I smell a (pensions) rat – what can I do?

rat An advert appeared yesterday on the Pension Play Pen Linked In Group.. If you’re in our Group, you can see it here The organisation – Save My Pension is offering a “route to market” with the message from its Director Danny Smith 

I have meeting availability in London Central on Tues/Weds next week to discuss our pension route to market, process, systems and commercials. Availability is tight so please let me know as soon as possible

If I had the first clue about what was on offer, I might be interested. I checked out Save my Pension (a trading style of HCL consulting). They are lead generators This is what their company page told me..

We provide a free service to help you take control of your retirement provision. We can; Help you trace your preserved (also widely known as frozen) pension and, once located, provide you with a free review of its current status – Amount, charges being applied and the performance of your fund. Whether you use our tracing service or already have all your information about your preserved pension we can provide you with details of an alternative occupational pension scheme you can compare and (should you decide) transfer your preserved pension(s) to. Want advice on what to do with your pension? We can put you in touch with an independent financial adviser who will provide you with the advice you need.

I couldn’t get my head round this so Danny sent me more details

I promote an occupation pension scheme called Audax. It’s run by independent trustees solely for the benefits of its clients. It has section 280 administrator (not needed), an FCA regulated administration Comoany (not needed) and we have Beavis Morgan as our auditors. Our sponsoring employee actually has staff who are enrolled on the scheme. We do not charge for joint the scheme, there are no exit fees and the client is onky 0.75 annual with projected return of 5% net of fees.

Audax has a sponsoring employer – a  company called Refined By Ltd, situated close to Save my Pension’s Preston offices in Lancaster. Apparently Refined By has employees who are in Audax – I can see no evidence of any trading activity. The company is classified as providing IT services and was incorporated in April 2014. Because Refined By Ltd. sponsors the occupational scheme it can be registered and regulated.

The Scheme is a Registered Scheme with HMRC in accordance with Part IV of the Finance Act 2004 under PSTR number 00817080RY.

The Scheme is registered with the Pensions Regulator in accordance with the Occupational pension Schemes (Scheme Administration) Regulations 1996 and Pensions Act 2004 under PSR number 12010036.

It has legitimacy though there is nothing substantial about the use of the word occupational.

The trustees of Audax are Audax Management, the investment managers a firm called Gallium.  I have met with Gallium and am confident that they are ensuring that Audax is compliant with FCA regulations.

There is nothing about Save My Pension,Refined By, Audax or Gallium that I can point to as illegal. They have multiple registrations with the FCA and Gallium employs respected advisors and auditors.

Audax Management Ltd has been in existence for 8 months (company no 09197665). It is one of 2700 companies at its registered office- there are no details about its Directors or officers and it is the trustee of the pension.

The administration of the pension is through Gallium though the transfers seem to be operating through an IFA in East Sussex called Absolute Financial Management (trading as Blueprint for the purpose of administrating transfers). Blueprint shows as its Director – Mark Eaton – Mark is also a Director of Absolute Financial Management, BluePrint is registered at the same address as Audax.

Again, I have no reason to doubt that Mark and Absolute are acting within the law. But why should there be so many moving parts and why can I find so little to connect them?

There are many ways to provide yourself with financial security in retirement. I strongly suggest you stick to the trodden paths and think very hard about using services such as those outlined above. Transparency is key to this and I am very concerned that people should know what they are doing. The alternative investment strategy suggested on the Audax website do not encourage me.

The Trustee has identified legal financing schemes as a potential alternative investment that satisfies the investment principles.

The UK legal system is an established market place from which many other legal systems around the world take their lead.  The demand for funding in legal markets is growing and is unaffected by the core financial markets.

But  Legal Financing is not necessarily a low-risk investment, read this .

Things can go wrong as they have here…

Receivers of the troubled Axiom Legal Financing Funds have brought claims against a number of parties in London’s High Court which are “considered to have acted fraudulently” in relation to “sums up to £110m”. 

Nor am I greatly encouraged by the statements about the core strategy

The Scheme will invest in Multi-Manager investment schemes and products that are provided by, and managed by, leading investment houses and banks

Who the people are in Audax Management is not clear, they have no footprint on the web. Nor do we have any details of the funds into which your money is invested. As to what all this costs the consumer, we are left only with the most general statement of intent, that it intends to achieve an investment return of 5% after fees and charges. There are risk warnings, don’t expect to see a transfer value equivalent to what you paid in if you change your mind.

You may transfer out of the Scheme at any time, but please note you should consider investment in the Scheme as a long term investment. The Trustee would prefer Members to remain invested in the Scheme for a minimum of five years to allow the Investment Manager to build a diversified investment portfolio for all Members.

Just how this works for people wishing to exercise their pension freedoms is unclear.

