The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is asking pension scheme trustees to keep track of the financial advisers used by members when they request a transfer value, and report them to the watchdog if any suspicions arise.
Lesley Titcomb, chief executive of TPR, revealed today (22 June) at the presentation of the new code from the Pension Scams Industry Group (PSIG) in London, that trustees are now requested to “look out for when there is something unusual” in transfer requests.
She said: “Historically trustees haven't tracked which adviser is advising the member that has come for a transfer quote, we have asked them to track that.”
If there are suspicions about the quality of the financial advice, the trustees will then report it either to TPR or to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
She added: “If it comes to us, we will pass it on the FCA and they will consider whether they need to look at the quality of the advice that is being given in those circumstances.”
This is another layer of the regulator’s work regarding pension transfers.
FTAdviser reported recently that the watchdog is signposting scheme members to The Pensions Advisory Service (Tpas) in cases where it considers that savers are being allured to transfer out.
So far, TPR 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 new code on pension scams, supported by TPR, is the second version of a document launched in 2015.
The code has been rewritten to reflect the new world of scamming, with an even greater focus on the changes to market, vulnerable customers and fraudsters’ tactics.
On this topic, Ms Titcomb said that the regulator is increasing its cooperation with law and enforcement agencies, and has launched 20 criminal investigations in the last six months.
These range from criminal breaches of pension legislation to false accounting, fraud and money laundering, she explained.
Ms Titcomb also revealed that the regulator and the FCA will launch their first joint campaign on pension scams in August.
She said: “This is aimed directly at members. Research shows that members are sometimes reluctant to come forward, because they feel guilty or embarrassed for having been scammed.
“The idea of the campaign is not only to raise awareness amongst the public, but to try to make clear to them that it is the scammers that are to blame.”
Paul Gibson, managing director of Granite Financial Planning, argued that "having a record of which advisers are recommending transfers seems a sensible approach".
He said: "If one firm are doing lots of transfers in one scheme there may be systemic problem. Early intervention in these cases would be welcomed.”