Citizens Advice to offer pensions guidance from over 500 locations

Face-to-face Pension Wise guidance sessions will be available at over 500 locations across England and Wales, Citizens Advice says.

In January the organisation announced the first 44 delivery centres and has now added an extra six, including Southwark, Brent, Waltham Forest, Chelmsford, Wigan and Kirklees.

Savers at and approaching retirement will be able to use the service free of charge to help them avoid the most costly mistakes when deciding how to access their pensions.

Following the initial announcement, commentators warned the service did not cover enough of the country. However, the 50 delivery centres will co-ordinate Pension Wise sessions at outreach centres nearer to where users live, taking the total number of locations offering the service to over 500.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy says: “Pension Wise is the starting point in helping people to take control of their finances for retirement. Face-to-face guidance will enable people to understand their pension options and how they relate to their own situation, so they can make informed choices.

“The size of the Citizens Advice network means that we can be flexible and respond to demand by providing support in the nearest available locations, giving easy access to Pension Wise.”

Each delivery centre will have between three and seven staff, depending on the demand in the area.

Citizens Advice is run by separate organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Citizens Advice Scotland has confirmed savers will be able to access Pension Wise at over 200 existing outreach locations. Home visits will also be used in remote areas.

The Pensions Advisory Service is delivering Pension Wise over the phone, while the Treasury is running the official website.

Pension Wise is funded by an industry levy – set to cost advisers £4.2m in the first year – and a one-off £20m Government loan.

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Comments

There are 50 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. In what is arguably now an even more complex landscape of options as to how best to deploy one’s pension fund/s for sustainable income and the (anecdotally) large number of people focussed primarily on unfettered access to their funds, the average size of which is reportedly no more than about £30K, talking about “helping people to take control of their finances for retirement” seems a decidedly fanciful sound bite.

  2. “Pension Wise is funded by an industry levy – set to cost advisers £4.2m in the first year – and a one-off £20m Government loan”

    Please can our levy payments also be a loan that gets paid back to us?

  3. The more work I do on this the more evident it is simply too difficult for most people to workout the best solutions themselves without regulated advice.

  4. How come the Governments £20m is a loan whereas ours is a cost? Does this mean that future ‘costs’ will be used to repay the loan???

  5. The first piece of advice must be to treat all ‘financial advisers’ as potential con artists and thieves who should not be trusted.

  6. £30,000 might not sound much but to anyone on the national average salary, it’s more than a years earnings and not to be sneezed at.

    Used properly, with the right tax advice, it could provide a decent tax free lump sum plus a nest egg that can be used for, say, four decent sized events, and/or an emergency fund.

    It could help many people take more control than they’ve had before.

  7. Gillian Guy (CA B) states that “face to face guidance will enable people to understand their pension options and how they relate to their own situation, so they can make informed choices”. WRONG.

    We provide up to 1 hour of free guidance and run over all their options with a brief overview of advantages and disadvantages. However, we always confirm that they need a full written plan in order to make informed choices and should never make any decisions or take any actions based on this guidance alone. They cannot make informed choices without a full written plan.

    We’ll the citizens advice bureau accept responsibility for bad decisions taken by the consumers they have advised in five years, 10 years and 20 years et cetera.

  8. Really Smithy0364 ??
    I assume you’re not being serious about funding for a potential 30 years+ retirement ??!

  9. Does this have an echo of Which? and endowment mortgages all over again.

  10. I am sure that they will provide excellent financial planning guidance after a few hours training! Of course when the complaints come in the people that provided the guidance will be long gone. This is a an ill thought out disaster. There should be warning!

  11. Take The High Road 9th March 2015 at 1:02 pm

    @Karen White

    …..I assume you must be speaking from experience! 🙂

    Personally, I doubt that anyone will be able to give the public sufficient advice on this topic as there are just too many imponderables for even a well educated person to try to work out for themselves, let alone the average Mr or Mrs Miggins!!

    History will confirm this in due course but then I suppose CAB, the Regulator and the Government will(in as true to form as ever) say that it was all the fault of someone else – no doubt the adviser community as we are always the softest of targets aren’t we?!!!

