Financial Conduct Authority  

FCA poised to widen DB transfer review to more advisers

FCA poised to widen DB transfer review to more advisers

The Financial Conduct Authority is considering extending its review of the defined benefit transfer market to include a "wider range" of firms, the regulator's director of financial advice has said. 

Speaking at a joint event with The Pensions Regulator yesterday (October 2) Deb Jones, director of supervision, life insurance and financial advice at the City-watchdog, said the FCA would continue its work in the pension transfer market until advice had reached an "acceptable standard". 

But depending on the outcome the regulator might visit a larger number of firms, she added.

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Ms Jones said: "This year, we have been visiting the firms most active in this market, and will continue doing so throughout the remainder of 2019. 

"We will also be in contact with all firms where we have identified potential harm in their DB pension transfer advice. We will set out our expectations and the actions they should take.

"Depending on the outcome of our 2019 assessments, we will consider extending our 2020 assessments to include a wider range of firms."

Ms Jones said the FCA would also roll out a series of events aimed at raising standards in the industry, which she said would continue to be a priority for the regulator over the coming year.

The defined benefit transfer market has come under increased scrutiny by the FCA in recent months as part of its regulation of the UK pension and retirement sector, which serves 34m customers and manages £2.1trn of assets and savings. 

Following a survey of 3,015 firms between April 2015 and September 2018 the regulator voiced concern about the volumes of recommendations to transfer it had seen, with 69 per cent of clients having been recommended to transfer despite the watchdog's firm stance that this is likely to be unsuitable for most clients.

In June the regulator concluded too much of the advice on DB transfers it had seen was "still not of an acceptable standard".

The watchdog found the average transfer value was £352,303, equivalent to a total value advised on of £82.8bn.

Since then the FCA has reviewed transfer advice at firms across the country with the regulator's visit to national IFA firm LEBC resulting in the company agreeing to give up its defined benefit permissions in September. 

LEBC voluntarily ceased work in the sector, with its majority shareholder BP Marsh & Partners confirming its officials were working closely with the adviser's management team to return the firm to "the position it was in before the FCA review".

Advice firm Sanlam has also moved to restrict its transfer activity last month, asking advisers in its network to stop doing defined benefit work because it was difficult to oversee the "various processes" administered by its members. 

The company instead said it would prefer defined benefit transfers to be managed by its in-house advisers or for network members to use the Unbiased service. 

Meanwhile the FCA has come up with proposals to ban contingent charging on transfer advice and introduce a form of 'abridged' advice, the main purpose of which is to assess clients' suitability for a transfer earlier on.