FSA publishes proposals to change the way pension transfer values are calculated

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has proposed measures to ensure that pension scheme members considering a pension transfer exercise are given a fair assessment of what they will receive in retirement.

In its consultation paper, published 28 February, the FSA said it wanted to ensure that the assumptions advisers use for the comparison are applied consistently by all firms, take account of recent UK and EU legislation, and use reasonable growth rates for illustrating the results of the comparison to the member.

Current FSA rules already set out how to calculate the benefits of a transfer that will be given up when members transfer to a personal pension; this is a process called transfer value analysis (TVA).

The TVA process compares the pension benefits from the defined benefit (DB) scheme with those that could be provided by the defined contribution (DC) pension scheme. The FSA said TVA is a complex process and requires the full facts to be presented to the member before any action is taken. The starting point is always that a transfer will not be in the member’s best interests.

Sheila Nicoll, director of conduct policy at the FSA, said: “As things stand, there is a high risk members receive unsuitable advice as a result of the mechanistic approach to analysing transfer values taken by some advisers.

“These changes are important to make sure that members’ interests are at the centre of any decision to transfer and that any advice to transfer is suitable.

“We have seen examples of advisory firms recommending a transfer when there is little or no justification to do so, or where the reasons given for an individual to transfer have nothing to do with their particular circumstances.”

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To ensure that TVA is carried out with a member’s best interests central to any decision, the FSA is proposing:

  • To update the rules for calculating mortality to be aligned with those used by the Board for Actuarial Standards, and therefore making them consistent with annual pension statements that all personal pension holders receive once a year.
  • To calculate annuities on a gender-equal mortality rate, in line with the European Court of Justice’s decision in March 2011.
  • To introduce a consumer price index (CPI) assumption for re-valuing pensions in deferment, reflecting legislative changes made by the government in 2011.
  • To require CPI-linked benefits to be valued using the retail price index- (RPI) linked annuity interest rate.
  • That limited price indexation (LPI) annuities will be valued on the same assumptions as RPI-linked annuities.
  • That the comparison provided to the member is illustrated on growth rates that take into account the likely returns of the pension fund assets, as well as the transfer of risk from the DB scheme to the member.

For more articles on pension transfer exercises