Defined Benefit  

Aviva backs contingent charging ban

Aviva backs contingent charging ban

Aviva has said it supports backs a ban on contingent charging by financial advisers.

Andy Briggs, chief executive of Aviva UK's life arm, said the use of contingent charging for defined benefit (DB) transfers could "further undermine trust in the pension and insurance sector".

Speaking to FTAdviser's sister title, the Financial Times, Mr Briggs said: "I personally would say in defined benefit to defined contribution transfers, whatever the fee is, you have to pay, even if the decision is not to transfer.

"This will be a powerful way of making sure that only those clients that are genuinely interested [in the advice] engage with the process, and I think that would be an extra guard against any potential rogue advisers in this space."

Earlier this year the Financial Conduct Authority said it would be collecting data from all financial advice firms which hold pension transfer permissions as it cracks down on defined benefit transfers.

Acklam Financial Limited recently became the tenth advice firm to stop offering pensions transfers amid the FCA's investigation into this issue.

Mr Briggs said: "What worries me most is with an ageing population, reduced state support and less defined benefit pensions generally, it is imperative that customers make far greater personal provision for their financial futures."

According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, funds transferred out of pension schemes almost tripled to a record £34.2bn in 2017.

The volume of defined benefit transfers has been soaring, as savers seek to take advantage of sky-high transfer values and to move their nest eggs into defined contribution schemes in order to access their cash using pension freedoms.

HM Revenue & Customs data showed more than £14bn has been unlocked from defined contribution pensions since pension freedoms came into effect.

In October, the FCA revealed that advice in more than half of the defined benefit pension (DB) transfers where the recommendation was to move the retirement pot was unsuitable or unclear.

From a total of 88 DB transfers analysed by the watchdog since October 2015, only 47 per cent were suitable. The regulator found that 17 per cent were unsuitable and in the remaining 36 per cent suitability was unclear.

Adam Tavener, chairman of Clifton Asset Management, said while he agreed that something needs to be done about contingent charging, an outright ban could be too heavy handed and would have unintended consequences for low earners.

Mr Tavener said: "Rather than applying one fee to a defined benefit transaction, we would propose that a smaller amount is attached to each stage of the process.

"By stripping out each stage into an item by item charging structure, the end cost may be the same to the individual that has executed the transfer, but for the individual that hasn’t, the cost will be a fraction of this cost.