Hughes v Royal London – a sorry state of affairs.

scamproof scorpion

It’s not often that I read a legal judgement in full but that’s what I’ve just done, to understand how Ms Hughes has successfully won a cased which allows her to send her hard earned pension savings to a fund investing in Cape Verde property.

If you have an hour this morning, you too can read why Mr Justice morning over-turned the Ombudsman’s decision to block the transfer and allowed Donna-Marie her liberation rights. The link to the judgement is here.

But in case you don’t here is my synopsis. The Ombudsman decided that since Ms Hughes had no earnings with the employer running the small occupational scheme used to liberate her money , she had no business transferring to it and that he would deny her “transfer credits”. Mrs Hughes argued that she didn’t have to have such earnings as long as she had earnings elsewhere. By referring to a number of other cases, in particular Pi Consulting (Trustee Services) Ltd v The Pensions Regulator [2013], the Judge reckoned Ms Hughes was right, Royal London were wrong to block her transfer and Ms Hughes is now free to invest her money in her Cape Verde beach-hut (or whatever).


I am seeing the eminent lawyer , honorary actuary and Pension Regulator – Andrew Warwick-Thompson for a drink tonight so I thought for once I should know what I was talking about. Hence my labours.

But as I laboured, my thoughts were not with the court-room but elsewhere, wondering what has happened to the numerous occupational schemes like Ms Hughes’ that I and others have referred to Action Fraud as clearly “up to no good”.

I know the schemes I referred could only do people harm, some were advertising similar offers to the Cape Verde property scheme, some offered guaranteed returns through investment in ambulance chasing, others didn’t tell you what would happen to your money, but justified themselves by being auto-enrolment compliant, only charging the member 0.75% pa for legitimised theft.

I guess the answer is that they don’t have to prove they are up to any good, so long as they have an HMRC number and have the permission of a Ms Hughes to have her money, they can liberate away.

As I read, my thoughts were with the unhappy people who have found that the beach hut in Cape Verde was never built, or washed away with their retirement savings.

People have the right to be swindled and there is nothing that the Regulator can do, we are – after all – a free country.


So the whole apparatus of trustees, ombudsmen and the compliance units of our insurers, SIPP providers and occupational schemes are powerless against the determination of Donna-Marie Hughes to have her £8,000 invested where she likes.

Should we be worried about this? I think I side with Justice Morgan, the law is not here to stop people making reckless investment decisions, it is here to make it hard for those playing fast and loose with pensions to find it difficult but in this game of cat and mouse, the mouse must have the chance to eat the cheese.

I question whether we needed to spend so much legal time (and money) determining that we can’t stop Ms Hughes nor get to those running the scam she is so determined to invest into. Nor indeed can we assume it is a scam. Because to name and shame is simply to put one’s head in the mouth of the courts that adjudge libel and slander. And to suggest that similar cases be named and shamed is “tipping off” the fraudsters and – in the process- offering people investment advice.

It is not Mr Justice Morgan who is wrong, not those who enforce the money laundering rules, nor those who devised the rules on investment advice who are wrong. They are all individually right and – in as much as no part of the chain is wrong- collectively right as well.


I know nothing of Donna-Marie, but I know people who have had their retirements ruined who would swear at me for adopting this attitude. I know the people who stand up for those people and I know that many will read this blog and swear at me.

But the fact remains that we live in the UK under the rule of law and the referee’s decision is final. Cheats can prosper but only with the active complicity of people who sponsor them.

That is why it is our duty to pensions , pensioners and to those who have a pension fund at risk from liberation, to publicise the need to be vigilant and to follow the simple precept that if it looks too good to be true- it probably is.

liberation fraud

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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52 Responses to Hughes v Royal London – a sorry state of affairs.

  1. Christopher Lean says:

    Surely, a small tweak in the rules could cut out a lot of this. In other words, membership of occupational schemes be contingent upon being actually genuinely employed by the sponsoring firm and not contingent upon “earnings” from any employment?

    Why was a SSAS recommended? Was it to avoid the clutches of the FCA?

