Defined Benefit 

Pension transfers almost triple in 2017

Pension transfers almost triple in 2017

Funds transferred out of pension schemes almost tripled to a record £34.2bn in 2017, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

In 2016 the volume of transfers was £12,8bn, similar to the £13.2bn for the previous year when pension freedoms were introduced.

The data didn't specify the origin of the funds, but David Robbins, a senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, said the vast majority was from defined benefit (DB) pension schemes.

He said: "Although transfers increased after pension freedom came in, it was a couple of years before they really took off.

"For members focused on the cash sum, rather than the cost of replacing a lifetime income, lower interest rates have made transferring look more attractive. Also, for people who are not ‘early adopters’, the decision to transfer looks more normal than it did."

The volume of DB transfers has been soaring, as savers seek to take advantage of sky-high transfer values and to move their nest eggs into defined contribution (DC) schemes in order to access their cash using pension freedoms.

HM Revenue & Customs data showed more than £14bn has been unlocked from defined contribution pensions since pension freedoms came into effect.

Mr Robbins said the transfers happened under the old regime for transfer advice, since the Financial Conduct Authority was expected to publish new rules on DB transfers this month.

The watchdog introduced the concept of a transfer value comparator (TVC) in its consultation paper on advising on pension transfers, published in June.

The draft rules suggested replacing the current transfer value analysis (TVAS) with a requirement to undertake appropriate analysis of the client’s options - an ‘appropriate pension transfer analysis’ or APTA, which will include the TVC.

Advisers will have to provide their clients with a value of how much the benefits in the DB scheme would cost today in the open market, which is the TVC.

Mr Robbins said: "It’s not clear year what effect the FCA’s proposed illustration will have. People will be shown that their transfer value is less than the cost of an annuity replacing their DB benefits.

"Some members might see this as a loss of value; others may reflect that they don’t want to buy an annuity anyway."

The rush to cash out pension savings is expected to continue, with Hymans Robertson estimating around one million individuals will transfer out of their defined benefit pension schemes in the next 25 years.

Barclays saw the value paid in pension transfers from its DB scheme quadruple last year, hitting £4.2bn.

maria.espadinha@ft.com