Defined Benefit  

Adviser offers counselling to Ford workers

Adviser offers counselling to Ford workers

An adviser who helped steelworkers navigate the British Steel transfer debacle has now offered his services to Ford employees at the Bridgend plant.

Al Rush, principal at Rutland-based Echelon Wealthcare, has written to Ford unions offering his services for free, saying he fears workers could be exposed to similar problems as the steelworkers.

Mr Rush had created Operation Chive - Counselling, Help, Information, Volunteer Exchange – last year to provide free counselling to steelworkers.

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It emerged last November that steelworkers appeared to have been lured into transferring out of their DB pensions by cheap deals offered by an introducer firm called Celtic Wealth Management & Financial Planning, which then referred clients to advice firm Active Wealth.

The saga ended in 10 advice firms temporarily suspending their transfer advice services after intervention by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Mr Rush said that there were about 200 people sitting on transfer values of up to £700,000 at the Bridgend plant, five miles away from Port Talbot in South Wales, the epicentre of the British Steel transfer crisis.

Mr Rush said: "A lot of the people I spoke to at Bridgend know people which were scammed in the transfer scandal at Port Talbot.

"And some of the same conditions apply - they don't mistrust Ford as they mistrusted Tata Steel, but most of them have been there for 35,40 years and they are thinking to transfer out."

Ford is preparing to offer a 50 per cent partial pension transfer to 8,500 active scheme members at the point of retirement.

This decision was made by a joint working party with union representatives as a way to address concerns the company’s workers could be exposed to "significant risks", such as making incorrect decisions, receiving bad advice and running out of pension savings, spurred by the pension freedom reforms.

Mr Rush said a partial transfer was a great idea in principle. "If the scheme gets it right, then it could be a great solution for them," he said.

But he added: "The danger is that it could make life easier for scammers, because if you have a worker who sees a lot of people around him transferring out, and because there is also pressure about the employer, they might just say that they will transfer some of it out but not all of it.

"And they will think they would have done the correct thing. Sometimes doing nothing is the best decision."

Mr Rush said he will now wait to hear back from the unions to see if they accept his offer.

Ford, meanwhile, has implemented a number of support services for employees to ensure they are able to make good decisions about their pensions.

These include pension roadshows, an online service provided by the scheme’s pension administrators to help employees better understand the pension they have and options they face, and a telephone service to run alongside the online system.