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Farewell all

I write this blog with tears streaming down my cheeks. Why? I hear you ask. Well – ’tis because it’s my last pensions blog for Money Marketing. Next Monday I move to write about pensions and investments for another paper and will be replaced by our lovely life and protection reporter Nicola York who, I have been repeatedly assured by various contacts, is much more attractive than me.

Anyway, I digress – and I’m guessing you don’t really care anyway.

So Skandia UK is continuing to reap the benefits of A-Day with a 20 per cent increase in first quarter gross sales to £2.3bn from £1.9bn in the same period last year. Happy days.

Aegon Scottish Equitable has added an option to its group Sipp which enables members to self-invest without having to use an adviser. Previously the group Sipp could only be set up on an adviser trade basis, which meant if a member wanted to use the self invested element, they would need to get advice from the IFA related to the scheme.

Now my gut reaction to this change was that it would not go down to well with advisers. As so often happens I was proved wrong. Informed Choice director Martin Bamford points out that, contrary to popular belief, there are some very well informed customers out there who are more than capable of taking their own investment decisions – indeed, that may well be why they purchased a Sipp in the first place.

And finally to everyone’s favourite issue – personal accounts. Last week Work and Pensions secretary John Hutton set out his proposals for a trust based occupational pensions scheme run by trustees who will set the strategic direction for the scheme including collection of contributions, investment of assets and payment of benefits.

Hutton emphasised that personal accounts will be run independently of Government and the trustees will also have responsibility for deciding on the choice of funds and the appointment and management of external fund managers.

A members’ panel will be established to ensure their views are taken into account by the trustees. Hutton said this panel could nominate a proportion of the trustees, helping to give a stronger sense of collective ownership.

Now this notion of independence of the scheme is all well and good. Certainly no one in their right mind would want the Government to start picking external fund managers. But it is crucial the Government does not hide behind this independence to avoid taking the rap if personal accounts goes belly up. Amid persistent concerns over means testing this remains a very real possibility.

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