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Don’t let a scammer enjoy your retirement – beware of fraudsters

There is seldom a week goes by without hearing that a large, well-known firm has been hit by hackers; the latest one was British Airways. You have probably seen the TV adverts warning of the dangers of retirement plans being ruined by fraudsters.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), our industry regulator, recently published an online article designed to highlight the dangers and suggest how to protect yourself from fraudsters. We’ve lifted the advice from their article.

 

Four simple steps to protect yourself from pension scams

Reject unexpected offers

If you’re contacted out of the blue about your pension, chances are it’s high risk or a scam. Be wary of free pension review offers. A free offer out of the blue from a company you have not dealt with before is probably a scam. Fortunately, research shows that 95% of unexpected pension offers are rejected.

Check who you’re dealing with

Check the Financial Services Register (www.register.fca.org.uk) to make sure that anyone offering you advice or other financial services is FCA-authorised.

If you don’t use an FCA-authorised firm, you also won’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. So you’re unlikely to get your money back if things go wrong. If the firm is on the FCA Register, you should call the Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 to check the firm is permitted to give pension advice.

Beware of fraudsters pretending to be from a firm authorised by the FCA, as it could be what we call a ‘clone firm’. Use the contact details provided on the FCA Register, not the details they give you.

Don’t be rushed or pressured.

Take your time to make all the checks you need – even if this means turning down an “amazing deal”.

Be wary of promised returns that sound too good to be true and don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision.

Get impartial information and advice

The Pensions Advisory Service (www.thepensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk) – Provides free independent and impartial information and guidance.

Pension Wise (www.pensionwise.gov.uk) – If you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution (DC) pension, Pension Wise offers pre-booked appointments to talk through your retirement options.

Financial advisers – It’s important you make the best decision for your own personal circumstances, so you should seriously consider using the services of a financial adviser. If you do opt for an adviser, be sure to use one that is regulated by the FCA and never take investment advice from the company that contacted you or an adviser they suggest, as this may be part of the scam.

 

To read the full article, go to www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/how-avoid-pension-scams.

If you have any doubts about someone contacting you about your finances, get in touch with us to discuss.

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Investment Update Prudential

Investment Update

We had a meeting in our offices yesterday afternoon with Prudential, one of the biggest multi asset fund managers in the world.  Their Investment Director Andy Brown came to discuss their unique smoothed multi asset investment proposition.

It was useful to get 1 to 1 input on the fund management of this multi asset proposition and their current views on markets and where we are in the market cycle.

In line with the consensus view, Prudential think that 2018 will be a year for growth on invested assets generally but with heightened volatility. They also think that we are in the late phase of a bull market and are carefully watching leading economic indicators for any signs that we are entering a bear market.

The Prudential are looking to reduce volatility in their underlying investments, particularly in PruFund Growth, and deliver investment returns in any part of the market cycle, through the use of alternative investments.

They are focused on long term investing and this is how we should view our investments too, over the long term.  Whether or not we have the benefit of ‘smoothing’ in a volatile market we need to remain focused on the long term.

The outlook and views above are as ever subject to unpredictable or ‘Black Swan’ events.

A key message is to remain invested and avoid any temptation to sell when we see volatility in market prices. You have to be invested to benefit from returns, despite volatility and market cycles.

If you wish to discuss this or any other aspect, of your finances, please contact me.

 

Steve Speed

01/03/2018

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Defined Benefit Pension Transfers – an update

Defined Benefit Pension Transfers – an update

Interest in Defined Benefit Pension Transfers has been very high over the last 18 months, largely due to the high Cash Equivalent Transfer Values offered and the flexibility available under the new ‘Freedom & Choice’ pension legislation.

Our regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has, as expected, taken a keen interest on these pension transfers.  We are alert to what the FCA are saying and, where appropriate, amend our procedures to reflect their comments and recommendations.

Recent press articles have also contributed to the ‘noise’ around Defined Benefit pension transfers including BHS, Carillion and the British Steel Pension Schemes. We have not advised on any of these schemes. The British Steel Pension Scheme is an unusual case with unique circumstances.  One of the key areas the FCA has been concerned with in this particular case is the fact that people did not appear to get individual advice.

We strive to offer our clients the best advice; this means advice personalised to the individual.

We have now decided it is appropriate to move away from the charging basis that we have used to date and, in line with the current regulatory and peer group discussions, we will now charge for the initial pension transfer advice, whether or not you transfer your pension. The FCA believe that this approach will remove any bias to recommend a transfer as the advice will be charged for, regardless of outcome.

For clarity, this means that we could potentially hold two meetings with you, advise you not to transfer your pension and invoice you for this advice.

In the interests of ‘Treating Customers Fairly’ we will only take this approach for new enquiries from today.  Any meetings previously booked will not be charged for on this basis as it was not our charging methodology when the enquiry was made.

Steve Speed

19/02/2018

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2017 Annual Round-up

It’s been a busy year and an interesting one from a political and market perspective.  However, the investment returns have been good and, dependent on your risk profile, you will have seen investment returns ranging from good to excellent over the last year.

Unless we see an unusual finish to the year, investors should be able to contemplate their position over the festive holidays and feel a sense of satisfaction.

You might think that, given the backdrop of political and global events, the markets have been relatively calm.  This is the case as the underlying fundamentals, low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment and corporate earnings growth across a lot of the globe have been favourable.

One of the areas we focus on is the Budget.  This appeared to be quite well balanced and we saw no real change impacting on advice.  The Lifetime Allowance for pensions increases to £1,030,000.00 in April 2018.  A step in the right direction.

My Christmas wish is for the politicians to leave pension legislation alone.  We have seen enough legislative change recently for pensions (and most of it has been favourable) but I’d like to see the status quo maintained for stability in this area as we fund pensions for the very long term, 30, 40 or even 50 years and we need to have faith in pension legislation to give us confidence to fund for the long term and to be able to plan our retirement.

The consensus outlook for 2018 (I’ve been doing the rounds in seminars listening to economists, fund managers and strategists), is for growth but with higher volatility.  This again is based on strong underlying global fundamentals.  Investment returns are not likely to be as good as for 2017 but they should be fair.

We are obviously subject to shocks in the market (as ever) and this could impact your investment returns if we suffer a significant setback.

Let’s hope we have a peaceful 2018 with less war, conflict and terrorism.

Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous New Year!

Steve Speed

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Protecting your data – Cyber Essentials accreditation

Cyber Essentials logo

Protecting your data – Cyber Essentials Accreditation

Over the last few months you have almost certainly seen and heard about major businesses being hit by large-scale cyber attacks.

We take the security of your data very seriously and, although we have not experienced a data breach, we have been investing to tighten our IT security and internal processes.

I am delighted to announce that we have just been awarded the recently created Cyber Essentials accreditation. This award is externally verified and involves checking that our processes meet best practice standards and attempting to hack our systems.

While we are pleased with this outcome, we are aware that the people who perpetrate cyber-attacks are technically capable and persistent. With this in mind, we will continue to take advice on how we can maintain the highest level of security with the data we hold or process.

If you would like further information on this achievement please feel free to contact us.

 

Mike O’Byrne

Operations Manager