Pension schemes that are facing difficult times should offer a regulated adviser list on their website as members can struggle to find a professional they can trust if just pointed to Unbiased, a consultant has argued.
Speaking at the Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA) conference this week in London, Vincent Franklin, co-founder of communications consultancy Quietroom - which has been working with the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) – said this should be one of the first priorities for trustees.
He said: "Trustees need to work harder at helping members get the most from websites like the Money Advisory Service or Unbiased to find a good adviser, it is not enough just to point them to that website because there are millions of advisers out there and they cannot all help with transfers."
A spokesperson at Unbiased said: “We help millions of people every year and match those looking for advice with the most suited adviser for them - through our online search, our matching or our phone service and it takes as little as 60 seconds to generate a list of regulated advisers through our online service.
"All our advisers are clearly labelled as independent financial advisers or restricted advisers and you can drill down into various specialisms including pensions and other criteria that may be important to the person looking for advice. Whilst we verify our data against FCA records we also encourage all those using Unbiased to double check their adviser’s details with the regulator.”
The FCA register has been the target of criticism, after steelworkers who requested a pension transfer value from BSPS revealed they were struggling to find a qualified adviser to help them using the regulator’s database.
The Work & Pensions select committee, which yesterday (15 February) issued its report on this case, recommended the watchdog creates an "online register of advisers and their current status in providing advice that does not require a degree and orienteering skills to use".
In response to the MPs report, the FCA said it is currently looking at the register to see how it can be made easier to use.
Alistair Cunningham, financial planning director at Wingate Financial Planning, said Mr Franklin suggestions is "a sensible idea, and the fundamental point is right".
He said: "The FCA website is of no help to consumers at all, Unbiased is a little bit better, but it doesn't make it clear whether advisers are pension specialists or if they're independent, for example.
"However, there is no way of guaranteeing that you are going to be getting solid independent transfer advice from a pension transfer specialist by any method that I can think of.
"Even a vetted list requires a pretty high standard of vetting to get any degree of assurance."
Around 130,000 steelworkers had to choose to move their defined benefit (DB) pension pots to a new plan being created, BSPS II, or stay in the current fund, which would be moved to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), by 22 December.