  12. Risk assessment, capacity for capital loss, fund selection, other non-pension assets, other DB pension assets, affordability, long term care issues, health issues, Annuity options, tax implications not to mention annual progress reviews etc, etc, etc, all garnished with changing pension regulations.

    I wonder who will keep records of the ‘conversations’? I wonder what CAB indemnity cover is? I wonder who will pick up the bill when the complaints begin to roll in? I wonder what they will ask CAB when the next market crash happens? I wonder about many things. Someone, somewhere is going to have to pay for all this in the future and I have a sneaking suspicion we are going to be involved and found to be at fault; somehow.

    The most important thing has to be that (uniquely to our industry) the consumer must pay nothing and the specialists must pay now and pick up the tab when it goes wrong.

  13. @ SurreyIFA – I didn’t say anything about funding for a 30 year retirement. I mentioned ‘nest egg, four decent sized events and a possible emergency fund’ – which is surely, for most people, is a better option than taking it all in one go.

  14. OOOhh !! the government really do know how to stick the knife in and twist don’t they !!

    Not only do they (treasury) walk away un-challenged with 1.3 billion of (lets not forget) industry money but now they lend it back to us, Unbelievable !!

    Now who is the character in Viz who carried his gentlemen parts around in a wheelbarrow ? was his name G Osborne because HE, really has got some balls !!

  15. Jabba The Hutt 9th March 2015 at 2:21 pm

    G60, AF3,JO5, CF9 and chartered….bet I couldn’t get a job with CA.

    At least that will probably keep Karen happy!

  16. Douglas Baillie 9th March 2015 at 2:44 pm

    And who exactly are the staff at the CAB going to refer their customers to for advice?

    I note that the FCA now require all pension advice provided ‘at retirement’ that involves any guaranteed benefits (DB, S32, GARs etc) to be delivered by an adviser with G60 or equivalent, with ‘pension transfer specialist’ permissions.

    Has anyone any idea of what % of regulated advisers have these FCA permissions and the relevant PI Insurance? I suspect that it may well be > 10%.

    In my experience, new consumers coming to me for ‘at retirement advice’ have > 3 pension plans, and that it is very likely that at least one of these will have some kind of guarantee built into it.

    How on earth are the staff at the CAB going to discover in 45 minutes, over the telephone or face to face, what guarantees exist in a consumer’s ‘portfolio’ of historic pension plans?

    Yet another disaster in waiting!

  17. As the Citizens Advice Bureau is a charitable organisation and seemingly not paying contributions into the FSCS, I do hope that when and if the guidance advice is found to be incorrect that government will step in to pay compensation rather than our profession having to pay increased fees through FSCS.

    It’s okay coming up with this new terminology called guidance advice but who ultimately is going to pay compensation when and if found to be wrong at a later date!!

    Will these advisers be fully qualified or are we going to see further erosion of authorisation rules, it only seems to me that MPs want to support advisers when it suits their purpose.

    Did I read recently that DB to DC transfers can only occur if you have an advanced certificate in pensions how many of these advisers will have that?

    Osborne’s reforms were a good idea but the free guidance advice will be his undoing.

  18. I was chatting about this to my doctor and he thought it was an excellent idea that could and should be rolled out to solve the NHS waiting lists. There must be thousands of job-seekers who could be recruited by the CAB and the Samaritans to offer a free-of-charge, flexible advice (sorry guidance) to sick people so they can take control of their diagnosis for treatment. Face-to-face guidance will enable people to understand their medication options and how they relate to their own situation, so they can make informed choices.

    The operation could be funded by GPs alongside an initial loan from the government repaid gradually by GP contributions.

    This would solve the unemployment problem and HNS waiting lists at a stroke. It would also over time solve the ageing population problem and boost the revenues of funeral directors and crematoriums.

  19. It will be interesting to see what happens when a CAB comes across (for example) GMP, S32, RACs, protected TFC, underfunded DB schemes, GARs, guarnteed WP reversionary bonus rates, pension plans where death benefits are a return of premium (I’ve had one where a seriously ill individual would have lost approx 98% of their fund on death!) etc etc.

    I could go on – it’s all well and good setting out the options; it’s the damage that people can do to their accrued funds where the biggest issue lies and it’s for this reason that people often seek paid (experienced) impartial and independent advice.

