The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is giving financial advisers 24 hours to reply to information requests on pension transfers from the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS).
Mark Abley, managing director of the Durham-based Pension Review Service, told FTAdviser he received a request on Thursday (14 December) from the watchdog demanding detailed information on the firm’s work with BSPS members.
Steelworkers have until 22 December to decide whether to move their defined benefit (DB) pension pots to a new plan being created, BSPS II, or stay in the current fund, which will be moved to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).
The failed scheme has about 130,000 members of which 43,000 are deferred, which means transferring out of their pension is an option for them.
FTAdviser reported in November that several steelworkers appeared to be transferring out their pensions after being lured by cheap deals by unregulated introducer firm Celtic Wealth Management & Financial Planning, which then referred the clients to advice firm Active Wealth.
In an email seen by FTAdviser, the regulator is demanding a detailed new business register setting out all British Steel pension transfers undertaken by the firm, including:
- the client’s name;
- the transfer amount;
- the date of the advice;
- details of where the business has been introduced from (if applicable);
- details of the receiving scheme;
- details of the investment recommended; and
- whether it was an advised, execution only or insistent client transaction.
The watchdog is also requesting advisers reveal the number of clients currently in the pipeline, split by adviser.
Details of the advice, and sign off, process followed for pension transfer business and any additional training or support provided in respect of BSPS pension transfers are also demanded.
The deadline issued to Mr Abley to provide this information was Friday (15 December) at 12pm, which he branded as disruptive to the firm's work.
He said: "We have a new business register that covers most of that information, but I will still need to go over all the data, and I'm currently on holiday."
A spokesperson at the regulator has confirmed that this is the standard information being requested from financial advisers.
She said: "We believe that, given the circumstances, the deadline is an entirely appropriate request and it is the type of information that firms should have readily to hand."
In the meantime, Labour MP Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions select committee, has criticised the FCA's regulatory action to tackle concerns about the BSPS case, branding it “grossly inadequate”.
After being present at a hearing in Parliament, Megan Butler, head of supervision at the FCA, wrote to Mr Field giving more details of the watchdog's work. She said that the FCA has visited and/or reviewed files from firms responsible for more than half of the pension transfers out from BSPS.
Six firms have voluntarily agreed to stop all defined benefit transfers after intervention from the watchdog: Active Wealth, Pembrokeshire Mortgage Centre, Mansion Park, Vintage Investment Services, Retirement & Pension Planning Services and West Wales Financial Services.