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A small victory as the big guns line up against advice

IFAs have scored their first victory on stakeholder pensions almost since the reform was first envisaged.

The threat of an FSA ban on IFAs receiving GPP commission if a provider&#39s phone helpline talks employees through the decision trees has been lifted.

The regulator had been citing the indirect-benefit rule as justification. This demonstrates that, on operational issues at least, the FSA can be pragmatic. It is a success for Aifa which made the IFA case. But the episode is symptomatic of an anti-advice climate.

The FSA was not going out of its way to deny IFAs remuneration but the fact it felt obliged to consider doing so shows that the new stakeholder system with price capping, decision trees and all creates all manner of unseen hazards.

This climate has been encouraged by some ministers and civil servants and underlined by the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority which has refused to link its website to IFAs. It is unlikely that Opra would have taken this rash decision, effectively giving the IFA channel second-class status, if the Treasury was not attributing almost miracle-like powers to stakeholder&#39s kitemark.

The decision gives IFA-only providers an incentive to consider the direct route and is no way for a regulator to behave.

Whatever the obstacles, many IFAs are still likely to benefit from the upheaval caused by stakeholder. The FSA&#39s change of heart will convince more advisers to help sell the new pension. But many powerful institutions still seem intent on loading the dice against them.

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