Pensions  

Pension transfer adviser defends free seminars

Pension transfer adviser defends free seminars

A financial adviser, who has been reported to the Financial Conduct Authority after advertising free seminars on defined benefit transfers in a local magazine, has hit back claiming the events are "educational".

John Webb, a chartered financial planner and managing director of Midland Independent Financial Services, recently took out an advert offering four free seminars across the West Midlands for those looking to transfer out of a defined benefit pension.

But according to an email seen by Financial Adviser Mr Webb has been reported to the FCA over concerns whether he presented defined benefit transfers in an unduly positive light in an advertising feature in the magazine the seminars were promoted in.

Financial Adviser has seen the advertising feature placed in Wolverhampton West magazine, which highlighted the positive impact transferring had on one of Mr Webb's clients, who is referred to as Keith.

The advertising feature stated: "When Keith came to see me this morning he had finally set a retirement date of 22 June this year and no-one is happier than me. Did he make the right decision transferring back in 2010?

"Keith thinks so as his pension is now worth £770,900 giving him an annualised return of 7.3 per cent which, although less than what was required to purchase an annuity, Keith has no intention of doing that as he would prefer to control what benefits he takes and when he takes them."

The advertising feature also mentions that Mr Webb worked with employees of a number of large local businesses, including Jaguar Land Rover and Severn Trent.

Julian Pruggmayer, a financial adviser with West Midlands-based Financial Risk Management, said: "The FCA has laid down clear guidelines that defined benefit transfers are to be assumed to be not in the client's best interests and yet here we have someone who appears to be running in opposition to that.

"Here is a man going to considerable expense to talk to people about pension schemes. How is he hoping to make his money back?"

He added that most large businesses already employed advisers for their workers to advise them when they reach retirement.

FCA rules set out that communications by authorised firms for investment products or services must be fair, clear and not misleading, irrespective of the format of the communication. If a communication is promotional, additional requirements or restrictions may apply.

Firms should also ensure they only provide information as part of any public seminar and do not offer personal recommendations, including implicit personal recommendations. Where advice is provided subsequently, it must meet the FCA's requirements and be relevant to the client’s individual circumstances.

The seminars arranged by Mr Webb are due to be held over the next five months in venues such as the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Solihull and the Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton.

Early evening, four-hour events cost from £200 at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Solihull.

The complaint about Mr Webb's seminars and advertising followed concerns being raise about the issue of British Steel workers being offered "chicken in a basket" or sausage and chips at meetings in a local pub to discuss transferring their pension proved controversial last year.