Govt attacked over ‘crucial’ missing Pension Wise data

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The Pensions Policy Institute and the Financial Services Consumer Panel have slammed the lack of information available on the performance of Pension Wise since its launch in April.

Addressing the Work and Pensions select committee yesterday, FSCP member Teresa Fritz and PPI director Chris Curry both said a lack of information is making it impossible to independently assess the performance of the Government’s guidance service.

Fritz said: “Until now, there has been very little information coming out.

“I’m not sure why that is but for those out of us outside looking in, there hasn’t been a great deal that we have been able to get a handle on.

“It’s absolutely crucial that we start to see the trends coming through both through the face-to-face and the telephone advice and what is happening with advisers.”

Curry agreed: “It’s been quite difficult to tell what’s going on with the lack of information and available evidence for the people outside of the organisations.”

Fritz said it remains unclear what the Government would consider a success for the pension freedoms as a whole.

She added: “We need to know, of the people accessing Pension Wise what are they going to do with their money, where does that sit in their retirement income, are they spending it all and if so on what or why?

“And for the people not accessing Pension Wise, why not?”

Citizens Advice head of policy research for families work and welfare Rachael Badger told MPs the most common DC pot size that savers bring to its sessions is between £100,000 and £200,000.

She said: “We are seeing people who have lots of savings and who know what to do, or sometimes they need a bit of guidance.”

While both Citizens Advice and The Pensions Advisory Service conduct exit surveys with their users, TPAS chief executive Michelle Cracknell told MPs the data is only shared with the Treasury, rather than being published.

Fritz also cited recent figures from the Association of British Insurers as an example of useful information.

The ABI figures show that of those taking annuities, 45 per cent shopped around, while 55 per cent of those going into drawdown did the same.

Fritz said: “We can see that there’s something going wrong in that shopping around circle. That’s the type of valuable information, if we can get that out there quickly, then we can start asking questions.”

Fritz also warned against any moves to reduce regulatory barriers to advice, arguing that that the market is already beginning to deliver low cost solutions for people with smaller pension pots.

She said: “That is a very good trend that is beginning to come forward and I think we need to be very careful about panicking that the advice gap is going to be get too large because we don’t know that yet.”