Defined Benefit 

DB transfers double to hit £34bn

DB transfers double to hit £34bn

Defined benefit pension transfers hit a record of £34bn in 2018/19, more than double of the value registered in the previous year, of £14bn, according to new figures from The Pensions Regulator.

The data, obtained through a Freedom of Information request from Royal London, showed that £60bn in transfers have been reported to the watchdog since 2016.

Some 390,000 individuals transferred out from their final salary plans in the last three years, with more than 200,000 doing so in 2018/19. 

Reporting year

Number of transfers

Value of transfers

2016/17

80,000

£12bn (estimate)

2017/18

100,000

£14bn

2018/19

210,000

£34bn

Total

390,000

£60bn

Around 11m people have built up benefits in private sector defined benefit pensions and sky high transfer values have tempted people to leave so called "gold-plated" final salary schemes.

However, the Financial Conduct Authority is concerned about the suitability of advice given to these individuals.

The watchdog published in June the results of its survey of 3,015 firms between April 2015 and September 2018, concluding that too much of the advice on DB transfers it has seen was "still not of an acceptable standard".

It also voiced concern about the volumes of recommendations, with 69 per cent of clients having been recommended to transfer.

The watchdog found the average transfer value was £352,303, equivalent to a total value advised on of £82.8bn. This included both actual transfers and advice against it.

The FCA is concerned that firms are recommending that large numbers of consumers transfer out of their DB pension schemes, despite its stance that transfers are likely to be unsuitable for most clients.

According to Sir Steve Webb, former pensions minister and director of Policy at Royal London, TPR’s figures show the continuing huge interest in using pension freedoms to access pension rights in a more flexible way. 

He said: “Although the volume of transfers has probably passed its peak, large numbers of people are still interested in seeing whether reshaping their pension benefits would be in their interests. 

“It remains the case that staying in a DB scheme will be the right answer for most people, but there may be individual reasons why a different combination of pensions would give a better outcome.

“In such cases it is vital that there continues to be a supply of impartial and expert financial advice for those considering making such a big decision.”

maria.espadinha@ft.com

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