Importance of UK Regulated Advice

UK advice is required for all Defined Benefit transfers over £30K or where there is a guaranteed annuity rate.
In our experience, the best transfer outcomes are a product of expert advice that properly considers your situation from both an Australian and UK perspective.

It is important to understand that the overseas pension transfer market attracts all types of advisers. Some are regulated in locations with strong regulatory oversight (where qualifications and expertise are essential), but many are based in countries where regulation is light or non-existent. The quality and cost of advice, as well as client protection, varies markedly.

Black and White photo of a London road, with two British red telephone boxes and a red double-decker bus in colour.

THE LEGISLATION

In 2015 the UK Government introduced legislation, ruling that all advice on transfers with “Safeguarded Benefits” over £30,000, must be provided by FCA Regulated Firms.

This includes all Defined Benefit Schemes.

Impact of the legislation

For non UK residents, unfortunately the legislation has not had the full impact the FCA intended, as some advisers, especially many overseas, have looked at ways to get around this.

This includes:

  • Getting FCA firms to provide an ‘Appropriate Pension Transfer Analysis’ (effectively a tick the box exercise).Note: In properly assessing the suitability of a transfer, this analysis comprises only one small part of the overall process.
  • Some larger offshore firms have a small UK presence and are using this firm to ‘sign off’ that UK advice has been provided, in effect acting as a conduit for the overseas firm to give commission based and unregulated investment advice.

These FCA firms tend not to be around long, but individuals often appear under a new company not long after.

BEHAVIOURS TO BE AWARE OF

OUR VIEW

In our experience the companies finding these loopholes often display some similarities in behaviour which tends to result in very poor transfer outcomes. This includes:

  • Advice companies having offices in less regulated locations such as Hong Kong or United Arab Emirates.

  • Overseas Companies partnering with UK equivalent firms that are a further incarnation or offshoot of a company that has previously been closed (a search on the FCA Register of company and individual can help in finding this out).
  • If the UK firm has a sole purpose of proving pension transfer advice, while the investment advice is to be provided by a company not regulated in the UK or Australia.

  • When the UK element of the advice is described as “just a formality” or something similar.

  • When you are told that you do not need to meet the UK adviser.

  • You are not provided with an Independent Guide to Defined Benefit Transfers (normally be video) prior to you meeting with them.

  • Where the advice to transfer is “negative” but the adviser insists you should transfer anyway.

  • Where the advice is to transfer out of a Defined Benefit Plan, however there is no intention of ever moving funds into Australia.

  • If you are told you can transfer your funds to a UK Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP), withdraw them in full, then document to HMRC the withdrawal is income under the Double Tax Treaty and to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) that it is a lump sum payment not subject to income taxes.

  • For transfers to a UK SIPP, the pension scheme is not on the Origo system and / or has the word “International” in its name. For a pension scheme to be on the Origo system it has to pass a high level of due diligence.

  • The UK adviser has not received the Pension Transfer Gold Standard (Defined Benefit Transfers especially).

  • If the fee for pension transfer advice (especially Defined Benefit advice) is surprisingly low, as this would normally suggest that there is a large commission payable on a product (often an Offshore Life Assurance Bond) or unregulated funds, both of which can cause huge problems with large on-going costs, exit penalties and unsuitable and risky investments.

  • If you have been cold-called and have not contacted the adviser in the first instance or been referred to them by a trusted source.