Defined Benefit  

Contingent charging ban sees DB transfers hit record low

Contingent charging ban sees DB transfers hit record low

The number of defined benefit transfers fell to a record low in September after the introduction of the contingent charging ban saw advisers leave the market, XPS Pensions found.

Data from XPS Pensions found transfer activity in September was at an annual equivalent of 0.54 per cent of eligible members, down from 0.67 per cent in August.

This represents 54 in every 10,000 eligible members transferring each year.

This is a record low, with DB transfer activity falling below the level seen in April, in the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis and in the midst of nationwide lockdown restrictions.

Mark Barlow, partner at XPS Pensions said this could be the result of the contingent charging ban, which came into effect at the beginning of this month.

Contingent charging means a client only pays for the advice if they go ahead with a transfer.

The FCA said introducing the ban will remove the conflicts of interest which arise when an adviser only gets paid if a transfer goes ahead.

Only consumers with certain identifiable circumstances, such as those suffering from serious ill-health or experiencing serious financial hardship, will be exempt.

Mr Barlow said: “It appears that the record low in transfer activity may be due to the difficulties members face in finding a suitable adviser following the withdrawal of many firms from the market.  

“Many advisers withdrew from the market in part due to the ban introduced on contingent charging.”

Scam warnings

Meanwhile XPS Pensions found that despite transfers falling, the number of scam warnings has hit a new high.

Two thirds (62 per cent) of transfers in September showed at least one warning sign of a potential scam, up from just over half (51 per cent) in August.

Helen Cavanagh, consultant at XPS Pensions said: “This is a continuation of the rise seen since the start of lockdown and, within these figures, we see a significant number of members not fully understanding the fees they are paying.”

An amendment was made to the Pension Schemes Bill last week, which would give trustees the right to remove people's statutory right to transfer where a scam is suspected.

Under current rules, trustees have a legal duty to carry out a transfer within a six-month deadline and if they refuse they could be at risk of legal action.

Trustees were able to halt transfer requests to some degree in the past but in 2016 the case of Hughes v Royal London put a stop to this.

Royal London was successfully taken to court by a scheme member after it identified and blocked a suspicious transfer request.

Lawyers at the time warned the High Court ruling had “hamstrung” pension providers who blocked transfers if they thought the receiving scheme looked suspicious.

Mr Barlow said: “The proposed amendment to the Pension Schemes Bill to allow trustees to stop a transfer where they suspect a scam will provide another weapon in the war against pension scams.