  20. Justin

    Love(?) your facetious analogy – how many GPs would you trust to treat you for cancer or perform heart surgery on you? They refer to specialists, why can’t the “professional advisers” who constantly harp on about how the Pension Wise guidance will fail see that they should view themselves as the consultants or specialists and the Pensions Wise guiders as GPs?

  21. @Justin. Wasn’t that called NHS Direct? 🙂

    The pension thing doesn’t worry me too much, as I can (and will have to) pick and choose whom I want to deal with very carefully. For sure I will not be dealing with people (advice or guidance) who have any capacity for ending up in hardship, as that will be coming right back to haunt me and I get no pleasure from having to say that, but it is the environment and culture which we now operate within.

    One pressing question though? How do the CAB generate money to repay this govt. loan, as I didn’t think they had a commercial revenue-generating aspect to them?…Just joking, I know we will be repaying it really!

  22. Interestingly, my GP had some thoughts on that as well – and I am surprised no-one thought of it before.

    The CAB gathers together all of those public service companies – you know ‘claims guys’, ‘claims direct’, ‘first4lawyers.com’, not to forget the ‘National Accident Helpline’ – there are armies of them out there to be fed, and strikes a deal with them.

    Every complaint for compensation which comes in is dropped into the ravenous beaks of the claims vultures, who do their bit of magic to prove (with a modicum of mendacity) that the industry (who let’s face it are de-facto sponsors of the whole process – and have neglected their responsibilities) is to blame.

    We cough up the requisite compensation which is split between the client, the CAB and the claims guys.

    It is simple, proven, robust and effective.

  23. At no point will a client receive advice from the CAB or TPAS (who for some reason are overlooked when it comes to Pension Wise bashing). The Pension Wise guidance service will allow users to at least have the ammunition to find out more about their pension options and in the cases cited above by Paul Stocks the client will be directed to their provider(s) and/ or adviser (or a suitable source of advice if no adviser is current). It is a shame that any time a positive piece of news is published re CAB and Pension Wise, the posters appear with (in their own minds at least) witty and clever ways to knock what has always, and will continue to be, a service dedicated to helping people.

  24. Sorry but I cant see it workiing, the only people I know who use the CA are the ones with debt issues, just like MAS.

    Its a smoke and mirrors exercise for the masses paid for by us poor saps with the more spacially aware individuals still finding us out to get some real options. ( assuming the FCA havnt shut us by then!)

  25. @Graham. I don’t think the concept is an issue, but when WE pay for it, of course we are rightly entitled to feel aggrieved about certain aspects of its delivery.

    If the Govt. wants to run the system then fine, fund it with taxpayers money and get on with it (and please no suggestion that we peripherally benefit by way of referrals, that’s like saying that travel agents benefit from people who want to go on holiday).

    The headline banner for the financial sector should read ‘find a CAB, we’ll pay the tab!’

  26. I remember attending a Steve Bee presentation some years ago, on one of his frenzied pie charts he drew a line across the middle, under which where the ” Great Unwashed ” for want of a better description.

    The point of the exercise was to show that half the country are unlikely to ever become our clients or need our services, and we should focus on those that we can help. Worrying about what may or may not happen with the guidance services is something beyond our control, and the outcomes should not be the responsibility of our industry, it may even show us as the good guys.

    Not everyone needs or can afford a Rolls Royce to get from A to B.

  27. @Graham Hughes – I am inclined to agree with you. Whilst Pensionwise isn’t ideal, it is a bit like Churchill’s quote about democracy.
    I can’t afford to be taking on the risk of advising on lower pots. I would happily advise for a modest fee or even a limited amount of pro bono were it NOT for the risk to me and my business. As a result of the pension changes, there does need to be an initial gatekeeper to highlight the issues so someone can decide whether they value the extra peace of mind of taking advice.
    I have more work than I can mentally cope with as it is, I don’t want to take on customers (transactional) I only want clients (ongoing need for advice) really and like most advisers a max of 150 per adviser is probably just about workable which does scrape the surface of the mass market based on the very low adviser numbers now, so some form of “triage” is needed and viewing pensionwise as “triage” is probably the way to go.

