Navigating the Complexity of Pension Advice: FCA thematic Review of retirement income advice


The UK’s retirement landscape has transformed since 2015. More individuals are embracing various drawdown options rather than settling for annuity purchase. This shift brings a greater degree of complexity, making professional financial advice vital for consumers to make informed decisions. The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) thematic review of retirement advice is seeking to evaluate the efficacy of the market in yielding good outcomes for consumers.

Is there anything we can learn from the current reviews of defined benefit transfer advice, using the FCA Defined Benefit Advice Assessment Tool (DBAAT) tools and guidance?

Here are some key advice points that have emerged from using DBAAT tools, focusing on the intersection between good advice and regulatory guidelines.

This shift brings a greater degree of complexity, making professional financial advice vital for consumers to make informed decisions

Understanding the Client’s Profile

  • To provide meaningful advice, firms need to secure essential facts about the client. This covers information such as their marital and employment status, tax rate, residency, health status, and if they are considered vulnerable. The DBAAT also emphasises the importance of understanding the client’s objectives. They should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). By considering these points, advisers can ensure tailored advice that aligns with the individual’s specific circumstances and goals.

Risk Profiling and Client’s Preferences

  • A crucial part of advice relates to understanding a client’s risk tolerance and profile and capacity. Advisers should gauge the client’s attitude and appetite for investment risk and the risks associated with flexible pensions. Furthermore, an assessment of the client’s capacity for loss helps shape the advice provided. By capturing these aspects, advisers can align advice with the client’s risk profile and financial capacity, resonating with the FCA’s focus on client outcomes and understanding.

Consumer’s Knowledge and Experience

  • Comprehending a consumer’s investment experience and knowledge is integral to a good outcome. Advisers should consider the types of services, transactions, and investments familiar to the consumer and their transaction history. This ensures that the advice provided is suitable, taking into account the client’s familiarity with various financial products and investment strategies – and that it is understood by the client…

Understanding the Consumer’s Financial Situation

  • Accurate information about a client’s current and estimated future expenditure is key to effective retirement income advice. Advisers need to obtain detailed expenditure plans for retirement, split into essential, lifestyle, and discretionary spending. Additionally, the need to understand a client’s income sources and other financial assets gives a comprehensive insight into a realistic and sensitive client financial situation.

Insight into Pension Benefits and Proposed Investment Arrangements

  • Advisers must obtain detailed information about the client’s pension benefits and proposed alternative invested or flexible arrangements. This information helps tailor advice that’s appropriate for the client’s pension benefits, providing options that best fit their retirement plans and objectives.

The FCA DBAAT DB TV thematic review reiterates the importance of capturing comprehensive information about clients – evidence, evidence and more evidence on file about three key things:

  • Objectives
  • Risk
  • Financial situation

Good pension advice (whether it is DB TV or a thematic review of retirement income advice) is rooted in understanding the individual client – their profile, risk tolerance, investment knowledge, financial situation, and specific pension benefits. It must be tailored, transparent, and aligned with their financial goals, ensuring they navigate the complexity of pension decisions with confidence.

The FCA’s review will reinforce these aspects, reinforcing the role of comprehensive, personalised financial planning advice in yielding good outcomes for consumers.

Expert Pensions deliver a full PTS Knowledge Hub to provide you with the required CPD hours as outlined by the FCA, and to keep you up to date with regulations and policies.

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About Author

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Dubbed by friends and colleagues “The Pensions Professor”, John Reynolds is widely acknowledged as one of the country’s leading experts in the financial services education sector. He has spent 20 years teaching, consulting, mentoring and writing on the subjects of pensions and investments. John’s unique ability to take his years of experience and technical knowledge and present it in an easy to understand format, has resulted in his talents being very much in demand. His portfolio of corporate clients include CII, Lloyds, Scottish Widows, Santander and Wesleyan; as well as numerous IFA clients whom he provides technical consultancy, mentoring and training on client case studies and staff training.. He has put his extensive expertise (and heart and soul!) into developing the expertpensions (EPL) proposition. EPL is a structured and interactive technical exam training programme for IFAs. It's designed to give financial advisors the required technical knowledge, study strategy and exam technique to confidently sit and pass the AF1, AF3, AF4 and AF5 exams. Its online, it's fully supported, structured and designed to help advisers reach Chartered Financial Planner status quicker. It's ready to help your advisers reach chartered status

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