Mercer administration under fire from advisers

Mercer administration under fire from advisers

Mercer has come under fire after a number of advisers began complaining about its administration services.

In a group on Facebook, West Riding Personal Financial Solutions principal Neil Liversidge, asked if anyone was struggling with Mercer’s admin.

He wrote: “We've had loads of cases in recent months where people have come to us in desperation after months of trying to put their pensions into payment. One client wanting a transfer took nearly a year. I've seen a woman this morning who's been trying to get her pension since she retired from driving buses on 20 April.”

Liversidge's post attracted a number of different comments from advisers facing the same issues.

One individual said: “I have three clients also in despair about information not coming out in a timely fashion. These are related to potentially transferring defined benefit schemes. Now stuck in a complaints dept going around and around as cash equivalent transfer value fall.”

Another said: “Mercer are totally dire but frankly so are just about all pensions admin firms.”

Speaking to FTAdviser, Liversidge said Mercer “routinely takes an unreasonable length of time to respond to even the most basic enquiries”. 

He said: “They appear not to understand their own processes, going by the fact that they will issue one lot of forms for us to complete, only for them to then require additional forms later on. With one client they changed the process halfway through and put us back to square one, so we had to do all the work twice.”

Liversidge alleged that clients are “fed up” with them, as are advisers, because they absorb the additional admin costs that Mercer generates. 

“The standard pack they send out in response to letters of authority never gives all the information needed and their refusal to deal with IFAs by phone creates more delays.”

Responding to these comments, Mercer said it is committed to excellence and regrets when it falls short of that standard. 

It said: “There have recently been occasions when members experienced delays in service. In response, we increased our capacity to overcome a substantial increase in member enquiries by investing in talent and technology to enhance the member experience. Our top priority is to resolve pending requests and deliver excellent member service.”

Consumer duty changes

Other advisers commenting on the post said hopefully consumer duty will have a significant impact on this issue. 

The new consumer duty by the Financial Conduct Authority, which came out last month, said it will include requirements for firms to:

  • end rip-off charges and fees;
  • make it as easy to switch or cancel products as it was to take them out in the first place;
  • provide helpful and accessible customer support, not making people wait so long for an answer that they give up;
  • provide timely and clear information that people can understand about products and services so consumers can make good financial decisions, rather than burying key information in lengthy terms and conditions that few have the time to read;
  • provide products and services that are right for their customers; and
  • focus on the real and diverse needs of their customers, including those in vulnerable circumstances, at every stage and in each interaction.

One adviser said: “One of the points the FCA stressed was that firms should be consistent across all their services, ie, if they process new business quickly all other services should be just as efficient. Any firms with exit delays would be seen as failing their unreasonable post sale barriers rules.”