  28. @SteveD- I agree with you that it should not be advisers and hence those who take advice who pay for those who only take guidance, it should be generally taxation which funds pensionwise as it is a service for the general public, much like the NHS

  29. Have you read the CAB ‘Getting financial advice’ section on their web site? http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/wales/debt_w/getting_financial_advice.htm#h_how_to_check_youre_getting_the_right_advice

    Under the section ‘Advice or Guidance’ it is more interesting to note what is excluded from ‘Guidance’ rather than what is included, not least recourse to that all important benefit, the ability to blame someone else.

    For all of you Black Adder aficionados it is a little like that wonderful sketch where Edmund frantically reads the ‘guidance’ for his Armstrong Whitworth four pounder cannonnette whilst Wellington Checks elevation, charts trajectory, primes the fuse, aims and fires. Guidance is one thing, experience, qualifications and training are another.

  30. Justin

    No-one is suggesting/has suggesed that clients will obtain advice from CAB or TPAS. The link you provided does rather well point clients to obtaining financial advice and has links to finding an adviser. Shock horror, CAB suggeting clients take regulated advice, who saw that coming?!

    By the way Edmund was reading the instructions not “guidance” for his cannonette. Had he received guidance maybe he at least would have grasped the basics. He was the client CAB/TPAS woud help while the Iron Duke was the DIYer who knows better and would never think of using Pension Wise (or perhaps any regulated adviser).

  31. I wonder will the CAB advise clients on how to spot advisers who are prepared to forge their signatures? And what to do about it if the adviser tells lies when it is discovered a few years later and defies them to prove it.

  32. You can tell what is most important in society by the priority which is placed on it.

    If the ever-bloating rule-book and burgeoning budget of the FCA, the colossal benevolence of the FOS and FSCS and enormous impact of RDR are touchstones then good quality financial advice, service and products rank pretty high.

    The provision of insipid Pensions Guidance, solution of cheap products and absence of any consumer protection would seem to fly completely in the face of all that has gone before. The bulk of the UK pension investors are definitely regarded as second class citizens by our esteemed leaders.

  33. From a well respected pensions figure:

    http://henrytapper.com/2015/03/11/get-behind-pension-wise/

    Seems someone can look objectively (as well as the few who posted on here with balanced opinions).

  34. No quibble with that Graham.

    Only let someone else fund it and take the responsibility and put in place safeguards so that we do not have to pick up the problem later.

  35. Justin

    I have sympathy that the FS industry is expected to partially fund Pension Wise and the guidance guarantee sessions from CAB and TPAS but I believe the existence of these will reduce the causes of complaint as the guidance will place emphasis on how any action by the pension holder will affect them vis a vis tax, creditors, benefits claims etc . It will also (hopefully – you cannot prevent a detrmined fool parting with their money) reduce the number of people falling prey to scams as these will be flagged at the guidance meeting. Look at how much the FSCS may have to pay those who invested in Harlequin via SIPPS. And who will the FSCS come to for the funds??

    In the ideal world everyone would have access to high quality advisers who would design/advise a bespoke plan of action for every client. Clearly this would be prohibitively expensive if funded centrally as the advisers would need remunerating at a reasonable level to deliver such a wide reaching service.

    As Henry said,
    “Pension Wise will not replace advice or advisors, but it will – with our support keep the runaway train on the tracks long enough for us to work out how to find a lasting settlement to the problems of post-retirement income we (and everyone else) currently face.”

    A pragamtic and eminently sensible approach, do we actually want Pension Wise to fail so advisers can be smug and say,”I told you so”? Where would that leave the individuals who cannot afford financial advice?

  36. If pension wise can help those who do not have enough pension for regulated advice to be profitable, then I am all for it. If pension wise can lead those who need regulated advice and have sufficient size pot to make it ethical to take an adviser charge from, then I am all for it. It can sort out the time wasters and if you get an enquiry from someone who has seen them first, you should know they are about as hot a lead as you can get. You do not get anywhere near as good a quality from bought in leads originating from bogus advisory websites and there is no fee. Yes, there is a levy that smaller firms will not pay, but as a load of people distrust pensions and the advisers who sold them having not been offered reviews and dumped without a care by bank assurers and direct sales forces, this service, which will not attempt to sell anything and is far more independent than an IFA should produce a load more business for those registered on the MAS register.
    Stop putting your heads in the sand, support pension wise and have an extra holiday this year, paid by the additional work that will inevitably come your way.
    Now, where is the new compliance briefing from our lords and masters?

