Defined BenefitJun 14 2018

PFS updates pension transfers guide

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PFS updates pension transfers guide

The Personal Finance Society (PFS) has updated its defined benefit (DB) pension transfer guide, aiming to give members clarification around changing advice requirements.

The 13-page document replaces last year's update to the original guidance, issued in 2016, and follows the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) March policy statement about advising on pension transfers.

In this update, the regulator retreated from plans to change its assumption that defined benefit transfers are usually unsuitable.

Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society, argued mandated professional advice is a vital consumer protection component when it comes to pension transfers, and the guide aims to give members ongoing good practice gained from subject matter experts and practitioners from across the sector.

He said: "Defined benefit pension transfer advice continues to be a key area of focus for the FCA, government and consumer lobbyists, so it is particularly important that firms advising on DB pension transfers ensure their clients fully understand the implications of a proposed transfer before deciding whether to proceed.

"Accordingly, our new guide covers a number of important areas, including risk appetite, the need for holistic advice, qualifications and contingency charging. It also features sections on the wider tax issues, cash flow modelling, insistent clients and death benefits."

The society is supporting the introduction of a ban on advisers charging for pension transfer advice on a contingent basis, one of the topics the regulator consulted on recently.

Mr Richards warned further scrutiny and supervision of the advice sector is expected, after the watchdog concluded that only 47 per cent of the defined benefit transfer advice reviewed was suitable.

He said: "We are particularly alive to the issues surrounding the availability of professional indemnity insurance (PII) for defined benefit transfer advice and have seen evidence of withdrawn cover, or increased cost and excesses, for some advice firms at renewal.

"While this is an over reaction in many instances, it can only be addressed if we establish a clear picture of what good looks like in the pension transfer space, and in particular the concerns raised regarding conflicts of interest and insistent client transactions."

Mr Richards added the challenges presented can often cause emotive and defensive reactions, on the basis that an adviser can only respond based on their own client interactions.

He said: "But it is critical that we address concerns, real or perceived, and protect the advances made by the profession in recent years to ensure they are not derailed by the actions of a small number of firms.

"Now is the time to be extra diligent and robust in respect of the much-needed advice consumers require in this area."

Justin King, certified financial planner at MFP Wealth Management, welcomed the publication of the updated guide.

He said: "It is great to see the PFS is recommending cash flow modelling is included in every case.

"I fail to understand how advisers have been able to sign off recommendations without a cash flow model."