Operating in the same space with Save my Pension are a host of similar organisations, marketing services that exist in the demi-monde of financial services – Smart Wealth, Mayday Pensions, FirstChoice Pensions, Castle Pension Solutions, Total Pension Review, Easy Review, Pro Money Ltd (Wise Review), Pension Protect Ltd to name but a few.

All offer free reviews, all offer alternative investment strategies and all seem to be fronted by people with a background in lead generation or debt management. We know where the problem is, we are assailed by offers to work with these people, a strong and determined Regulator must get to grips with these firms and weed out the bad apples.

But we can do little more than hope that such action will be taken. Till then we will have these annoying flies buzzing around our heads. But I fear some of these flies carry viruses which will eat into the savings of those we want to help and in so doing , destroy confidence in the pension system we are trying to rebuild. I am meeting with one of the Executive Directors of the Pension Regulator at the end of the week and hope that I can discuss this with him. I smell a rat, and that’s the best that I can do.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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20 Responses to I smell a (pensions) rat – what can I do?

  1. IMAC says:

    Your comments are very helpful. Appreciate the heads up. Thanks Carol >

  2. Steve Beetle says:

    Grab it by the tail and sling it of Beachy Head! Trouble is the Regulator plays too nice to dodgy schemes, whilst irritating the well run schemes with endless pontificating and ‘closing stable doors….’. How much has been ‘opportunity cost’ lost by reckless conservatism fuelled by paranoid gilt edged pensioned civil servants in Brighton?

  3. Chris Lean says:

    Steve is right, there is a reason occupational schemes are used as they avoid the FCA who have teeth.

    • henry tapper says:

      I hope to meeting with one of the people from Brighton shortly. I agree, occupational schemes are not so much a loophole as a gateway through which the fraudsters can drive a coach and horses.

  4. Nigel Odling says:

    Henry, lots of layers, lack of transparency, not sure who is accountable, and no mention of benefits to the end customer.

  5. Josie says:

    Tell me more about Refond By Ltd in Lancaster and Save My Pension on Preston. I love close by.

  6. Julie Godsell says:

    Please let us know the outcome of your discussions with the Reglator..

  7. The Pensions Regulator says:

    Andrew Warwick-Thompson executive director responsible for the regulator’s work to disrupt pension scams:

    I welcome the industry’s enthusiasm for combating scams, which blight people’s lives, and read with interest your recent blog (What can you do when you’re 99% sure there’s a scam?).

    Where the industry has suspicions, please tell us. If you think something is a scam it’s important in the first instance to flag this up to Action Fraud http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

    Alternatively, people who have concerns can also ‘whistleblow’ to TPR – http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/individuals/reporting-a-concern.aspx

    And we do act on evidence supplied to us. We’ve used our powers to appoint independent trustee to more than 100 scam schemes and to apply to the courts to freeze assets in 20 cases.
    As importantly, HMRC now carries out upfront checks, making it more difficult to set up a scam scheme in the first place. Tackling scams in this way, at source, is vital.

    One of the most important things we can all do, though, is provide members with information to protect themselves from falling for scams in the first place. The regulator updated its ‘scorpion’ material in March – to prepare for the introduction of new pension flexibilities, and we’re going to be taking part in a further nationwide, multi-agency campaign in July – http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/pension-scams.aspx

    Members should all receive our scorpion material from their scheme or provider when they request transfers – and we’d like the industry to send it out with annual statements to members too.

    I don’t want to see any more victims but, sadly, there is no single agency that can foil scams alone, and no silver bullet for the problem (a ban on pension transfers is clearly not desirable for public policy reasons).

    We all have our bit to do. By Government, industry, regulators and law enforcement pulling together with a combination of education, disruption and enforcement, we can make life very uncomfortable for the scammers – and limit the numbers of people who are hoodwinked by their dodgy marketing techniques and sales patter.

  8. James turban says:

    What a load of shit……………

  9. Karen says:

    I’m getting confused concerned as I transferred my pension at age 50 .to Gallium now Fund Services to be withdrawn age 55. I had checked that they were regulated. However Mason Administration is now looking after the book work ?.
    Have you found out anymore about the Company?

  10. henry tapper says:

    No Karen – i have no further information,

  11. Tony says:

    I have been contacted by BassetGold who are a subsidiary of Gallium. I am trying to do some due diligence and it appears from reading this that there are umpteen companies connected together with no personal reputation to be found. I am thinking it is safer to leave it as I don’t want to risk my hard earned cash at this time of my life.

  12. Nice work Henry, very thorough and worrying in equal measure

  13. Steve Mills says:

    Offering to discuss charges and fund performance wrt a preserved pension? That’s got to be a pretty short conversation.

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