Pension Freedom  

The rise of the insistent client

This article is part of
Guide to handling insistent clients

The rise of the insistent client

Insistent clients are nothing new, but the introduction of pension freedoms in 2015, which gave people more control over their pension savings, has led to some unintended consequences.

For instance, some clients have gone ahead with defined benefit (DB) pension transfers, despite their adviser’s advice to the contrary.

But as it is a complex subject, which clients may not fully understand, the results could be disastrous for their financial wellbeing.

Referring to the attraction of high transfer values for some clients, Zoe Dagless, a chartered financial planner at Addidi Wealth in London, says: “They see the big numbers, do some quick maths and think it will be okay.”

My way or the highway

But if an insistent client’s own decisions do not lead to the outcome they are looking for, some are blaming their adviser, and making claims. And some are winning.

To give just one example, earlier this year, Fairstone Financial Management was ordered to pay compensation to a client it had helped to access tax-free cash in their pension, against the firm’s advice.

This could be just the tip of the iceberg, as insistent clients are not occasional occurrences and the number of people making their own decisions is considerable, creating a sizeable potential claims risk.

In June this year, the Financial Conduct Authority reported that nearly 10,000 customers who were advised against transferring out of their DB pension scheme still chose to do so.

The FCA’s survey, of more than 3,000 firms, also revealed that more than a quarter of those surveyed (26 per cent) were facilitating insistent clients.

In addition, it found that of the 234,951 scheme members who had received advice on transferring, more than 160,000 had been recommended to transfer out, and more than 70,000 had been recommended not to transfer.

Furthermore, it found that 174 advisers had accepted introductions from unauthorised introducers, leading to 4,066 transfer recommendations.

Insistent clients or otherwise, there is a lot of pension money at stake: the FCA’s survey discovered that the total value of DB pensions where transfer advice had been provided was £82.8bn, with an average of £352,303, and that 1,454 firms had recommended 75 per cent or more of their clients to transfer.

And the FCA does not like these numbers.

Megan Butler, the FCA’s executive director of supervision, wholesale and specialists, said it was “deeply concerning and disappointing” that so many transfers were being carried out, despite the FCA’s view that advisers should start from the position that they are unlikely to be suitable for most clients.

The FCA also said that too much of the advice it has come across is “still not of an acceptable standard”.

However, the FCA may be overlooking just how much high-quality advice is carried out by good, professional advisers.