    • Phil Castle says:

      If you do that, it means that a family business cannot be set up and started using previous pension funds of the couple unless BOTH become employees or directors to purchase the commercial premises they need which is what one insurers refusal has meant. These insurers were refusing legitimate non pension liberation cases as well as ones which many of us suspected were so throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
      One ahs to wonder if the insurers and their lawyers can actually READ without inserting words that are not there in the legislation ad that is what the judge has said they have been doing.

  2. The regulators don’t share your views, Henry. I see the sense in what you are saying – fair warning given, dissuasion attempted, all reasonable steps taken without treating people like children or pawns – but until tPR and the FCA allow decent, respectable providers and trustees to stop at that point, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    • Christopher Lean says:

      Isn’t there another issue here too? While accepting that someone is free to trash their own pension by investing in such things as banana plantations on Mars, there is the issue of providers being forced to pass fundsin to the hands of potential fraudsters- many of whom, no doubt, are working outside the UK and evading tax in all jurisdictions.

  3. henry tapper says:

    It’s tricky isn’t it. A necessary consequence of the freedoms is the freedom to walk into trouble! I feel sorry for the Regulators- this case looks like another test case that further reduces their room to maneuver!

    Chris – sadly the solution you propose is that the judge has ruled against!

  4. Jonathan Lawlor says:

    Henry, a big thank you for sharing so promptly. The details of the case are important.

    My two cents worth would be that as a quid pro quo for receiving tax relief, then every reasonable effort should be made by the member to ensure that a suitable income in retirement is generated from total funds. That quid pro quo doesnt mean everything has to be invested tax free – but individuals should have an understanding of return and risk and the benefits of diversification. It could be that this Cape Verde investment is part of a diversification strategy…

    I’ll make a huge assumption now, namely that the destination for the pension pot IS risky (from an investment viewpoint); and that perhaps a similar (or slightly lower) return could be made from UK regulated managers and products. Consequently, the movement of funds to Cape Verde is not appropriate.

    it will be very annoying that this person will have received direct tax relief on their contributions, and the employer will have paid reduced rates of corporation tax. But if the investment goes south, then the State may have to pick up the pieces in retirement by giving the person say a minimum income guarantee etc.

    It’s perhaps a failure of the UK financial industry that we are not getting out to all individuals to give them ‘better’ advice (oh gosh that is another long debate…)

    Anyway off to man the barricades against the pro/anti leave campaigners…

  5. ancientllm says:

    What has not been answered in the two reports I have read on this case, is whether or not the Scheme Rules which gave the scheme absolute discretion on a transfer were superseded by the legislation. If they are superseded then all the arguments are irrelevant. If the scheme rules are not over ruled by the legislation, then the judge is wrong. Does the judgement cover this point?

    • Jonathan Lawlor says:

      Hi ancientllm, my reading of the judgment (and I’m not a lawyer) is that Ms Hughes complained that the Ombudsman had misconstrued the meaning of “earner”; and that Royal London had then failed to exercise its discretion. Once the judge decided that the Ombudsman had misconstrued “earner”, the second complaint fell away – and that she was entitled to the transfer value from her personal pension plan.

      (Royal London had previously decided that as she wasn’t an earner in the receiving scheme, then a transfer couldn’t be provided.)

  6. henry tapper says:

    I’ve read the judgement in the same way as Jonathan. All that was needed was for Ms Hughes to be earning, she did not have to be earning with the employer whose occupational scheme she was joining

    This really worries me as the majority of difficult schemes I’ve encountered have been set up as occupational schemes without an occupation!

    • Phil Castle says:

      Henry, I think you may have misread the decision. Har earnt income, not having ongoing earnt income.

  7. Jade Murray says:

    I think the debate about where the income comes from is missing the point here. The real issue here is that particular types of scheme or pension wrapper – small occupational schemes with a non-trading employer or certain styles of master trusts – are being used by some genuine pension liberators because of the lower level of regulation and “entry requirements” for establishing one. That doesn’t mean those wrappers or structures are flawed or should be abolished – if that was the test then you’d ban companies (look at everything the banks have been fined for or look at what people get away with under a limited liability wrapper), collective investments schemes and a whole bunch of other wrappers and structures.

