If HMRC is ultimately successful, then cash would be the singular contribution means of achieving tax relief. Given that a key attraction of Ssas is the facility to transfer and invest in commercial property, providers will attentively be awaiting the outcome.
Stephen McPhillips, technical sales director at Dentons Pension Management, says: “Although not regulated by the FCA, Ssas might be impacted by the current court cases affecting Sipp providers where the Ssas provider also operates a Sipp. Some Sipp and Ssas providers may not be in a position to meet the challenges facing them and might be forced to close or sell their books to a willing buyer.
“Ssas are sometimes promoted as a vehicle of choice for pushing the boundaries of tax planning – especially around very large contributions. This is a concern for the market as a whole if Ssas arrangements are seen as side-stepping legislation.”
Even with these problems, Ssas still retain their place as an important consideration for retirement planning, as the pros still far outweigh the cons for many advisers. Table 2 supports this: funds under management remained broadly the same last year, with many providers recording a slight uptick.
All but one firm, Rowanmoor, exclusively hold their own funds instead of also accommodating third-party access. On an individual level, one notable increase in assets under management over the past year has been enjoyed by Curtis Banks, which has seen assets rise almost £100m to £350m. But this has not been due to organic growth as it added 16 plans in total.
Other companies that have also beefed-up AUM are Day Cooper Day, Dentons and Talbot and Muir. Dentons, which acquired Sippchoice last year, has seen this figure jump almost 20 per cent to just shy of £1.3bn.
“Even with possible changes to the Ssas market ahead, we expect it will continue to expand steadily, with many advisers recommending Ssas for the first time,” says Mr Phillips.
Other data, however, is more concerning. In keeping with previous surveys, the average number of Ssas set up has again fallen year on year.
The latest figures only account for the first 11 months of 2018, but the average of 31 is lower than the 33 recorded for the corresponding period in last year’s survey. Both these figures represent a sharp fall from the levels recorded in 2016.