  37. I agree O’Really and throw in pension transfers – both were Government initiatives that the industry carried the can for.

  38. Pro V #1 – Bravo!

  39. @Graham Hughes _ bearing in mind just how long it takes to run through a proper pre-retirement exercise including full up to date KYC even when you’ve know the person for 20 odd years (just had one today), any education for the consumer BEFORE they come to us could prove beneficial for them in cost and us in time/cost.
    What we do need to know however is the format and issues covered in a Pensionwise “session” so that we don’t recap too much on something which has already been explained by pensionwise…..
    Capacity is going to be an issue as I don’t know about other advisers, but I haven’t got a lot of it. Sadly my apprentice is only at level 3, so he can’t provide any regulated advice and realistically I reckon that will be at least another year before he can get there. in 2012 of course he could have advised, RDR put paid to that though.

  40. So on a limited advice basis (assuming an IFA will not contemplate providing and charging for a full holistic financial advisory service to a consumer with only c£20,000), are we to assume from the many comments here that all IFAs are happy to provide 5-10 hours work to make a compliant recommendation on retirement options for a fee of only c£500-600?…..I don’t think so, but how can you justify a £1,500 – £2,000 fee on that amount to cover your time? Get real!! All I hear is wining and winging from many IFAs on this topic…….these client’s are not your market anymore but they still need help, hence the guidance options of TPAS & CAB (stop disrespecting clients and assuming they are not clever enough to work out sensible solutions for themselves because they are and you should be glad such a service has been developed to help them) ….I say it’s time to stop winging and get yourselves better qualified {up to level 6 as a minimum} and start providing the professional service you are capable of delivering to the professional people and clients with more coplex affairs that need your skills…….that way not only will the industry’s standards rise internally, its professional standing with other professions like accountants and solicitors will as well with them taking a different view of IFAs and not seeing them as threats, which will inevitably result in better referrals (virtuous circle)……..Thankfully the gravy train days of making £1,000s from client’s with small investment values and basic needs are gone (thanks to RDR)……so its time to rethink your strategy and concentrate your efforts and energy to the areas that you can make a difference on and stop fighting for the right to ‘own’ smaller value clients….it doesn’t do them or IFAs any favours.

  41. Hi Justin – long time no see – Pensionwise should be embraced rather than condemned after all ‘Who yer going to call?” – not the ghost-busters on this one, but the professionals. Pensionwise guiders can not give advice on, or (more important for you) ARRANGE, regulated financial products – if it saves your time by ‘clients’ having even a little more knowledge isn’t that a bonus to you? After all, time is a very valuable commodity – I would happily pay if it gave me more time. Not wishing to take sides (or sit on the fence) I am with Graham H & PROV#1 on this one.

    Maybe all the negativity comes from not believing in the services regulated FA’s provide. Pensionwise should be regarded as allies not the enemies.

  42. @Many victims – It is a pity you choose to post anon whilst having a go at other peoples opinions which differ from yours. What are you afraid of?

  43. Richard (and Many Victims , somewhat more vociferously), you are the latest voices of reason amid the naysayers. I look forward to reading the counterblasts!

  44. @Phil Castle – Phil, we live in a democracy and as such I have no problem (nor have I ever had a problem) with people having an opinion (whether in agreement with or at odds with my own)…….and the fact that my user name is in your words classed as ‘anon’ is irrelevant to the facts that I stated.

    FACT: There are too many IFAs criticising the new PensionWise service without understanding how it will work (before it has even started and can be truely measured) – EVIDENCE, just read some of the replies to the articles here and on FT Adviser

    FACT: There are too many IFAs looking at this with self interest and not with client’s best interest – EVIDENCE, just read some of the replies to the articles here and on FTAdviser

    FACT: There are still too many IFAs with the wrong business models in place if they think PensionWise users are their main source of ‘bread and butter’ – EVIDENCE, just read some of the replies to the articles here and on FTAdviser

    FACT: There are still too many practicing IFAs that have reluctantly dragged themselves up to Level 4 status (because they were told to) without understanding why they had knowledge deficiencies in the first place and who still cannot see how further knowledge and skills provides them with a better proposition to provide a better service to the right type of clients thus increasing not only their professional status (but their earnings potential as well) – EVIDENCE, just read some of the replies to the articles here and on FTAdviser and/or go to any IFA seminar and just listen to some of the comments being made about what IFAs are still doing….frightening!