    These schemes and structures have been around for years and weren’t an issue until the pension liberation business took off with a vengeance and got creative. Everyone agrees that pension liberation is a serious problem that must be tackled (notwithstanding the definition creep by regulators in recent years over what they choose to call a pension scam). However The pensions industry, and the Pension Ombudsman, should not be able to just make the law up to suit themselves to tackle this kind of problem. That’s the job of Parliament, last time I looked. Plus you only have to read the reasons given by some of the insurers when they block transfers, or see the evidence at the coal face, to realise that their position is not always altruistic or black and white on this. There is plenty of evidence that some schemes and providers have been opportunistic in using PL concerns to avoid loss of FUM. I have no doubt about that.

    So – this case was actually the right result according to the law and we need to stop criticising the courts for actually doing their job properly. The real question here is – does the law need to change?

    Personally, I think there are already two effective “tools” in play which could be used far more effectively to stop genuine PL. Firstly, many PL scams are based around inducing people to take a transfer value to another scheme. That “inducement” does not take place in a vacuum – people are being given information which persuades them to transfer (or contribute other capital). In my experience, that so called information frequently if not always crosses the line into advice rather than information – at least according to how the FCA defines it. This will often be a criminal act – providing advice without FCA permission (or indeed potentially other forms of regulated activity without permission). FCA could be doing a lot more to choke off poor transfers by going after the unregulated cold callers and salespeople doing the inducing. The regime / law already exists to do that.

    Secondly, we now have the fit and proper test for scheme administrators that HMRC is supposed to be enforcing. I actually think HMRC is trying really hard to do this – but bluntly they just don’t have the resources to tackle the scale of the problem (and with the best will in the world they don’t always get it right – it can be very difficult to sort the legitimate from the non-legitimate). They need to be given more resource so they can better police the establishment of new schemes and the operation of existing ones.

    Thirdly, investment decisions under most forms of occupational pension scheme wrapper require the trustee(s) to take appropriate investment advice before investing – including one member SSASs and master trusts. If flawed advice has been given justifying a transfer or investment in overseas property in dodgy circumstances, then enforcement action can be taken against the advice provider (and should be – but is it?). If advice hasn’t been taken, then TPR would be justified in taking action against parties involved in that scheme or model (there are various routes by which it could do so).

    Ultimately, if the regulators cannot use their own powers effectively, or aren’t resourced sufficiently to enable them to do so, then maybe we should look at changing the way that certain types of occupational scheme can be structured or regulated – perhaps we need to go back to the pre A day world where SSAS’s needed a professional trustee or administrator that had regulator approval. But removing statutory transfer rights, or transferring more discretion to insurers to refuse transfers, is absolutely NOT the way to go, in my view. This is members’ own money, not providers.

    Jade Murray

    • Phil Castle says:

      @Jade – I 100% agree with you. Scot Wids are going to be hung drawn and quartered by me now as it was insulting what they said and did and as we record EVERYTHING phone calls, emails, meetings etc, I have a record of them lying and rewriting statute and teh judge confirms they CAN’T. Case LAW. They can’t say they were not warned.

  8. Adrian Furnell says:

    I wonder whether Ms Hughes will be quite so happy with her ‘victory’ when HMRC come calling for their pound of flesh in tax penalties – will she then attempt to blame ano for allowing her to transfer? won the battle but not the war comes to mind!

    • Phil Castle says:

      Adrian – You are inferring she is liberating her pension. I suspect that even were she, the fact this has gone all the way to the high court means she knows entirely what she is doing. Don’t forget to get to the high court, there would have had to have been legal counsel explaining things to her.
      Correct me if I am wrong Jade M?

      • Tony Bacon says:

        I wonder who paid the public access scheme barrister’s bill.

      • Phil Castle says:

        It doesn’t matter who paid the barristers bill, that is immaterial unless someone is implying someone bribed the judge to make a decision different to that appropriate in law. The law is the law, it is not for dinosaur life insurers OR regulators to interpret the law differently to a judge, that is why they are judges.
        If they don’t like the law as everyone keeps telling financial advisers with regard the Longstop (or lack of in the rulebook) we should change the law, but the law on professional negligence hasn’t changed, a 15 year longstop defence can still be changed in law, it is just that the FOS choose to conveniently to their political masters end to ignore it.

    • Donna-Marie says:

      Bespoke Pension Services complete Ms Hughes’ Tax Return for her diligently every year…so no tax penalties here.

