Defined Benefit  

Regulator red-flags 'transfer target' pensioners

Regulator red-flags 'transfer target' pensioners

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is signposting scheme members to The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) in cases where it considers that savers are being targeted for pension transfers.

The first time the watchdog sent a letter detailing how members can get impartial objective information at TPAS was in the British Steel case.

But Lesley Titcomb, TPR’s chief executive, told FTAdviser this is now becoming a rule across the board.

She said: “We now ask trustees to send out a letter from ourselves and the [Financial Conduct Authority] FCA if we feel that there is a situation where members of their scheme are being targeted for transfers.

“We have done that in a number of cases, and there are a number more in the pipeline.”

According to the regulator’s submission to the Work and Pensions select committee inquiry on the defined benefit (DB) white paper, the watchdog has “acted on seven occasions, where there may be speculation or uncertainty around a pension scheme’s future, to provide trustees with letters to send to their members, alerting them to the risks of transferring and giving practical information”.  

The letter, seen by FTAdviser, said that, in most cases, transferring out of a DB pension scheme into a different type of pension arrangement is unlikely to be in the saver’s best interests.

It added: “You can’t change your mind once you’ve transferred out of the scheme, and if you are transferring your benefits to a defined contribution (DC) arrangement, then will be giving up a valuable level of predictability in your retirement income.

“It is important that you get guidance or advice before making a decision. Tpas offers free guidance and will help answer any questions you may have.”

Ms Titcomb also said that the regulator is reviewing the communications sent during the British Steel case from all parties, “with a view to develop better guidance for trustees about how to communicate effectively with their members in these circumstances”.

The review is being carried out by Caroline Rookes, former chief executive of the Money Advice Service, who will report later this year.

Plans for British Steel owner Tata Steel to merge with rival ThyssenKrupp were waylaid until a deal could be reached to offload Tata's liabilities in the pension fund.

TPR gave its formal approval to a regulated apportionment arrangement (RAA) in August.

As a result, steelworkers were given until December to decide whether to move their DB pension pots to a new plan being created, BSPS II, or stay in the current fund, to be moved to the lifeboat Pension Protection Fund.

The scheme had about 130,000 members of which 43,000 are deferred, meaning transferring out of their pension was an option for them.

FTAdviser reported in November that several steelworkers appeared to be transferring out their pensions after being lured by cheap deals by unregulated introducer firm Celtic Wealth Management & Financial Planning, which then referred the clients to advice firm Active Wealth.