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Transfer request

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Bruce Wilson - IFA View
While nowhere near to being a done deal, there is a real danger that we may, just may, be on the verge of seeing some genuine progress regarding in-specie transfers.

We all know that the issue of in-specie transfers is not a new one. I dedicated one of these columns to it last year where I referred to it as a complete farce. But all of a sudden there seems to be a bit of momentum building and with it mounting pressure for the offending platform providers to mend their ways.

This pressure can clearly be seen in the headlines being generated in worthy publications such as this one but what those headlines cannot completely convey is the depth of feeling within the IFA community - a community that is growing increasingly tired of being fobbed off with the same lame excuses that were being trotted out not only last year but the year before that.

I like to think I have played my part in keeping the issue alive - I certainly get told I bang on about it - but others have undoubtedly played a big part, too. None more so than Nucleus founder and chief executive David Ferguson - a man more passionate about this particular issue you are never likely to meet.

Like I say, though, it is not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. I have been around long enough to know that sure things are few and far between in the weird and wonderful world of financial services.

In my experience, real change tends to only happen in this industry after consistent and continued pressure from a range of interested parties, including the media, has forced the regulator to get involved. I hope it does not come to that with this particular issue but I cannot help feeling that it will.

In some ways, it is understandable why the likes of Skandia and Fidelity are prepared to drag their feet for as long as they can.

They are the more established providers and have worked hard over the years to build up the assets held on their platforms. When you consider that it is from these assets that they make their money, it is no surprise that they are as keen as they are to hold onto them, especially as falls in world stockmarkets have already put a severe dent in them.

But an important point to remember here is that the assets held on platforms do not belong to the platform providers. It is not their money to hold on to. The money belongs to the people who have made the decision, usually with the help of an IFA, to invest some of their hard-earned cash and in 2008 it is outrageous to think that they are unable to move it from one place to another at minimum cost and with little inconvenience.

This issue is something much of the financial services industry seems to have lost sight of and with this in mind I find it very hard to believe that in-specie transfers are not already a huge treating customers fairly issue.

If the good people at the FSA are as serious about it as they claim to be, it can only be a matter of time before they step in. If that is what it is going to take, then the sooner they do it the better.

Bruce Wilson is managing director of Helm Godfrey

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