Pension transfer 'glitch' costs adviser

Pension transfer 'glitch' costs adviser

A Hertfordshire-based financial adviser is being forced to pay redress to a customer for a glitch that he attributes to a pension company's computer system.

Gary Minkin from Consolidated Financial Management (CFM) in St Albans has been ordered by the Financial Ombudsman Service to pay recompense to a client, known as Mr H, after his pension was mistakenly left in a cash fund after transfer instead of being invested as agreed.

Ombudsman Kim Parsons said Mr Minkin's firm was 90 per cent responsible for Mr H's loss, and also awarded him £250 for trouble and upset caused.

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Mr Minkin, however, speaking to FTAdviser, said the problem was with Zurich's system - the platform to which Mr H was transferring his pension. 

Mr Minkin said: "He was disadvantaged, but I have to carry the can. This is a salutary lesson to me and to all other advisers using company platforms. I wouldn't use them in future."

Although Mr Minkin's insurance will pay out to recompense the client, he said he will have to pay the excess.

He said: "I don't have a choice, and there isn't a lot I can do."

The issue arose in 2013, when Mr Minkin advised his client to transfer two pension funds to Zurich's new platform.

The funds were already with Zurich but not in a Sipp on the new platform.

It was agreed that Mr H's money would be transferred and invested in exactly the same way.

His wife received the same advice and her transfer went ahead as planned.

However, Mr H's pension was transferred but remained in cash, meaning that its value fell as the charges on the Sipp were greater than the interest on the cash account. 

Mr H then complained that he had missed out.

He originally complained to Zurich and then withdrew this complaint and complained about CFM to the ombudsman.

However, he rejected the original decision reached by one of the ombudsman's adjudicators that he should be compensated for 90 per cent of the amount he had lost out on, by topping up his account with more units.

CFM also rejected the decision, stating that Mr H should have noticed his money was not invested correctly.

Mr Minkin said that the issue had been caused by a glitch with the new Zurich system, which he was using for the first time.

However, Zurich did not accept this as the reason why the cash was not invested.

The ombudsman ruled: "I think it unlikely it was a systemic issue. But even if it was at technical glitch, I think it would have been reasonable to expect Mr H's adviser to check at the time or shortly afterwards that his client's transfer had gone ahead as intended, particularly as using the platform was new to him."

A spokesman for Zurich said: "It would be inappropriate to comment as we did not form part of the Ombudsman's investigation.