December 1st and the countdown to Christmas has begun. There is another countdown currently underway also.
I predicted several months ago that members of the British Steel Pension Scheme would struggle to access advice before the 11th December. It’s not always great to be right and I certainly don’t feel smug about it. Now that deadline has been extended to 22nd December. This makes sense. But let’s take a look at events that triggered my prediction earlier in 2017.
Firstly, did we do anything about that prediction?
Yes, we arranged free pension clinics for scheme members in Redcar, Scunthorpe and Port Talbot. At the clinics we spoke to both pensioners and deferred members helping and guiding as appropriate.
Prior to the clinics we spent time refining our procedures to speed up the advice process enabling members who were considering a transfer to make an informed decision quickly.
You might think that we would be applauded for our efforts but that was not how it turned out.
Some areas of social media preferred to accuse us of “touting for business”at the expense of the steel workers’ livelihoods.
Well, we run a business so yes we would like some more new business if there is any going – why wouldn’t we – if it is the right thing for the customer.
We are a good, well run and highly regulated business even if I say so myself. In fact as one of only 12 transfer specialists visited nationally by the FCA you could argue that the government watchdog also concurs that we are pretty OK too.
However I’m not so bold to suggest such a thing. The FCA came to determine if our processes were satisfactory – and they were. If they were not it would have taken action.
We strive to constantly improve the quality of what we do.
However that doesn’t address the present situation. Why does it look so bleak? Why are there no advice firms available to provide advice?
The firms with the relevant permissions closest to the British Steel sites are busy and are at full capacity. Many members have gone into the arms of advice firms who do not have the permissions or qualifications to advise them and so are now left high and dry.
Other firms wouldn’t touch a TATA Steel site with the proverbial barge pole……….why, I hear you ask?
One reason is the public mudslinging by some people who have appointed themselves “guardians of the Steel Worker”.
One or two have significantly raised their profile in the media and appointed themselves as arbiters of what is and isn’t a good advice firm. In my view they have muddied the waters, caused confusion and sown the seed of doubt.
The only body qualified to determine the suitability of an advice firm is the FCA. Period. I would love to know what qualifies these individuals to determine the quality of an advice firm and wonder how they will be brought to account if the advice of their anointed “good firms” turns out to be poor.
And where has it left the steel workers? Confused, frustrated and lacking advice. Well done lads!!
My suggestion……… leave it to the professionals.