Defined Benefit  

Regulator asks trustees to report on financial advisers

Regulator asks trustees to report on financial advisers

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is asking trustees of troubled schemes to keep a record of pension transfer activity and submit a monthly list of the financial adviser firms used by its members to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

In a letter sent to trustees of several pension schemes, the pensions watchdog said the level of transfer activity in the pensions industry had increased "significantly" in recent years, therefore electronic records should be maintained.

Scheme trustees are being asked to "provide details on a monthly basis of the transfer activity in the scheme and the names of the firms providing the advice to transfer," the letter said.

TPR is also advising scheme trustees to contact the FCA in case of "specific concerns" or if "they become aware of specific issues in relation to regulated financial advice provided by an FCA-authorised adviser with respect to individual transfers".

According to data from the FCA, £20.8bn was transferred out from defined benefit (DB) schemes during 2017, more than double the volumes registered in the previous year.

Trustees are "encouraged" to contact TPR if they have any concerns about transfers, or about the level or trends in transfer activity, such as concentration around funds or organisations.

The regulator also mentions the FCA's ongoing programme on advice on pension transfers, which it said was a complex subject impacting members' future.

"Given the options available to members and the choices they now have to make, it would help the FCA with its work to know which advisers are actively advising the members and recommending transfers," TPR said.

In October, the FCA revealed advice in more than half of the defined benefit pension transfers where the recommendation was to move the retirement pot was unsuitable or unclear.

From a total of 88 defined benefit transfers analysed by the watchdog since October 2015, only 47 per cent were suitable.

The regulator found that 17 per cent were unsuitable and in the remaining 36 per cent suitability was unclear.

The regulator has been focusing on the defined benefit transfer advice market, and announced that it will be collecting data from all financial advice firms which hold pension transfer permissions during this year.

In January, the watchdog sent a letter to all firms holding pension transfer permissions revealing the red flags the regulator will be looking for when it enters advisers' offices.

Ricky Chan, director and financial planner at IFS Wealth and Pensions, said it was "very pleasing" to hear that the FCA is proactively gathering information on a monthly basis from scheme trustees, given the recent British Steel Pension Scheme saga and concerns around DB transfers. 

He said: "This should help them identify trends and patterns in DB transfers, product and provider spread, as well as monitor transfer activity across the industry and at firm level. 

"Hopefully this means that potential mis-selling scandals or fraud can be identified quickly before it does serious damage, and more FCA compliance visits to potential high-risk advisory firms, including those that phoenix or have business models relying purely on DB transfer type businesses, [which] therefore pose a big risk to the Financial Service Compensation Scheme."