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Consultants cleared in pension transfer delay complaint

Pensions ombudsman says pension transfer time was reasonable and within statutory minimum

Pensions-savings-retirement-piggy bankA complaint against Accenture claiming the consultancy took too long to carry out a pension transfer has not been upheld by The Pensions Ombudsman.

The complainant, Mr T, was part of the Accenture retirement savings plan, which was administered by Willis Towers Watson.

He complained that it took too long to complete the transfer of his benefits out of the plan and that the transfer process was inadequate. He also complained about the “whitelist” procedure followed by Willis Towers Watson.

On 6 June 2016, Willis Towers Watson was instructed by Mr T to transfer his benefits in the scheme to Tilney Bestinvest, however a copy of his passport was not included in the documents.

Two days later, Willis Towers Watson asked for a copy of the passport from Tilney Bestinvest and Mr T sent the document on 9 June. On that day, Willis Towers Watson wrote to HM Revenue & Customs to verify the registration of Tilney as the receiving scheme.

On 27 June Willis Towers Watson received confirmation from HMRC and the next day instructed divestment of Mr T’s fund in the plan. On 4 July Willis Towers Watson sent the transfer amount to Tilney.

Mr T initially complained to Accenture, which said it considered the timescale of less than one month was reasonable. It acknowledged the whitelist process might take longer to complete but, given the risk of pension scams, it was appropriate.

The complaint was then referred to TPO where an adjudicator decided there should be no further action from Accenture. Mr T did not accept the decision so it was passed to an ombudsman.

Deputy pensions ombudsman Karen Johnston agrees Willis Towers Watson could have asked Mr T directly for a copy of his passport, but it was not wrong to ask the receiving scheme.

She says the time taken to complete the transfer was within the statutory minimum and was reasonable.

Johnston says: “It may be possible to complete a pension transfer in a matter of days, but that does not mean that all transfers will meet the same timescale. Also, Willis Towers Watson has no control over how long it may take HMRC to respond.”

She adds: “Willis Towers Watson may have previously conducted transfers to the receiving scheme under different circumstances, but every transfer is different and will be judged on its own merits. In this case, the receiving scheme was not on Willis Towers Watson’s “whitelist”, and that required Willis Towers Watson to write to HMRC for confirmation of the receiving scheme’s registration.”

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