    Now I know you and others will challenge me again because I choose to ‘hide behind an anonymous user name’….but as I said before my user name is irrelevant in this ‘debate/arguement’ or whatever format you choose to view this forum as – whereas the truth behind the comments I (and others it seems) have made are not…..

  45. @Many victims – These are NOT FACTS – They are just your opinion and one from an anon poster whose reason for posting anon is obscure. I may agree with some of what you say and disagree with some of what you say. I am quite open about who I am and my background and yet you hide behind an anon posting and criticize others accusing them of self interest. We don’t know if you are an adviser, a quangocrat or what and the context of where your comments are coming from may be as biased as you accuse others. Without knowing your background, you may be serving your own self interest.
    Have the courage of your own convictions and post under your real name.

  46. @Many victims – The point I am trying to make is not what you are saying, nor the criticism you make of others, which is fine, it is the fact you hide behind a made up name whilst criticizing others.
    I went to the DT seminar a couple of weeks ago and what annoys me as that hardly anyone took the time to speak to Rory Percival when he was there, very few questions were asked by the advisers present when the opportunity was given as no-one (including you) wants to raise their real head above the parapet for whatever reason, whether that be a fear of looking foolish, a fear of their employer if they post a comment here under their real name or fear of the F-pack.
    Advisers are quite happy to throw stones at the FCA from behind a made up name while other stry and drive their own personnel agenda from behind made up names too.
    One of the reasons I post under my own name is I am neither for nor against PensionWise – it exists and we should make it work for consumers and us asll th time it does exist. Who should fund it and the future is a separate issue.

  47. @ many victims

    From your last post I think you read to much, and sadly believe much of what you read !!

    However I do agree with one point, pension wise and others are good in some respects for me and maybe other IFA’s as I have little time to waste, and I charge, from outset and don’t offer free, the reason; people don’t value free anything, never have never will !!

  48. Phil: How can you not tell who Many Victims is? He is clearly Rafa Benitez and I claim my five pounds.

  49. @Sascha – I had to Google RB as I didn’t know who he was….. But at least I COULD Google him.

  50. @DH _ I agree with you. Unless someone new to my firm has already spoken to pensionwise before coming to me, then the first thing we will do unless other issues are identified or requested of us to investigate than just a relatively small pension pit is point them back to Pensionwise as it is only fair to them to do so as “Triage” of |Pensionwise may be all they need. If they still feel they need us, hopefully I will have explained to their satisfaction the reason for this and they will ONLY come back to us if they will value and pay for what they require of us that Pensionwise cannot give.
    IF they want to pay our fees and NOT go via pensionwise first, then fine… and I will still give them quite a significant amount of my time at my own cost to make sure I know them and vice versa, before I decide whether to risk advising them and agreeing the fee for the work, regulatory costs (including pensiowise) and infinite risk of undeserved or fraudulent complaint.
    For penionwise to work properly, the F-pack need to resolve the infinite liability issue when small pots are referred on after pensionwise to an adviser and time is running out for the F-pack to resolve this debacle of their own making when FSMA200 was poorly drafted and the longstop was dropped from the rulebook when PIA changed to FSA.
    An agreed line to be drawn for liability in time needs to be established and it needs to be done using logic as opposed to an argument about rules. What does the consumer NEED and what does the adviser and firm NEED to ensure a smooth and efficient access to justice as an alternative to the courts.For small advisory firms it is NOT an alternative to the courts, it is not just, it is politically motivated, it is not smooth and it is not less costly. On many occasions, issues could be resolved were it not for the adversarial nature of the complaints systems of both insures and FOS itself.
    I have had a lot of clients complain about insurers and they have asked me what I think. All they have often been looking for is a swift apology, not financial compensation, but the system actually winds them up even more than the original thing they have taken the time to complain about!

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