    • Donna-Marie says:

      Tony Bacon – Bespoke Pension Services did. Not the taxpayer.

  9. Jade Murray says:

    There is no suggestion in Hughes that there is a pension liberation scam. Assuming that’s right, then tax penalties won’t apply. We need to remember that there is an important distinction between (a) scams and frauds – where people are misled – usually with adverse tax penalties or exorbitant fees (or both); and (b) higher risk approaches to investment under self invested pension schemes, which are not scams assuming the underlying investments are valid investments of course. Not every property investment is a Harlequin and not every blocked transfer case involves PL or fraudulent investments.

    • Tony Bacon says:

      From the limited information in the original Ombudsman decision Cape Verde investment opportunities were part of the pitch. With c£8k of pension assets involved.

    • Phil Castle says:

      Would you be able to make that comment publicly on the MM article from yesterday please Jade or are you happy if I quote you in it as I think it is essential that journalists are balanced in their headlines, which Sam hasn’t been (I would hope I’d get a call from him or Natalie Holt at some point confirming he has amended the headline and apologised to Ms Hughes for the impression it may give as to her character)

  10. Terry Blackmore says:

    Interestingly, when Pension Schemes Act 1993 was enacted a transfer could only be made to an approved occupational pension scheme. At that time to be approved the employer had to be contributing. For an employer to contribute (in this case to a one person SSAS) the member would have to be in receipt of earnings from that employer i.e. DWP legislation piggy-backed on HMRC requirements. I’d be interested to know if this was argued before the judge.

    . It is only since the requirement for an employer contribution has been abandoned that a transfer can take place to a scheme where the member isn’t in receipt of earnings from a scheme employer.

    Thus before 2006 the Ombudsman would have been right as he wouldn’t have needed to insert words into the definition of earner. Perhaps it’s another case of unintended consequences of legislative change

    • Tony Bacon says:

      It was the Social Security Act 1986 which introduced the statutory right to a cash equivalent, from 1988. That really didn’t work out well.

  11. Jade Murray says:

    Yes Cape Verde investment was mentioned. That doesn’t automatically mean it’s a pension scam and that the member is being defrauded. As I said, not everything overseas is another Harlequin.

  12. henry tapper says:

    I’m with you on this Jade. Whether we think Cape Verde property is a good buy or not, is not the issue. Nor is whether Ms Hughes is incurring unnecessary tax. The issue is whether a ceding scheme can exercise paternalistic control over the pension credits. The answer is no they can’t, the High Court has spoken.

    A second question is what this does to the Pension Regulator’s attempts to control the transfer market. It seems to me that the use of the Pi case as precedent suggests that the Pension Regulator has its answer, it cannot control the market for pension credits through Trustees (or lifecos).

    Which rather begs the question, why did they embark on their series of test cases?

  13. henry tapper says:

    Phil -thanks for your comments – they cleared up some uncertainty.

  14. Christopher Lean says:

    I have just seen a redacted email from someone( unknown ) associated with the promoters of the free pension review that was involved in this. The service receives substantial commissions from Gibraltar- meaning that whatever the investment is likely to be, it will be worth a fraction of the cost.

    • Phil Castle says:

      Christopher, that is immaterial to the Judges decision. A judge rules on legality, NOT suitability. The insurers are acting contrary to the law, which is ironic if the case is legal but unsuitable liberation. unfortunately liberation is NOT illegal. Change the LAW.

      • Christopher Lean says:

        I realise that, but wanted to make the point that the cold calling firm “appears” to refer to an independent adviser ( not regulated ) that sets up a scheme that “appears” to pay the cold calling firm that referred to the adviser.

    • Phil Castle says:

      Hi Christopher, Ryl London and other providers have been barking up the wrong tree/throwing out the baby with teh bathwater. It was the unregulated promoerts/advisers and cold calling you correctly highlight they should have been pursuing as advising on collectives and transfers without authorisation IS something the FCA etc could act on. They cant try and interpret law and add in words to suit what may be a good intention. The law is the law. If they don”t like it… change it.

