Workplace pension scheme members are losing around £1.7bn a year during their transition into and in retirement, according to new research from HSBC Tomorrow Master Trust.
The research, commissioned for a report Converting pension pots into retirement incomes: Are current roads delivering member value?, said this was due to savers choosing costly pathways to access their money.
While some of this loss comes from scheme members withdrawing more than the 25 per cent tax-free lump sum, exposing them to hefty tax penalties, many are potentially buying products that are not the optimal solution for their circumstances.
The report looked at the current dilemma of most single employer, contract and master trust schemes in the UK not offering in-scheme retirement solutions, which forces members to go out alone and seek out third-party providers to convert their pension pot into an income.
This means that pension scheme members who transfer out in order to take retirement benefits generally move from an accumulation journey regulated by The Pensions Regulator to a retail environment under Financial Conduct Authority rules.
Alison Hatcher, chief executive officer at HSBC Tomorrow Master Trust, said: “Pension savers need good value solutions that can fit into their lives and work for them.
“The friction, cost, and risk that members face as they enter retirement for the first time is a significant issue that is often forgotten or ignored.
“There is a major real-term impact that members are exposed to during this crucial moment in their lives and we need to find ways to fix and enhance value in this area.”
Members are open to risks such as pension scams and erosion of value that has taken decades to grow.
Report author professor Andrew Clare said: “As members transition into retirement, current pathways can erode the real value of pension savings that took a lifetime to accumulate.
“And when schemes abandon them at this critical time in their lives, they are exposed to risks that they are often not equipped to face alone.”
Based on FCA data, HSBC Tomorrow Master Trust and Hymans Robertson estimated that £1.7bn in pot value is lost each year due to a number of factors associated with individuals accessing their pensions for the first time. These include:
- Withdrawing pension funds as a single lump-sum when multiple withdrawals might reduce the overall tax payment;
- Paying for annual advice when fund size might suggest this wasn’t always needed; and
- Moving pension pots to another provider to access a drawdown product, which can include transfer fees and different annual management charges (AMCs).
The firm said most recent FCA data for 2020/21 shows 705,666 people accessed their pension pots for the first time – a rise of 18 per cent on the previous year.
Of this, more than half (56 per cent) was taken as a single lump sum. Out of these, over 10,000 were made without financial advice taken beforehand.
Hatcher added: “Our vision is focused on innovation with an absolute commitment to serve the evolving needs of employers, pension savers and retired members.
“Part of that includes a joined-up financial wellbeing and pensions journey for members, including a holistic retirement savings and benefits platform which is digital but backed up by personalised support.”