Defined Benefit  

Percival warns advisers about pension triage

Percival warns advisers about pension triage

Former Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) technical specialist Rory Percival is recommending financial advisers have a separate mechanism for triage that does not include interaction with the client.

Mr Percival told FTAdviser the chances of an individual adviser being fully up to speed with the nuances of the FCA's guidance on triage in its handbook were "fairly remote".

He said: "I recommend that advisory firms have triage services at a distance, i.e. something separate such as videos or a written-up guide that they pass to the client in advance before interacting with them."

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The regulator confirmed it would go ahead with proposed changes to advisers’ triage services for defined benefit (DB) transfers from January 2019 onwards in a paper in October.

This was after it found a "lack of understanding" among advisers about the boundaries between guidance and advice in a consultation on how firms can provide an appropriate triage service that gives factual and generic information without stepping across the advice boundary.

The watchdog said if triage was to be a non-advised service, it should be an educational process so that consumers can decide whether to proceed to regulated advice.

It warned considering a client’s personal circumstances in any way counted as advice when it comes to pension transfers.

Mr Percival, who was the guest speaker at the Prudential tour of seminars around the UK, said triage was a hot topic and the FCA’s new guidance had come "as a bit of a surprise for many firms". He said a lot of firms were revisiting what they are doing in this area.

He said: "They were quite happy with what they were doing before, it worked for them and their clients, but now they've been told they can't do that. They weren't recognising that they were giving advice."

According to research published in September by Royal London, more than two thirds of advice firms have an initial triage process for DB transfers, but the approach "varies hugely" across the market.

Vince Smith-Hughes, retirement expert at Prudential, said: "If you are using something like a video or a written material it is actually clear what is in there and there is no ambiguity in it [the triage process], whereas if you are talking to a client on one to one there is a risk."

FTAdviser reported earlier this month that advisers who have triage services in place could get better conditions from professional indemnity (PI) insurers, according to expert opinion.

Brian Hill, managing director and fiduciary financial planner at Jones Hill, argued that triage is utilised by medical experts when deciding upon the order of treatment, usually emergency, of a large number of patients. 

He said: "Mr Percival's view is therefore fundamentally flawed in that it assumes a large number of clients are expert enough to 'diagnose' themselves and have a single, identical problem.

"Clients financial situations, knowledge and experience are not square pegs that fit neatly into square holes.