Defined Benefit 

FCA action sees Welsh adviser halts pension transfer business

FCA action sees Welsh adviser halts pension transfer business

Welsh firm Bartholomew Hawkins has stopped giving defined benefit (DB) transfer advice after intervention from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), as part of the watchdog's work concerning the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS).

The firm, headquartered in Cardiff, has submitted a voluntary requirement to the regulator and agreed to cease all defined benefit pension transfer business immediately, according to its entry in the FCA register, dated from 22 December.

Bartholomew Hawkins decision follows Vintage Investment Services, Retirement & Pension Planning Services, West Wales Financial Services, Active Wealth (UK), Pembrokeshire Mortgage Centre and Mansion Park, which have also ceased to advise on pension transfers.

Steelworkers had until 22 December to decide whether to move their 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 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.

Stefan Zaitschenko, a former Tata steelworker who helps run a Facebook group for members of the old scheme with 5,100 participants, told FTAdviser that Bartholomew Hawkins has already informed its clients of its decision, writing to them shortly after it agreed to stop defined benefit transfers.

A steelworker's relative, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “My father was going to use them but they advised him they could no longer act just before Christmas.”

Another member of the Facebook group added: "Wow. I had a first visit from one of their financial advisers, two weeks later I had a letter from them that they could not carry out my transfer and advised me to stay in BSPS. Now I see why.”

Bartholomew Hawkins director Richard Lord did not reply to requests for comment on this matter.

The FCA, jointly with The Pensions Regulator and The Pensions Advisory Service (Tpas), have in the meantime written to steelworkers that asked for a DB transfer value warning them of the dangers of cashing out their savings.

The Work and Pensions select committee, which held hearings with steelworkers, financial advisers and regulators amid concerns about the financial advice being given to the members, will publish a specific report on this case early this year.