Suspect pension advisers to be named on watch list

Suspect pension advisers to be named on watch list

Firms and advisers arousing industry suspicions of wrongdoing will be placed on a semi-secret watch list to warn businesses considering working with them. 

The Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA) is working on a closed list with names of pensions schemes and advisers that have been flagged up as potential scammers, to be shared among pension scheme trustees and providers.

Margaret Snowdon, chairman of the association, said the goal of the list isn't to stop any pension transfers, but to raise awareness among trustees and providers when a name in the list pops up, so they can increase their due diligence.

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She said: "Some providers and trustees have their own watch list. What we are looking for is to create a closed network where they can share this information."

Ms Snowdon is currently in talks with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, the Financial Conduct Authority, The Pensions Regulator, HM Revenue & Customs and the Pensions Ombudsman to involve them in the creation of the list, which she expects to be launched by the end of the year.

However, details such as how the information will be shared, who will be in charge of the list or how potential legal implications will be avoided are still being discussed, she added.

FTAdviser understands that the FCA is aware of the creation of this list but it's not involved in these discussions at this time.

According to Ms Snowdon, pension savers have lost more than £1bn to scams.

The figure is the based on "talking to insurers, administrators and trustees that have paid for transfers that they think are suspicious".

According to data from Xafinity, scammers could be involved in one in 12 pension transfer requests.

Several industry experts, however, have raised concerns about the efficiency of such watch list.

Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London and former pensions minister, said: "As a provider, and particularly as a member-owned business, we are very keen to explore ways in which we can better protect our members' money at the point of transfer.

"The idea of a list of receiving schemes where concerns have been raised is an interesting one which should be explored, but it would be likely to raise considerable practical and legal difficulties.

"Schemes would want the right to know that they were on the list and there would need to be a process to decide who went on the list and how people could appeal against being included.

"Nonetheless, anything which helps to reduce the number of times when money is transferred to a scheme where it is never seen again should be given proper consideration."

Two years ago, Royal London refused a pension transfer due to concerns about the status of the receiving scheme and the client's right to transfer the pension into it.

The client contested the decision by complaining to the Pensions Ombudsman who found in favour of Royal London.