Just Retirement technical and commercial manager Nigel Barlow
“We thought the proposals were very good, well considered and nicely balanced. The focus on improved guidance, better focused information and communication will help raise awareness of the right to shop around for a better deal among the thousands of people each year who receive a lower income than they could otherwise obtain.
“At the moment, custo-mers have a huge amount of paperwork to go through at retirement, which is confusing at best and frightening at worst. This does not encourage shopping around for the right deal.
“The delays in transferring funds are seen quite rightly by advisers as unacceptable. The thought of waiting two months to receive funds can often be enough to make someone stay with their existing provider.
“The review on its own is probably not going to be enough. We like the idea of the web-based tool but the devil is in the detail. What will it look like?
“The review is an ongoing process but there is further to go. On their own, the various initiatives will not make a massive difference, but together they will help. They will focus providers’ attention on what they can do on improving information and speeding up the process of transferring money.” Hargreaves Lansdown pensions analyst Nigel Callaghan
“The review was pretty disappointing. It was kicked off a few years ago and still chugs along with no real bite. The announcement from the Treasury was pretty woolly. The Government failed to give any deadlines, it simply gave high level objectives.
“The web-based tool is like many Government initiatives. Sure it will help but commercially it will not make that much difference. We want to see comparative tables that actually tell you the most competitive option and best buy tables would help.
“The Government wants people to have as much money as they can in retirement so should make the open market option the automatic option.
“The fact is 50 to 60 per cent of those who turn their pension pot into an annuity are not using the open market option and are losing out of millions of pounds every year. The longer we leave the issue, the worse it will become. Personal accounts mean millions of baby boomers are going to be automatically brought into this system.
“We would be keen on any proposal which highlights the commercial realities. At any one time, there only two or three providers offering the best annuity rate. This means the majority of customers are offered poor terms.” Annuity Direct director Stuart Bayliss
“The proposals are not enough to make the open market option work properly. In this respect the review could have gone further but it is a step in the right direction.
“You have to consider this is an area not immediately in the jurisdiction of the Treasury. But the Treasury states quite clearly that it will monitor the situation annually and, in that sense, I am happy although it could have taken the bull by the horns more aggressively.
“Some of the proposals are mere window dressing. The Treasury obviously believes the open market option should become the default option for the majority of people rather than the other way around but has baulked at making it compulsory.
“The online web tool and comparative tables are useful but will not make a huge amount of difference. Industry guidance needs to play a part. A statement of good practice should be a baseline when deciding on complaints.” Scottish Widows pensions strategy manager Ian Naismith
“Most providers aren’t convinced that the open market option is not working. The size of the problem is overstated as, in many cases, it is better for the individual to stay with their existing company which will offer a good rate.
“I think the Government had hoped to do more in terms of compelling companies to reveal each others’ rates. But it is probably not necessary for the FSA to go to the extent of naming and shaming companies with poor rates. The regulator has already started sending questionnaires to providers about their annuity rates and they will judge whether or not they are competitive.
“The web-based planner is a good tool but whether people will use it is ano- ther matter. The idea of companies providing comparisons with other provider rates is probably going too far, too.
“It would be a massive administrative headache to ensure the comparative annuity rates were correct. People are better off look- ing for this on their own initiative.
“We will be keeping an eye on the action the FSA takes. They will be coming in and looking at how we communicate. But, ultimately, the review was a good outcome.” William Burrows Annuities director Billy Burrows
“The proposals were somewhat watered down considering that they have been working on this for a long time. And I wonder if they got the message right?
“The people who have decent money in their pensions pot will take the open market option. But those without will not. For many, it is simply economically unviable because of the cost of advice.
“The online tool is a nice idea but not enough. It is naive to think that the man in the street can work out what annuity option is best for them just by looking at a website.
“It is a struggle to understand the letters that providers send out. The proposals should ensure that the correspondence people receive is more relevant to them and contains less bumpf.
“In improving the information, they also need to slim the letters down. We need less padding, more substance.
“The proposals on improving the supply of information are important but even more important should be dealing with the complexity of choosing and trying to oil the wheels of the transfer process. Transferring should be no more comp- licated than changing bank accounts but can take at least four to six weeks.”