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British Steel: IFA who hit out at 'trial by Twitter' to cease pension transfers

British Steel: IFA who hit out at 'trial by Twitter' to cease pension transfers

An IFA firm that told MPs advisers were being subjected to 'trial by Twitter' during the British Steel pension saga has volunteered to suspend its pension transfer business, New Model Adviser® can reveal.

A note on the FCA register entry for County Durham-based County Capital Wealth Management, which trades as the Pension Review Service, states the firm will 'immediately cease all regulated activities relating to pension transfer business' from 6 February. 

The Pension Review Service, which also has offices in Scunthorpe and London, has agreed to the suspension following discussions with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Managing director Mark Abley told New Model Adviser®: ‘We have volunteered to temporarily suspend our permissions for transfers, for one or two minor reasons.

'We have been assured by the FCA that it will be a short-term temporary matter, and once we have revisited the process that they didn’t like, we will very shortly be back in the fray.'

In December, the firm submitted a letter to MPs on the Work and Pensions Select Committee, in which it suggested reporting of emerging problems with advice given to British Steel Pension Scheme members had 'bordered on the hysterical', and criticised what it saw as a 'trial by social media'.

It added: 'Sadly the whole process from start to finish has been a complete mess. The Trustees have failed to communicate with their members in an appropriate way and the Unions have utterly failed in representing their members who are affected by these changes. 

'Advice firms have had their reputations tarnished by their involvement in the process. Most of these firms are well run and offer good, sound and practical advice.'

The letter also criticised the Operation Chive (counselling, help, information, volunteer, exchange) initiative, led by Al Rush of Echelon Wealthcare, in which many IFAs volunteered to offer free counselling sessions for British Steel members before Christmas.

The letter described those involved as ‘well-meaning busybodies’ and said there would be commercial benefits for the advisers who travel to Port Talbot as part of these counselling sessions.

The Pension Review Service is the latest in a string of advice firms to voluntarily surrender its pension transfer permissions following discussions with the regulator.

The FCA recently announced that it would request data from every firm holding defined benefit transfer permissions, and hit back at MPs over criticism of its response to nationwide concerns about advice given to steelworkers, highlighting the extent of its enforcement and supervisory work thus far.   

The FCA was declined to comment. 

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