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Over the last few weeks I’ve had a much higher than usual number of ‘interesting’ transfer out requests land on my desk. Maybe it’s the hot weather getting to people, but it’s curious how these things seem to be like buses – nothing for ages then all at once.

Transfers out to unknown schemes can cause providers a lot of headaches, and we’re largely in a no-win situation. There’s a lot of extra work to be done and at the end of it we either end up losing a customer or having one who’s a bit annoyed at having to stay put.

The recent Ombudsman ruling, Mr N v The Police Pension Scheme, shows the importance of completing appropriate due diligence for the transferring scheme – and the harsh consequences of getting it wrong (the scheme has been ordered to reinstate the member’s accrued benefits).

The most common type of “unknown” scheme we get requests to transfer to, are SSAS. A transfer to a scheme with a known SSAS provider involved can be fairly straightforward, but there are many DIY schemes with no other parties taking responsibilities. In most cases the individual hasn’t just taken it upon themselves to open a SSAS, there’s someone in the back ground recommending the course of action. Now this could be for legitimate planning purposes, or for something less above board.

We also get cases where our gut feel isn’t necessarily that someone is trying to pull a fast one on the client, but rather there’s just a handful of people involved who don’t understand pensions, so there’s a high risk of the scheme inadvertently falling foul of HMRC rules. On one of our recent cases we had two parties both saying the other was the Scheme Administrator, and denying it was them – which begs the question who’s reporting anything to HMRC?

As well as looking at the scheme and any other parties involved in the transfer request, it’s also important to look at the member’s history. Anyone washing funds in and out of a pension in a short space of time can be a red flag unless there is good cause.

The Pension Scams Industry Group (PSIG) have recently updated their Code of Good Practice, which gives some great pointers as to what providers should be looking for and questions to ask.

If you are advising on a transfer to a less well known scheme then you should be prepared for a few extra questions, and plan time in for the provider to complete their checks. On the plus side, the fact that there’s an FCA regulated adviser advising will add weight to the case for transfer.

Lisa Webster is technical resources consultant at AJ Bell
The launch of a new FCA and TPR campaign to boost awareness of pensions scams has been welcomed by the profession.

SSAS veteran EBS Pensions has reported an 18% increase in client numbers to 16,600 and a significant increase in profitability in 2017 under new owners the Embark Group.

The use of the wrong platform to launch a petition against scrapping the pensions dashboard mean that the issue will not be debated in Parliament, despite surpassing 100,000 signatures.
The petition, which has so far reached 130,768 signatures, was set up on the 38 Degrees website, but to qualify for Parliamentary time petitions must be created on the official website.

Aegon has slammed the process as “smacking of Yes, Minister bureaucracy.”
The petition calls on Work and Pensions Secretary, Esther McVey, to keep to previous Government pronouncements and to follow through with delivery of the pensions dashboard.

Normally once a petition reaches 100,000 signatures it is considered for debate in Parliament, but only if petitions filed use the Government’s petition service.
Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, said: “It’s ridiculous in this digital age that the Government insists on people using its own petition service to get something debated in Parliament, and smacks of Yes, Minister bureaucracy.

“The pensions dashboard is an important consumer-facing initiative and one that is backed not only by the pension industry but by many others.

“The fact that over 130,000 people have signed the petition in a matter of weeks shows people’s passion for the pensions dashboard and has generated welcome publicity.

“The Government needs to acknowledge this and debate the issue in Parliament.”
New figures from the ONS, which point to a slowing of life expectancy increases, are good news for defined benefit pensions schemes, according to AJ Bell.
A petition against scrapping the pensions dashboard has garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

Tens of thousands have called on Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey not to shelve the proposal, with the count up to 126,527 at the time of writing.

The petition, on website 38 Degrees, reads: “The Welfare Secretary Esther McVey wants to 'kill off' a new government website which would help millions of people keep track of their pensions throughout their careers, because she thinks it's not the Government's job to help.

“Without it millions of pension pots are at risk of being lost.

“According to estimates by the Department for Work and Pensions, 50 million pension pots will be lost by 2050 without an official website to help workers to keep track of savings through their careers.”

It added: “A huge petition signed by thousands of us will show the Government we expect them to keep their promises and continue to roll out the pensions dashboard.”

The success of the petition has been backed by fin-tech firm Origo and managing director Anthony Rafferty said:

“The petition launched by 38 Degrees, in response to media reports that the pensions dashboard might not go ahead has passed 100,000 signatures, showing the depth of feeling and the support that the initiative has in the country.

“The benefits of the pensions dashboard are easily seen and have clearly struck a chord with people.

“We at Origo have been passionate supporters of the pensions dashboard since the initiative was launched, believing it is essential to help individuals engage with their retirement planning, particularly in the new pensions environment which was ushered in with the Pension Freedoms.”
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