John Fox: Why Sipps are enjoying a Brexit boost

John fox

Starting a pension is a resolution people tend to make during their summer holiday, not before it.

Some are inspired to act by the reflective mood that tends to accompany days spent lounging by the pool and evenings spent sipping wine and slathering on the After Sun.

Yet a more likely trigger for this sudden pension-saving ardour is the realisation that to have a retirement anything like as pleasant as our week in the sun, most of us need to save a lot more.

So as pension providers, we tend to be busy after the summer break, not before it – as many holidaymakers come home determined to get their pension saving sorted before their tan fades.

But not this year.

June 2016 was our busiest ever June – we opened 53 per cent more new Sipps in the month than at the same time last year – and July is promising to be a record-breaker too.

In the first chaotic days after Britain’s surprise vote for Brexit, many in the financial services industry predicted confidently that the four horsemen of the apocalypse would soon be cantering around the City of London.

A month on, and the dust is settling.

The world hasn’t ended yet, and the horsemen clearly took a Southern train. For now, it’s a case of apocalypse delayed.

There’s a clear link between the current climate and rising demand for Sipps.

In part this is down to the nature of Sipps themselves. Sipps allow clients to have highly diversified portfolios and to choose exactly what assets they want to invest in.

This flexibility and ease of diversification are the main attractions. But their appeal has grown dramatically in the wake of the volatility unleashed – particularly in equities – by the referendum result.

With clients keener on diversification than ever before, it’s perhaps no surprise that many of them have been asking advisers how they can spread their retirement savings across a wider range of asset classes.

For many clients, products which allow clients to hold everything from cash to shares and bonds, and from gold to commercial property, all in a tax-efficient pension wrapper are the answer.

While this immediate Brexit boost is welcome, there are wider implications from the result that make this a crucial time not just for pension providers, but for advisers too.

Pensions are long-term savings products specifically designed to ride out short-term volatility like that seen since the vote. So they were always going to be a good bet to take the current uncertainty in their stride.

Advisers should seize on this opportunity to reconnect with their clients and discuss their long-term saving plans. Clients are likely to be even more receptive to retirement planning advice given the looming danger of inflation unleashed by the abrupt fall in sterling.

There are few backdrops more conducive to long-term financial planning than stock market uncertainty and inflation. Pensions could be set for a purple patch.

There’s no little irony here.

The Government’s carefully planned pensions freedom programme worked wonders at raising public awareness of pensions. But it could be something totally unplanned – Brexit – that now prompts many more clients to take stock of their retirement planning.

Cometh the hour, cometh the adviser. IFAs shouldn’t miss this opportunity to reach out to clients old and new to talk pensions.

John Fox is director of LibertySipp