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FCA announces dramatic overhaul of pension transfer qualifications

The FCA has announced a radical overhaul of the qualifications needed to advise on pension transfers following the Budget reforms.

In a consultation paper published today on changes to its pension transfer rules, the FCA says advice on all transfers from DB to DC schemes require the pension transfer specialist qualification, regardless of whether the transferred benefits are being crystallised.

It says that rules previously set out in a 2011 factsheet no longer provide “adequate consumer protection”.

The factsheet stated that the transfer specialist qualification was not necessary for DB to DC transfers where there was evidence the transfer was for the purpose of crystallising benefits.

The regulator also says a requirement is being added to the Pension Schemes Bill which will make advice compulsory for transfers of pension benefits with a guaranteed annuity rate.

This will not apply for pots worth less than £30,000 or where the benefits are used to buy an annuity.

Those advising on GARs will not need the pension transfer specialist qualification.

In addition, the FCA says transfers from occupational DC schemes without safeguards to personal or stakeholder pensions will also be included in its definition of a pension transfer and therefore require a pension transfer specialist qualification.

It says it considered an exemption for DC schemes, but decided against it due to consumer protection concerns. In September, Money Marketing reported the FCA was considering relaxing qualification requirements for advice on DC to drawdown transfers.

The FCA says it estimates 35,000 people per year will transfer out of DB schemes following the pension reforms. It says this will create a need for an additional 45 advisers with the pension transfer specialist qualification.

Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners managing director Robert Reid says: “The core of activity in pensions over the last few years has involved transferring benefits. The pensions transfer specialist will be in high demand following these changes and will be able to write their own salary level.

“Some firms will struggle to justify a full-time pension transfer specialist and some agencies offering these services will be equally challenged by the inevitable requirement to become regulated and take responsibility where they didn’t previously.”

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Comments

There are 52 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Just one small element that has not been mentioned in this – COST

    The cost to the firm of studying and taking the exams
    The cost of additional permissions
    The cost of additional PI premiums (assuming you can get cover)
    The cost of implementing additional compliance procedures
    Finally the cost to the client for exercising his freedom (i.e. the cost of freedom)

  2. I know this view will not be popular with all but well done FCA I am totally in agreement with this announcement. Now I am feeling a bit dizzy, is this normal?

  3. There will be inevitable practical issues in delivering against this promise, and I agree that cost may make this preclusive for many more smaller pots. However, this is a positive move, which supports the value of advice in a specialist and complex area.

    The consultation exercise is an opportunity to support what is a good move, but to work on the finer details, in order to make this work on a practical level.

    From a business perspective a suitably qualified pension transfer specialist need only review recommendations, under the proposals, meaning that advice can be given as normal, and cost increases can be managed by the specialist peer reviewing any recommendations.

    Many years ago, I worked for a large advisory organisation, which operated this system, and it was estimated at the time that the specialist checker’s time costs for such an operation was between 30 and 60 minutes.

  4. @Stephen H

    I agree totally.

  5. Ancient Britain 4th March 2015 at 12:04 pm

    At last, a sensible move!

  6. At long last G60 gets the value it has always deserved!

  7. Entirely against the spirit of the legislation. Anything that makes it more difficult for people to get their own money is against the spirit of the legislation.

  8. I totally support the FCA on this. As the author of the original drawdown guidance ( RU55) I have publicly stated that it amd TV regs needed updating.The market is vastly different now and this will help ensure that the public get good advice. Well done to the FCA.

  9. For what it is worth, I agree with the FCA. Advice is being recognised as is the need.

  10. I can see Steve Webb has a battle on his hands against these entrenched self-interested positions. Getting a lump sum of money is to do with investment and taxation advice. The word “pension” no longer applies. “Pension transfer” has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with these new rules. We are talking here about people’s money, their own money!

  11. So 40 years of experience counts for nothing, according to a number of comments above, it was people like me who built up large amounts of pension savings over the last number of years only to be told that you can no longer give advise unless you take further qualifications.
    Those of you who want more regulation be careful what you wish for, as it may well bite you in the rear end. Note most of the regulators who dream up this rubbish have never worked at the coal face, and many who have qualifications have not looked after clients for 40 years and do not know the history of HMRC tax and rule changes. Experience is more important than paper qualifications,
    (Note I am not knocking qualifications for entrants and less experienced Advisors)

  12. I have to agree with the FCA here (that must be a first) and as a qualified pension transfer specialist, I agree there is a lot more involved in the process than most believe.

