Defined Benefit 

Pension transfers down 18% in six months

Pension transfers down 18% in six months

Funds transferred out of defined benefit (DB) schemes dropped 18.4 per cent when compared with March values, according to latest official data.

In March monies moved from final salary plans to other pension schemes hit a record of £10.5bn.

However, latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed figures stood at £8.6bn at the end of September.

In June, the month when transfer values were at their lowest, figures stood at £8.3bn.

The data did not specify the origin of the funds, but it is expected that the majority of these transfers are from DB schemes.

Nathan Long, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said a reduction in the total value transferred out is "partly due to the regulator’s increasing interest in this area, lowering appetite from advisers to recommend members give up valuable guaranteed benefits".

"With investor confidence at an all-time low, I’d also expect fewer people are approaching advisers to consider the transfer of a guaranteed pension to one invested in the stock market."

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

Last week, the regulator said it was "very concerned" that too many firms were not consistently providing suitable advice on pension transfers, after finding less than 50 per cent of the advice it had reviewed was deemed suitable.

As part of its latest work, the regulator looked at 18 firms, which had given advice to 48,248 clients on their defined benefit pension schemes resulting in 24,919 actual pension transfers, since April 2015.

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said: "Savers dashing to exit their DB pension schemes has been one of the big stories of 2018, with the collapse of big-name sponsors like BHS and attractive transfer values tempting savers to swap stability for flexibility. 

"The pension freedoms – and particularly the generous tax treatment of defined contribution pensions on death - may also have played a part, while many will inevitably have been tempted by the stellar returns on offer in recent years.

"Those who transferred in the hope of making a quick buck on the markets will have faced a rude awakening this year as stocks have tumbled in value."

maria.espadinha@ft.com

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