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FCA stops Hartley Pensions accepting Sipp contributions

FCA stops Hartley Pensions accepting Sipp contributions
Pexels/Lamar Belina

Hartley Pensions, the provider which was hit with regulatory restrictions on new business earlier this year, has now been stopped from accepting ongoing pension contributions from customers.

On July 11, the company had asked the Financial Conduct Authority to impose further requirements on its business, specifically on the self-invested and small self-administered pensions schemes it administered.

It asked the FCA to stop it from accepting ongoing contributions, and to stop it from transferring or switching customers’ pensions schemes until July 22 at the earliest.

The regulator said in an announcement yesterday (July 11) that it agreed to both of these measures.

Those customers who requested to move to another provider prior to the FCA’s requirements being imposed, but still have not had their pensions moved, will now not be able to move providers for at least the next 10 days.

In its notice today, the FCA explained its actions: “The requirements have been imposed due to a number of serious operational and regulatory issues that the firm are attempting to deal with and is intended to protect all of the firm’s customers.”

Hartley Pensions customers can still withdraw money from their Sipps and pension payments will continue to be made. Customers’ assets are currently held in separate trustee companies.

The company is currently in the process of finding another Sipp operator to take over the pensions on its books. The FCA said this was because the firm “cannot continue to provide the service expected by clients”.

“We are continuing to engage with the firm in relation to the issues it is facing, but, in line with standard FCA practice, we do not comment on individual firms,” the regulator said.

It added that Hartley Pensions will provide “regular updates” on its progress.

On the firm’s website, there is no longer any information on the ‘products’ tab. But IFAs can still apply to recommend a pension from the provider’s scheme, and new direct customers can still fill out an online Sipp application.

In March, the Sipp provider was told by the FCA it could no longer accept new clients.

Hartley, established as a pensions operator under the Wilton Group in late 2016, provided Sipp services to white-label platform provider Hubwise.

During its lifetime, the company has taken on the books of a number of collapsed Sipp providers.

It bought Guinness Mahon, which operated some 4,000 Sipps, in February 2020. Guinness Mahon entered administration following a raft of complaints about historic high-risk non-standard investments.

In 2018, Hartley Pensions also said it would administer the good and bad assets of collapsed Sipp provider Lifetime Sipp, which went into administration in March 2018.

Then later in August 2019, Hartley bought defunct provider GPC Sipp's healthy Sipp and Ssas books for £482,000.

ruby.hinchliffe@ft.com