  13. In fact I would go as far as to say pension specialists are the last people to go to re getting advice re access to savings. Steve Webb has abolished pensions. They have gone. They are savings plans accessible at 55. The very word “pension” is antediluvian.

  14. Ken – our position is fixed because we live in a blame culture society, and we have no protection against those who ignore our advice to their detriment. They go to the FOS to complain that we let them do it and win the case.

    Who would willingly risk their futures knowing that they will pick up the tab for other people’s recklessness?

    I am happy with the new pension freedoms, if we could accept insistent customer or execution only without liability fine, but that will not happen.

  15. @ Ken – I think you’re missing the point that DB schemes are still ‘pensions’ in the traditional way and will continue to be so. If you see the action of warning people about making potentially catestrophic decisions as being a barrier that let it be a barrier – people often make uninformed decisions when unaware of the consequences.

    Yes, the notion of a pension has significantly changed – no one disputes that – and I for one feel that the change from funding to drawing of benefits from a personal pension plan is perhaps now overly compliant heavy (given that you’re simply turning the flow of money in reverse) … but DC can have so much more going on that a simple personal pension and I suspect that there the public are oblivious to it. – DB even more so.

  16. Ancient Britain 4th March 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Ken, so members of DB schemes don’t need advice on transferring out, as it is their money?

  17. Stephen Harney 4th March 2015 at 3:30 pm

    @ken durkin. the regulator is supposed to be independent of government and independent of any one party. Pension laws change and change again and unless the next election brings more of the same politically there are likely to be more changes next year. The regulators main function is surely to protect the public and protecting the public must surely include protecting them from themselves as well as from poor unqualified advice. The regulator also wants to ensure that the markets function in an orderly manner and just because Osborne has taken the bolt off of the stable door it does not mean that the regulator has to stand idly by and watch the horses all escape. Love them or hate them pensions have a purpose.

  18. Having briefly read the consultation paper, it seems that before a transfer takes place, a letter from an IFA will be required stating that advice has been taken. It will be very interesting to see the “compliance communities” view on whether these letters should be written if the advice is “don’t move”. I can see some fairly disgruntled clients who want the money out of their pension but can’t get IFA sign off.

  19. So someone who took G60 in the mid 90’s when rules were completely different is deemed to be competent under totally different regulation in 2015, I agree with Ken this is about freedom of investments- which is what a “pension” has now become,
    But if that what the FCA see is the rule for now, (It will probably change when they see the charges being applied) then deem that £5-10,000 for a report – which some mid 90’s “qualified” person will try and ask for, is not TCF, but they have created the position, not that they will ever admit it!
    A DC scheme is the same as a PP (its called Auto Enrollment) a DB I can understand – usual total over regulation

  20. A GPP is a series of PPPs. Involvement of the employer finishes every month that a premium has been paid. Where do GPPs fall in this?
    Not sure what I make of this yet……

  21. My understanding is that currently the Firm need the pension transfer permission which it is unlikely to get if it doesn’t have a suitably qualified adviser with the required experience. As someone who is qualified, I undertake transfers on behalf of other firms through my company and then transfer the resultant policies to the introducing firm. This leaves me liable for the advice I know and I have never charged more than £1,000 for this service. My insurers seem OK with it even if the premium is a little steep. Still, if a client asks to transfer from a DB scheme in order to free up the cash, then some additional qualifications/experience might be helpful. I look forward to being snowed under with work!!!

  22. Entirely against the spirit of the legislation. Anything that makes it more difficult for people to get their own money is against the spirit of the legislation.

  23. Another expression that springs to mind is “panic”. Unbelievable, that advice can be handed over to a redundant qualification. A qualification that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with today’s situation.

  24. Stephen Harney 4th March 2015 at 5:26 pm

    The mid 90’s G60 qualification would have been updated by regular cpd just like a solicitors or accountants qualifications and every monitoring visit since then will have homed in on the transfer files so there is no hiding place for those who fail to maintain the competence. Surely it is better to have advice from somebody who has proved competence at the level than having people take no advice at all or ask a bloke who just says he can do it. Suspect those against probably found the exam a bit difficult or simply could not be bothered and now want it on a plate. The figure of £5000 to £10000 is probably too high and plucked from the air but the potential for loss from poor or no advice is much higher. Well done FSA and ignore the self interest of those who could not be bothered

  25. I recently had an operation. The guy who offered to do it took his exams and qualified back in the ’80s. Based on the comments here I should have had it done by the guy down the pub who never took them… silly me.

