Financial Ombudsman Service  

Rowanmoor faces hundreds of Sipp complaints

Ms Taylor said she did not understand why her Sipp was allowed to "sign a contract to buy an offshore, off-plan property without an independent solicitor, without a mortgage offer in place and without an independent valuation of the hotel apartment".

Mr Bryans said: "The Rowanmoor clients we have dealt with have said they trusted the investment was appropriate for them because this was a Financial Services Authority-regulated pension provider and as one of the largest Sipp providers in the country, they would not have permitted this investment if it was not OK for their pension plan."

The couple said the rent in 2019 when the hotel was fully open was £890 and the fees were £630. The fees this year were closer to £2,000 with barely any rent.

Ms Taylor claimed her investment, which had cost her £47,000 initially, has been independently valued at £17,000, although Rowanmoor last September cited a 2018 valuation report that put an overall value on the apartment of £168,796, with her 44 per cent share valued at £74,270.24.

The report, dated 31 August 2018, had been prepared by chartered surveyors Gerald Eve, according to Rowanmoor.

Rowanmoor said it did not comment on individual cases but confirmed the 2018 valuation of the property: “We can confirm that we always accept valuations prepared in accordance with the RICS Red Book.”

Change of direction

Sipp providers have historically been somewhat shielded from complaints about the investments in their pension wrappers, as clients chose to bring their claims against the advisers instead.

But as more advisers have folded, and FSCS claims proved less financially rewarding than those made by the Fos, pressure has grown on other parties in the supply chain.

This was intensified by a number of recent court rulings, which established that Sipp providers in certain cases have a duty to their clients to prevent them from harm, including carrying out due diligence on the underlying investment. One of these claims, involving Carey Pensions, is still being contested.

The ombudsman's decisions database does not list any finalised claims against Rowanmoor in association with the TRG investment to date.

The Sipp company does show up on three successful claims against advice business Insight Financial Associates and TRG, as well as six unsuccessful efforts.

A Rowanmoor spokesperson said: “We ceased working with CIB and Insight Financial Associates. Although the FSCS has paid out against advice provided by CIB, this is not the case with Rowanmoor – we continue to have a clean record in this respect.”

Mr Bryans concluded: "What is most disappointing is that so many genuinely good IFAs apparently reported [complaints] to the regulator and it appears no action was taken at the time.