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27/03

UK advisers taking on responsibility for pension transfer business from overseas advisers

A survey by Old Mutual International, part of Old Mutual Wealth, shows a significant number of overseas advisers have taken steps to link up with UK advisers in preparation for the new pension changes. From 6 April 2015 overseas advisers will need this relationship in place if they want to continue to accept QROPS business from defined benefit schemes and pension policies with Guaranteed Annuity Rates. However, UK advisers need to ensure they have a robust due diligence process in place as they will ultimately be responsible for the pension advice given to the overseas clients.

The results* show 29% of overseas advisers have already taken action and formed a relationship with a UK adviser firm. A further 27% are considering forming a relationship with a UK adviser firm, and 31% of advisers are still considering what action to take.

The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA’s) proposed changes to the pension transfer rules, issued recently, do not change the new requirement for all defined benefit pension transfer cases over £30,000 to receive ‘appropriate financial advice’ from someone who is authorised by the UK FCA to carry out pension transfer business. However, the consultation paper did confirm their view that pension policies with Guaranteed Annuity Rates would count as safeguarded benefits that would require advice from someone with the relevant FCA investment advice permission.

Under these new rules, the overseas adviser will need to pass the pension transfer case over to the UK adviser firm for them to provide the pension transfer advice to the client. The UK adviser will be the person wholly responsible for the advice. The aim is to protect those in a UK pension scheme who might be prompted into action following the new flexible pension changes.

The UK financial adviser may never see or speak with the client. They may be totally reliant on the overseas adviser passing on all the relevant client information to help them determine whether they should transfer their pension to a QROPS. This should not be seen as a rubber stamping exercise.

UK adviser firms need to take care to ensure they follow a robust due diligence process on the overseas adviser firm before they agree to the arrangement. This is particularly important in cases where the adviser relationship is new, and not as a result of being in the same global adviser firm or associated business. UK advisers also need to check whether the local regulator requires them to be authorised to advise clients in their jurisdiction.

There was speculation that the Government would introduce an exemption for overseas advisers, but so far nothing has been announced on this. Some advisers are still hopeful that an exemption will materialise, with 8% of advisers not taking any action in the hope that they will not need to.

Jon Greer, pensions technical expert at Old Mutual Wealth, comments:

Jon Greer, pensions technical expert at Old Mutual Wealth“The survey results are an interesting insight into just how many overseas advisers have already taken action. Over the coming months there is likely to be more activity in this area as those with no obvious connections to UK adviser firms start to look for link ups. UK adviser firms interested in looking for these new business opportunities need to be aware that they will be held wholly responsible for what is essentially high risk pension transfer advice. A robust due diligence process should help to manage this risk.”

*Old Mutual International Adviser Survey, Q1 2015, 489 advisers took part in the survey from a number of jurisdictions. The results here are based on answers from 248 overseas advisers who write QROPS business (excludes those who ticked not applicable and excludes those who are based in the UK).