    It’s no different to controlled drugs, conveyancing, etc. Where advice is needed the law protects accordingly. You can argue whether it should but that’s the way the world works.

  26. G60 is not the only exam available. There are newer versions AF3, PETR from the IFS and the PMI DRRA all cover current topics. Exams are not everything, but I would not let an unqualified builder, accountant, solicitor deal with my problem.

  27. Ancient Britain, your use of the word “transfer” shows that you haven’t thought it through. We are comparing investment advice. Get rid of the word “pension”, it’s finished. Get rid of the word “transfer” in relation to ‘crystallising’ (idiotic term). It’s investment and taxation advice. G60 people are the last people to go to for investment advice. This is a disaster. If I was Steve Webb I’d be fuming now. All his good work is being undermined.

  28. Dick Sprinkler 5th March 2015 at 8:51 am

    As somebody with a ‘self interest’ I have to say this appears to me to be the stuff of nonsense.

    If somebody wishes to consider transfer from a DB scheme as a result of the STATUTORY pension freedoms it is a comparatively simple task to run the calcs which are in the main automated now anyway. Indeed most providers have staff (who are not qualified) running the calcs anyway.

    If the calcs show that it would be unwise to transfer or that there would be a cost if the transfer went ahead, that matter will be and anyways has been a matter for the individual involved and I will wager that a very good number of exactly those people will exercise their right to take their pension in anyway they deem fit regardless of what the calcs say or do not say.

    You do not need to be expert either to run the calcs or state the outcome of those calcs to the client. It is ultimately up to the grown up involved to decide and as long as the adviser treats that customer accordingly qualification in the main is unnecessary.

  29. good day for golf 5th March 2015 at 9:31 am

    Sadly in financial services the expert is the guy who read the brochure twice and checked the terms and conditions.

    Only financial advisors who have been around a while can really comprehend just how financially illiterate the public are and that this illiteracy is spread broadly across the whole income and asset spectrum of wealth – granted the illiteracy is greater in the lower section but is by no means all concentrated in this area.

    I can see both sides in the qualification and transfer issue.

    The ‘experts’ point out in their defence transfers are more complex but if a service is too complex for the average advisor to advise on – how on earth do they expect the financially illiterate (clients of whom there is a very high percentage) to understand the reports?

    Privately the expert may agree and feel that is not his problem- boxes were ticked and client signed off on it. In years to come it will all come back on the industry with FOS claims etc… FOS will again find against these experts as the client will state he is an idiot and he did not understand what he was signing, FOS will agree he is an idiot and therefore due compensation. Logically I think most of us will agree on this but it does not solve the problem.

    Politicians tell the public they can have access, nanny state regulator for understandable reasons says only after a check, a check the client doesn’t understand, but has to pay for and is seen for what it is as backside covering by the expert who over saw it. It’s all a mess really.

    The only solution I can see is if the public are allowed to take broad advice on the subject and advisors are exempted from future action against them – having total caveat emptor with no requirement for any qualification or PI cover. No solution is perfect but it will be a shame if the freedoms are going to be blocked.

    I comment on this having no personal involvement its just an interesting problem and thought provoking.

  30. Whilst advisers carry the can for pretty much everything, surely we can agree that advising people to give up valuable DB benefits by transferring them into a DC scheme just to “get their money” is advice that needs regulation and qualification. Otherwise who loses out when it goes wrong? And who pays? If you were “lucky” enough to see an IFA you might get compensated – if you took advice from your employer’s DB consultant you might not. That’s really inappropriate.
    But then so is changing the rules with this much notice – AF3 is available in April but you won’t get the new syllabus til the October sitting – so if you aren’t already authorised to do pension transfers with an appropriate qualification you could get authorised to advise on the new rules without being tested on your understanding of the new rules. That’s really inappropriate too!
    And I agree about G60 – but that’s why professionals have continuing professional development requirements placed on them.

  31. “The regulator also says a requirement is being added to the Pension Schemes Bill which will make advice compulsory for transfers of pension benefits with a guaranteed annuity rate.”

    Loadacac, if the provider denies there are any guaranteed benefits and the transfer goes ahead then years later it transpires that there were indeed one or more guarantees who the hell does the regulator blame.

