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Defined benefit schemes: Part 2

Justin Corliss, business development manager

In defined benefit (DB) schemes part 1, we looked at recent guidance aimed at DB scheme trustees and sponsors. In part 2 we will look at guidance available to pension transfer specialists (PTS).

In the first instance, PTS should familiarise themselves with COBS 19. All guidance below is designed to build on this assumed knowledge.

Guidance for advisers

FCA guidance:

In January 2017 the FCA produced a factsheet “Advising on Pension Transfers – Our Expectations”. This had a heavy focus on transfer value analysis (TVA) and critical yield (CY), clarifying that PTS must identify the specific scheme the member is considering transferring into and the charges applicable to it.

PTS also need to consider the specific funds the member will use, the charges applicable to these and the assumed growth rate. The PTS is to use these to create the CY rather than a generic hypothetical receiving scheme and funds which could produce a different (perhaps lower) CY figure. If PTS fail to do this, FCA state “it is unlikely that the advice will meet our expectations”.,

However, demonstrating the critical yield is achievable, or even easily met, will not meet the FCA’s expectations on justifying a transfer. The CY is simply one of many aspects to consider when determining whether a transfer meets the client’s needs and objectives. In fact there may be instances where the critical yield looks wholly unachievable but the PTS still recommends a transfer as pension freedoms meet the client’s needs and objectives better than the DB scheme.

Personal Finance Society guidance:

In February 2017 the Personal Finance Society (PFS) released its good practice guide on “pension transfers from defined benefit to defined contribution”. At only 8 pages long it is a valuable resource to anyone who deals with clients who are members of DB schemes, even for advisers who don’t hold pension transfer permissions.

The paper references recent guidance from the regulator, key messages from the FCA including those around insistent clients, and as you’d expect from a good practice guide, a list of suggested good practices when advising on pension transfers.

These good practices include gaining a thorough understanding of the DB scheme and the benefit structure it offers; considering the wider tax issues of the client; and completing detailed analysis of the client’s retirement income needs.

The final good practice point seems to capture the overall sentiment of the guide. Headed Part of wider, full financial planning service, it says where practical, advice on a DB transfer should be done in the context of a full financial planning service that:

  • takes account of all the client’s assets, liabilities, income and expenditure
  • tests outcome with reference to cashflow modelling
  • is subject to ongoing review

In April 2017 the FCA announced their intention to produce a consultation paper on pension transfers, although no definitive timeframe has been quoted for its release. Until then, the documents referenced above provide the best guidance we have on how to meet the expectations of both the client and the regulator when dealing with pension transfer enquiries.

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