteed retirement income.

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The vast majority (81 per cent ) of those polled had not considered transferring - and only about three  per cent said they had actually transferred.

Around a fifth of those questioned had requested or received a transfer value from their final salary scheme provider in the past year, with about 29 per cent saying the transfer value they received was higher than expected.

Demand for defined benefit transfers into defined contribution schemes have been soaring in recent months, amid high transfer values combined with the wider options available to those in DC schemes.

Recent figures from Xafinity, a specialist in pensions actuarial and administration, suggested a 64-year-old who is entitled to a final salary pension of £10,000 a year could cash it in for a lump sum of around £235,0002. 

Mercer, a firm of consulting actuaries, has calculated that about £50bn has been paid to 210,000 members of company-backed defined benefit pension plans since April 2015.

The Pensions Regulator estimates 80,000 defined benefit members have left their schemes so far this year.

Stan Russell, retirement expert at Prudential, said: "Consumers are right to be wary of giving up a guaranteed income for life, and instead having to rely on the investment returns from their pension fund for income over a retirement that could last 20 or 30 years."

Tom McPhail, head of policy at Hargreaves Lansdown, warned of what he called a "risk of a dirty collusion of vested interests".

"Schemes happy to overload members, advisers happy to pick up fees and DC providers happy to swell their assets under administration."

Mr McPhail said last week’s consultation paper by the Financial Conduct Authority - which seeks to adapt the rules on DB transfers to ensure advisers take clients' whole financial health into account before recommending they transfer out -  is a "good response and will hopefully serve to protect investors effectively".

 Alan Lakey, director at Highclere Financial Services based in Hemel Hempstead, adds: "Many advisers have chosen to ignore this area and have not taken the relevant exams or applied for FCA permission and this will lead to a lack of advice given by generalist advisers."