    Cudntrunapeeupinabrewery

  32. @Ken Durkin. I sort of agree with you for simple DC schemes like PPs. However, what about things like DC SSAS schemes where PCLS exceeds 25%, bulk transfers, S32 rules, indexation, Death Benefits etc. What about Top Hat schemes? What about LTA protection for high earners? Is the DB transfer value correctly calculated? Crystallising is well defined and produces consequences for clients. Yes, you can look at pensions as investments with peculiar tax treatments but not always.
    I don’t think the clients with large pension pots (DB or DC) object to paying for advice. I do worry about smaller pensions though and for those clients the difference of say £50 per month matters greatly.
    Finally, as a G60 person I take exception to the inference that I don’t understand tax!

  33. Ken

    We are not “comparing investement advice”. Investment advice comes after a transfer is effected (DB to DC). G60 qualified individuals probably also passed K10 and K20 which at that time covered retirement options (inc drawdown) and investment strategies. Latterly as Adamski pointed out similar qualifiactions are available. Also it would be very unusual for a G60 qualified adviser not to also have investment clients. To blithely disparage anyone with such a qualification smacks of sour grapes as perhaps you are not allowed to advise in this area. Perhaps instead of critcising those with the relevant qualifications you might seek to obtain them yourself?

    Dick

    “You do not need to be expert either to run the calcs or state the outcome of those calcs to the client.”

    Transfers should not be effected on the basis of critical yield in isolation, many other facors may come into play and perhaps until that is realised those individuals who do not (or cannot) advise in this area leave it to those who do/can without being over critical.

  34. Graham

    Never said they should – most proper calcs do not just take account of critical yield anyway.

    Notwithstanding, my point remains exactly the same !

    No sour grapes here by the way

  35. J04 and J05 were sufficient proof that at that time the adviser was familiar with the necessary pension information and rules. AF3 was a total waste of time. I have yet to come across a customer who has been advised to transfer from an OP on the basis of a TVA who wasn’t mis-sold. All those damn fancy calculations based on prophecy! What a farce. In 99% of cases transfer from a final salary to money purchase was not advisable and acquiring the qualification just to gather dust seemed a pointless exercise. But people who engaged in that redundant exercise of passing G60 or AF3 are now being rewarded for their historic achievement. But now the rules are completely different. And the people who may well be stuck in the old mindset of when pensions were pensions are just the people to avoid when it comes to advising on whether customers should get a cash value for their DB OP. I have an example on my desk. Client with heart condition, life limiting, age 59. Divorced. 4 grown up children. Offered £142,440 tfc and £21,367 pa RPI linked (spouse benefit but no spouse). Cash equivalent offered £590,511. Outstanding mortgage £170,000 interest only and no repayment vehicle etc. What has someone with G60/AF3 got to offer over and above what an investment adviser with CeMAP and CeRER can offer? The client is in no doubt. She wants the money.She wants to leave any surplus to her children. The only sure thing about the OP is that when she dies her children get nothing. Why does anyone need G60 or AF3 to offer advice here? To continue calling a cash equivalent a “transfer” is part of the problem. It is simply another retirement option.

  36. Dick

    Fair enough just wanted to avoid the impression that “computer says yes or computer says no” is the sole basis for the advice.

  37. @Ken – I see your point with the example you have used, but there does need to be some kind of process, minimum required. The irony with AF3 however is that the subject matter for AF3 is exactly the same as R04 and the J0. There is NO manual for AF3, just a work book of case examples to work through.

  38. @Ken Durkin glad to see that you are at last confessing your self interest. Nice juicy case that you were going to advise upon but will now have to share the spoils. You are so wrong about this and the fact that you cannot see that is really scary. The proportion of cases where a transfer was not 99% but more like 65% in my experience. Where customers did benefit it made the rest worthwhile and there was no shame in that for the adviser. Transfer analysis properly used is only a part of the process and yes a number of the factors that you have highlighted might suggest that in this case taking the cash but tfc could repay most of the mortgage and use of drawdown might carry significant iht benefits and should at least be considered. You might have known that if you had been bothered to take the exam !

  39. @Ken Durkin As things stand you don’t need the additional qualifications since the client will be taking the benefits, it isn’t really a transfer in the old meaning. Going forward you probably will need those qualifications. The case looks straightforward (if a little unusual) and by your logic, why would anyone need any qualifications to advise the client? The answer is surely that we operate in a regulated environment where certain qualifications are demanded.
    In future, critical yields etc will mean very little as people with large pots will probably never purchase an annuity but it is still a “transfer” from one regime to another and you can’t go back to the first scheme. It is only a retirement option if the benefits are taken soon after transfer.
    Whether or not such “options” need G60 type qualifications is the question I think.

