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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the pension water

There seems to be some concern within the pension community that a species of pseudo-Sipp has been spotted off the coast of Cornwall, pretending to be a real Sipp.

The apparent logic of these Sipp spotters, who seem to be trying to whip up a campaign for real Sipps, is that unless a Sipp offers a full range of investments, then it cannot be called a Sipp at all.

Presumably, this is an attempt on their part to establish their own credibility as purveyors of the original and best Sipp, rather than some cheap imitation Sipp.

Their argument goes that investors could be misled into buying one of these fake imported Sipps, believing that they are getting a real Sipp, when in fact what they are getting is a personal pension dressed up in a rubber suit.

I do not think that this is a valid argument. Different Sipps offer different levels of investment freedom and functionality. Hargreaves Lansdown could argue, for example, that because our Sipp is one of the few that offers investors direct access to online trading, ours is the real Sipp.

Monty Python very effectively parodied this kind of mindset with its People’s Front of Judea scene in The Life of Brian and I think that it will not serve the industry well to descend into this kind of factional bickering.

Here is the bottom line as far as I am concerned. The important thing is to get investors interested in pensions. All Sipps, from the blandest life company offering to the most exotic of boutique products, achieve this admirable objective. They get investors engaged in planning for their retirement.

This is a good thing and to be encouraged. If we start criticising some Sipps for not being “real” Sipps, then I think that ultimately the whole industry will suffer for it.

Tom McPhail
Head of pensions research,
Hargreaves Lansdown,
Bristol

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