Financial Advice Market Review  

Advice allowance fails to fulfill promise

Advice allowance fails to fulfill promise

A year since the pension advice allowance came into existence, major providers are all seeing little or no interest in the measure that was designed to give more people the benefit of advice. 

The allowance, which came into being in April 2017 following a recommendation in the Financial Advice Market Review, a joint initiative by the regulator and HM Treasury, allows pension scheme members to withdraw £500 a year tax-free, up to three times in their life, to pay for financial advice.

Many large pension providers do not offer the allowance at all - though Scottish Widows has said it will shortly join the small ranks of those that do.

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Even among the providers that offer the measure though there has been little interest from the public, though also no real effort to advertise or market the scheme.

Peter Glancy, head of policy development at Scottish Widows, said the company was offering the allowance despite a lack of demand, rather than because of an overwhelming surge in interest.

He said: "We are working towards introducing functionality to offer the new pension advice allowance in the first half of 2018. It will be available across our current range of individual and workplace pensions.

"Until then, customers can continue to fund the payment of advice using existing adviser charging functionality introduced at the time of the Retail Distribution Review.

"We still see very little demand for this service and do not expect to see any significant increase in the immediate future."

Finding out exactly how much the allowance has been used has proved difficult, since the rules which introduced the tax-free measure did not include a reporting requirement to HM Revenue & Customs to avoid placing more burdens on businesses.

When the scheme was introduced HM Treasury also said it would be the responsibility of product providers to publicise the scheme, but these companies have shied away from doing so.

Prudential, Royal London, Aegon and Aviva are among those who do not offer the allowance, while LV and Standard Life do offer it though many of these companies have said demand for cash to pay for advice in this way has been minimal.

A spokesman for Prudential said: "Prudential supports the principles of the pension advice allowance, and we have investigated making this available.

"However, because there has been minimal demand from consumers, and the allowance is complicated to administer, we have decided not to introduce a facility to use the allowance at this time.

"However, we will keep the situation under review and may introduce a facility at some point in the future."

But Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, said there had been an up-tick in interest as the year had progressed.

He said: "While demand is still fairly limited, we have noted that where adviser charging is not available there is growing awareness of the allowance and we are now reviewing whether to make this available.