As part of its enquiry into pensions freedom and advice, the Work and Pensions Committee will investigate whether people are getting enough help to navigate the choice of retirement options available to them. It will also investigate how effective these options are in assisting savers to make informed decisions in relation to accessing their pensions savings.
In September, the Work and Pensions Committee will start taking oral evidence from the Financial Conduct Authority, Treasury, Association of British Insurers, Citizens Advice and Age UK. Surprisingly, as of yet, no IFAs have been chosen to witness the enquiry. This will need to change if the appropriate cross-section of our sector is to be represented. The committee will address:
Written evidence on take-up
Suitability affordability and independence of the advice
Guidance and information available to those approaching retirement
Recommendations for improvement
The committee stated ‘Pensions guidance and advice could be the key to avoiding another mis-selling crisis. I must say, that for me, this enquiry begs the questions, should the learnings from the first mis–selling crisis not have been the key to avoiding another? And, why did the Government not ensure savers were being adequately supported and that the guidance and information being provided to those approaching, or already in retirement, was water-tight before casually handing over the keys to pensions freedom in April this year?
We are all aware that as part of the reforms, the Government launched a guidance service, Pension Wise. This service was designed to fill a gap for those consumers who have no access to advice, but need to make decisions on accessing their pension since the freedoms were introduced. It is funded by a levy from the industry which includes a substantial contribution from advisers. I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that the Government needed to get guidance right first, before introducing pensions freedom.
As the financial service sector digests the consequences of such sweeping changes, I look forward to the findings of the pensions freedom guidance enquiry, specifically the recommendations for improvement. I am sure these will include evidence that illustrates what we, as advisers, have been stating since the freedoms were announced. The Government's promise of guidance for all can provide a starting point, but access to advice is crucial if people are to avoid falling foul of financial pitfalls.