For the first time (perhaps this in itself is an achievement), I begin to question the future of this industry and the people employed in it.
I have a client who has a pension arrangement with Pearl which was included in the pension review and received compensation – presumably as a result of bad advice. We asked Pearl to transfer the servicing rights to our agency in September 2000 and were advised that as they were a home service company, it was not possible to transfer servicing rights to third parties. In any event, they had our letter of authority and were able to furnish us with information.
We corresponded with Pearl in July asking for an indication of current fund value and transfer value and a summary of retirement benefits as our client was reaching the chosen retirement age. No reply was forthcoming.
We subsequently identified a more appropriate individual within Pearl to receive corres-pondence and this was forwarded in August with a specific request for an annuity on a prescribed basis, which should presumably make life easy rather than the myriad of options which many providers will illustrate. We also commented that the client was displeased at the level of service and trusted that the correspondence would be acknowledged and acted on immediately. No such luck.
I then spoke to a member of the Pearl customer services team in the first week of September and was told that communications had been received but the particular departments working on retirement illustrations were months behind schedule. I asked if a specific request could be made for information to be with me shortly prior to a two-week break and was told it was not possible. Strangely enough, following that conversation, I received an acknowledgement to my letter of August.
I then advised my client that we could make no progress given an inability to obtain information from Pearl.
On my return from holiday this week, I was pleased to see that I had a communication from Pearl. However, the annuity illustrated was not on the basis which we requested and for some reason had a guarantee of 10 years which, while that might be appropriate for some clients, was not what was requested. Furthermore, the protected and non-protected rights were individualised with separate documentation and while there appeared to be an appropriate discharge form for the non-protected right, it was not clear to me how we could request an open market option for the protected rights element.
Nevertheless, I felt I would ring Pearl and ask for the reason for the differing illustrative basis and also if I requested an Omo, how this would be effected. I also requested some timescales in the hope that it would not take eight weeks to effect a transfer. Having endured another 15 minutes of someone's symphony, I asked for the previous contact and was told she was away.
I asked to speak to a senior person and again after another 10-15 minutes of what appeared to be the same music, I spoke with an individual. I comm-ented that I would be making a formal complaint but was seeking further information but I was stopped in mid-sentence. Given that the letter of authority which was signed on September 18 only had a lifetime of 24 months despite the fact that correspondence has been made over that period, given it was now the September 26, I could not get formal information my client. Of course, Pearl would be happy to correspond with my client direct and for her to get information which, of course, she had not requested. Alter-natively, I could ask my client to call in at my office and sign a new authority. I asked who would pay for her inconven-ience. There was no comment.
Once again, I am unable to process my client's Omo and I believe this is just one example of continuing absurdities creeping into this industry simply because there are no resources, fewer competent staff and perhaps, even more to the point, no plain common sense. I have no doubt that IFAs will continue to struggle with poor service and at the end of the day the client will pay through reduced bonuses/performance and of course extra fees and we will pay with longer hours and reduced satisfaction.
E Farley & Son,
Bradford, West Yorkshire