SimplyBiz has partnered with Aviva Financial Advice in a bid to bolster its pension transfer referral panel as it prepares for a spike in demand for defined benefit support from member firms this year.
Aviva's advice arm is the latest firm to have joined the panel, which allows advisers who are either unable to, or choose not to, operate in the defined benefit transfer market to refer their clients to the third-party service.
Gary Kershaw, compliance director of The SimplyBiz Group, predicted demand for support around defined benefit advice was set to rise further this year as firms which do not specialise in the market begin to exit it altogether.
Mr Kershaw said: "Policy change and growing consumer interest in pension transfers during 2020 meant that we needed to increase the amount of regulatory support we were providing to our member firms in this key area.
"Expanding and strengthening the bureau panel is another layer of support, ensuring that we are helping firms who are unable to, or have chosen not to, provide advice on pension transfers themselves still deliver good outcomes to their clients."
He added: "Aviva Financial Advice’s breadth of experience and dedication to exceptional customer service is renowned within the sector, and I was particularly impressed by the fact that each adviser in its defined benefit team holds the PFS Gold Standard."
In November last year Aviva Financial Advice launched its abridged defined benefit advice service, which SimplyBiz member firms will be able to access alongside a full advice service through the panel.
Abridged advice sits in between triage and full pension transfer advice but can only result in a personal recommendation to not transfer out of a defined benefit scheme.
First mooted by the Financial Conduct Authority in July 2019, abridged advice begins with an introductory chat with the client, in which the adviser can understand high-level information about their circumstances in order to determine whether they are a viable candidate for a transfer.
Mary Harper, managing director of Aviva Financial Advice, said: "There are many reasons why some firms are no longer willing to offer advice on defined benefit transfers.
"But, if a customer wishes to review the whole of their wealth and retirement strategy, it is an incomplete picture without considering what is the best choice for them if they have a defined benefit pension as part of their retirement savings.
"We are delighted to be able to offer a defined benefit advice service if customer and adviser find themselves in that position."
Ms Harper said since Aviva began offering defined benefit advice in 2019 it had seen demand and business grow.
She added: "We believe that this will only continue.
"We are all agreed on the need for our industry to work towards closing the advice gap, to ensure best possible outcomes for customers. We hope that making more advice more widely available will be a part of that."