The FCA’s website and Unbiased have been criticised as unhelpful in a major review of the communications received by members of British Steel Pension Scheme
The review, commissioned by the Pensions Regulator and led by former Money Advice Service boss chief executive Caroline Rookes has been published today.
It looks into communications and support provided to BSPS members during the “time to choose” exercise that ran from October 2017 until January 2018.
During the exercise the old scheme’s roughly 130,000 members were asked to decide if they wanted to stay in the old BSPS, which entered the Pension Protection Fund in March 2018, move into a new workplace plan or transfer out.
The report proposes a number of recommendations for the regulatory and consumer bodies to help savers make the right decision about whether to transfer their pension pots from a defined benefit scheme.
The review points out it would have been helpful if the trustees had compiled a list of advisers willing and able to take on pensions transfer advice for the BSPS members.
But instead it says: “Members were referred to Unbiased or the FCA website. The former is not unbiased and the latter is not easy to use, nor does it make clear if the particular firm of advisers deal with DB transfers. It also includes advisers under investigation.”
The report points out there was very little communication between the different regulators about what was happening at British Steel and says they should work more closely to share data in the future:
“During transfer exercises the regulatory bodies [TPR, FCA and the Single Financial Guidance Body] should operate in a more collaborative way with each other and with the wider partners (eg the communications agency) to ensure there is a joined up approach to supporting members through the process,” it states.
FCA director of supervision Megan Butler says: “We welcome the recommendations put forward by Caroline following what has been a comprehensive review. The report is an honest, impartial account of what was a difficult and sensitive situation.
“The FCA stands by the action it took in those challenging times but, as with every case where we have had to intervene, there are always important lessons to be learnt.”
TPR chief executive Lesley Titcomb adds: “We welcome the report which acknowledges the good outcome secured for members through an innovative restructure of the pension scheme which we approved.
“The arrangement led to a £550m cash contribution to the BSPS and brought certainty for around 125,000 scheme members. It was a strong outcome because the vast majority of members made an active choice with most opting into the new scheme.
“We are grateful to Caroline Rookes for identifying a number of useful themes in her review which will help ensure pension savers are less likely to make transfer choices which are not in their best interests. We will now work together with trustees and the government so that we can all address the review’s recommendations.”