  40. What I am saying is that it doesn’t make sense to insist on a qualification re pension transfers when we are talking about retirement options. It is advanced investment qualifications that are required! (And, for the example I gave above, mortgage qualifications including equity release qualifications.) Judging by the reactions of some pension transfer specialists here that is just the place not to go.

  41. There is little doubt that possessing qualifications without practical experience of applying the knowledge learnt will add little value to the client’s decision. However, it would appear from some of the comments made that some of the contributors are making comments based on an assumption of the stuff that they don’t know. Regardless of whether specialist knowledge (and more importantly the ability to explain things to the client clearly so that they DO understand what they are doing) is gained by study, experience or a combination of the two, the transfer out of a defined benefit scheme involves the loss of benefits which are dissimilar in pretty much every way to those provided by the cash equivalent transfer value offered to the client in exchange. Undoubtedly there are going to be SOME cases where its obvious the client should give up guaranteed benefits in exchange for the CETV. BUT in practice these instances will be in a small minority. Most CETVs will not be so generous as to make it obvious they should be taken in exchange for the loss of guaranteed benefits. And most people do NOT know when they are going to die. And most people underestimate their eventual actual life expectancy. So unless we get rid of regulation of our industry all together then final salary transfers are the area of financial planning where the potential for incorrect advice to lead to disastrous outcomes is greatest. As Graham says it is not just a case of running some numbers, it is a whole combination of factors which the client should take into account before making a decision. So in practice someone without any G60 or equivalent qualification can still present advice to clients, it is just that they need it to be signed off and approved by someone with an appropriate qualification first. So what Ken Durkin is saying appears not to be entirely valid. Even if he does not have the necessary qualification he can still deal with clients needing this advice as long as he gets approval from a person qualified to sign the transfer (or non transfer) off. His point about people having the right to do what they want without taking advice is a different one which is not really related to my disagreement with him.

  42. Ken

    Not sure how you see the relavance of equity release and mortgage qulaifications are to your example as neither area of advice is called for. POST transfer (when the high tariff advice has been undertaken) investment advice will come into play if/when the client elects (or is advised) to enter drawdown or leaves the pension unvested, sorry uncrsytallised. In your example the implication is the client will have a short life span so maybe would be advised to invest in cash (and sue you when they have a heart transplant and live for another 30 years!).

  43. @Brian Nice comment. I don’t think you can just sign it off though. Here’s the Rule!

    “Our rules (COBS) require firms advising on pension transfers to have a specific permission – advising on pension transfers and opt-outs. Firms who wish to carry out pension transfer business must apply for this permission. If a firm does not have these permissions, they cannot undertake this activity.

    In addition to the firm having the required permission, the advice must be given, or checked by, a pension transfer specialist. A pension transfer specialist must follow our training and competence rules, and have the necessary qualifications and with that, the permission to perform the function”

    “If you have acted out of scope of your permission, you need to have the business reviewed by a suitably qualified person to ensure the advice given was suitable. You should also review your system and controls, to make sure this does not happen in the future.”

    Does anyone know if the FCA are going to drop the Firm Permission requirement so that such things can be signed of by a transfer specialist?

  44. Graham Hughes, you wonder why mortgage advice might be involved in the case I presented earlier. If a client takes a cash equivalent they could set up an equity release mortgage where they only paid the interest when they drew down money from it. A safety net in case the money does run out. Another good reason why an adequately qualified financial adviser should be on the case rather than a pension transfer specialist. It should be obvious that any IFA involved in CETV immediate vesting advice should have the CeRER or equivalent.
    Oh, and BTW, aren’t those exams stupid where you have to use a pocket calculator to get a result for a TVA when software exists that would give you the result in a nanosecond? I remember all those exams for the Dip, and the pocket calculator, and a pen! All you need to be able to do is use Excel. I remember toiling over a calculation for 15 mins on a problem that I had already created a calculator for in Excel.

  45. I think it is slightly worrying that anyone would see equity release as a mainstream solution. Surely it is relevant only in cases where the client has a clear need to release equity in the near future and is not prepared to move home? Whilst equity release has it s place for sure, putting clients into unnecessary debt in order to fund access to cash which they might not subsequently need does not seem to me to be good advice. Especially if that cash is then put into a structured product for 5 years.

