Closed-book giant Phoenix: ‘No evidence’ exit fees blocking pension freedoms

Exit sign

Closed-book provider Phoenix Life says it does not consider exit charges a problem and finds “no evidence” penalties are stopping customers using the pension freedoms.

The stance comes a day after Scottish Widows announced plans to scrap all exit fees on workplace pensions and Money Marketing revealed Standard Life and Prudential have capped penalties.

Phoenix declined to comment on its plans for exit fees ahead of its Independence Governance Committee’s annual statement.

But a spokeswoman says: “We do not believe we have an issue with exit charges, either in respect of pension freedoms or workplace schemes.

“To date we have seen no evidence that any customer incurring an exit charges is deterred from taking advantage of pension freedoms before their selected retirement date.

“Our IGC will be publishing their report shortly and we will work with the FCA on their consultation.”

Phoenix says 20 per cent of its policies have an exit penalties, with an average charge of 1 per cent.

In January George Osborne tasked the FCA with capping “excessive” exit fees, the regulator is now consulting on what level it should be set at.

Wingate Financial Planning financial planning director Alistair Cunningham says: “Phoenix by their nature are a legacy provider and their old policies will have initial charges. They have much more to lose than Standard Life or Scottish Widows.

“They’ve got nothing to gain from being the first to blink and it will cost them a lot of money – of a proportion of their business book they have a lot more contracts with initial unit and penalties.”

Rowley Turton director Scott Gallacher says: “They will almost certainly have massive amounts of exit charges, with things like initial units with very high annual management charges and exit penalties. Part of their business was to buy up insurers and wind up the administration on the basis we’ll get all these fees back over the years. If you’re suddenly saying you can rip all that up firms like Phoenix are in trouble.

He adds: “Making these kinds of retrospective changes sets a dangerous precedents. I am slightly concerned that these kinds of moves mean people don’t see the UK as a place to do financial services business.”