  46. Ken – I trust you would have investigated maximising tax free cash from the DB scheme (utilising non- escalating pre 92 benefits prior to applying TFC calculation in case you’re not sure where I am coming from). If you were still sure the transfer was the best option I would refer you to Brian’s post and ask why equity release would even be on the radar? The TFC from your example CETV would be substantial and likely to last out her lifetime (bearing in mind the implication she has a limited life expectancy) so placing your client in capped drawdown prior to 5th April would seem a sound option taking nil income with max TFC from which she could strip “income”. That way if she recovered you would not have limited her ongoing pension contribution to £10,000 per annum and limited the likelihood of legal action for putting her in a disadvantageous position.

  47. I printed off and read the FCA paper and agree with what the FCA are doing here. I don’t have AF3/G60 which is an advantage as it puts a break between the generic advice and occupational pension advice so clients can discuss the cost of the research and advice of considering a transfer without a decision being made. If I had the qualification and authorisation I don’t see how I could separate the two at EVERY client annual review.

  48. J04, J05 and AF4 are more appropriate for advising on the option to get a cash equivalent for a DB scheme. G60 is prehistoric and AF3 has probably not got to grips with the 19 March budget. Customers want to know if a cash equivalent is good value in relation to the OP income, and if it is they will need advice on how to invest the money. As I said earlier, there is nothing in AF3 or G60 that prepares advisers for the options available after 5 April. And also as I said earlier, these are probably the people to be avoided. Having spent so much time and effort gaining a qualification that was largely a waste of time (over and above J04 and J05 that is) their mindset will still be pensions pensions when the budget of 19 March blew pensions out of the water.

  49. @Ken Durkin

    Ken, I always try to avoid personal attacks but you are beginning to annoy me. Have you never heard of CPD? Just because I have G60 does not mean that I don’t regularly test my competency with the CII learning and testing program.
    You seem to be stuck in the past believing that you have customers rather than clients and that J level exams are more than sufficient. In any event, the FCA will introduce these rules (which I agree with) and you will be unable to advise your clients in this area.
    As for your basic premise that pensions are just like any other investment, if you believe this then you will have no problem passing AF3.
    “Pension” is just a term to describe the tax and benefit structure of such a plan just like ISA or With Profit Bond.

  50. @ken having not bothered to gain a relevant qualification you now belittle those who have worked hard to become suitably qualified and who work hard to maintain that qualification and why? because a tasty large job has been snatched away from you by that nasty FCA doing their proper job protecting the public from underqualified or unqualified advisers, and indeed from themselves. You are the dinosaur Ken, or perhaps more aptly you are like King Cnut trying to stop the inevitable tide. AF3 was one of the most difficult but relevant exams that I have taken and I was already a qualified accountant and tax adviser and DipPFS when I took it. If you had any idea how tough and how relevant it is you would know how self serving and just plain wrong you are now being. Sadly that is not the case.

  51. I suspect there will be vey few advisers sitting AF3 in April unless it is the last exam they need for their APFA as the syllabus for April exam will be inappropriate. As Ken & Stephen say however, if you have G60, you still have to do CPD to maintain your knowledge to AF standard and in fact CURRENT rules wheras sitting and passing AF3 in April you’d be tested too historically and probably better to wait for the October sitting unless you want/need to do occupational transfers yourself, which personally I prefer to contract out to someone who specialises in pensions rather than a generalist like me

  52. @KenDurkin I don’t wish to argue with you but you seem to be under the misconception that the G60/AF3 qualification is the only qualification that such advisers take? As Ken Hayden says, all advisers have to complete CPD which is relevant to the advice areas on which they advise, and all client facing advisers have to have a minimum of the Diploma or Level 4 equivalent. So those advisers with G60/AF3 will also have knowledge of investments, tax and all the necessary generalist financial planning knowledge required to do a holistic planning job. Also, it does not take hundreds of hours to pass these exams, it takes the same amount of time as it takes to pass any other AF paper. What really matters is the combination of specialist knowledge and experience in applying that knowledge with real life clients. I do agree with you that qualifications are not the be all and end all of what makes a good financial adviser, but I do believe that advice on the potential transfer of defined benefits is an area where specialist knowledge is required. I do have G60, but there are two people within our company who are designated as pension transfer specialists, so I ALWAYS discuss a potential case with both of them before going to the advice stage. I also get them to sign off my advice before I give it because I value their opinion and expertise. It acts as a valuable second pair of eyes for the benefit of the client rather than merely being a backside covering compliance activity. I don’t believe that you are trying to belittle other advisers for doing the necessary work, but you probably have a misconception if you think that advisers with G60/AF3 are a sub-class of individuals who spend their time in ivory towers. Most of us advise clients across the board.

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