  15. Phil Castle says:

    i don’t have AF3, G60 or transfer permissions as I realised how much of a minefield Occupational Transfers were in 1992 the year I started as an IFA for Natwest (not tied until 93) Seperating oit the service and ongoing investment advice from the transfer advice is sensible in my opinion for ALL parties, BUT the risk level of the initial transfer has to be appropriate to the clients attittude to risk and capacity for loss and if the G60 adviser knows the monies are going to something unsuitable, they will loose everytine at FOS and rightly so.

  16. Christopher Lean says:


    Another basket case, taken over by Dalriada, also has Cape Verde investments from the same firm linked to First Pension Review.

  17. Peter O'Brien says:

    I don’t understand the comments about FOS here. It was a Pensions Ombudsman determination.

  18. Donna-Marie says:

    I am the lady you have all been discussing. While looking on the internet for something completely unrelated I came across several articles about the court case – all assuming what my motives are/were and nobody took the time to ask me. There was a whole world of hate and speculation I didn’t even know existed! I would have been happier in my ignorance. It’s incredibly frustrating to be accused of trying to liberate my pension or that I was involved in some kind of scam. The fact of the matter is – I created a company with the sole purpose of providing me with a pension. Nothing more, nothing less. I had several pensions and all my other pension providers (including DMGT – Daily Mail Group Trust) were happy to release my funds to allow me to invest my pension money with The Melia Group. The Melia Group own 350+ hotels in 40 countries. As far as I know they don’t own or run any beach huts. Their hotels are generally 5 Star. The Resort I invested in is up and running and earning money for my pension pot. Had it not been up and running, I still would have received earnings – just not as much. Royal London would not release my funds. Without talking to me or asking me – they told Bespoke Pension Services (my pension administrators) that I was trying to liberate my pension. I’ve been a customer of theirs since I was 16. At no point did Royal London try to contact me – until the case had gone to the high court. Even at this stage they still accused me of trying to liberate my pension!
    I did not use tax payers money to take my case to court – Bespoke Pension Services took the case to court on my behalf. And we won.
    I appreciate that there are scams out there and the Pension Companies are trying to ensure their customers don’t get robbed. But Pension Companies are not charities – they want to make money and lots of it. Of course they don’t want their customers transferring their funds and they will do anything they can to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
    I wanted my money from Royal London to invest in my pension and now, thanks to the court case, I can invest that money any way I see fit (as long as it’s legal and above board).

    • Phil Castle says:

      Thanks for clearing that up Donna-Marie – It sounds very much like your experiences with Royal London are very similar to my experiences with Scottish Widows. Even worse, despite your case being upheld by the judge, Scottish Widows continue to prevaricate. With Scottish Widows, this relates to a family member of mine and if we wanted to play Swids silly game, we could just put them on payroll and they would not deny there IS a statutory right. Your case proved that we don’t have to put them on payroll and STILL they withhold the transfer and pontificate. The irony as with your case is that other providers (Standard Life, after contacting and asking a few simply due diligence questions TRANSFERED £28k within 2 weeks. It’s now been 6 months with Swids and they are still fighting over a £7k transfer and risking being wound up by the court!!!!! Are they MAD?
      I am sorry if any of the posters on hear implied your case was pension liberation as I for one had no knowledge either way. The issue however is that the judge proved you had a right to transfer and that was all that mattered.

      • Donna-Marie says:

        Thank you for your support Phil. Your case sounds scarily similar. DMGT transferred £30k after asking relevant due diligence questions and Royal London withheld for months over £8k. I really hope things work out in your favour. Keep us posted!

    • Hi Donna Marie, where a lot of people come from is that they would not ordinarily recommend a regular person invest their pension pot in this manner: the usual approach would be to recommend a range of pooled investment funds. I will say no more as I know nothing about your particular circumstances, but please be assured that much comment is well-meaning (even if it doesn’t always read like it).

      What I will say though is what I’ve posted elsewhere: I for one am extremely grateful to you for taking this matter to Court. It was, to put it politely, disappointing that the Pension Ombudsman in effect invented the law to meet a politically expedient end. As a result, as Phil Castle alludes to, many old life companies have continued to block transfers to legitimate ‘small self administered schemes’, including especially where people want to use such schemes to assist their businesses in the way such pension schemes have been used for 30 years!!

      It is a terrible to suggest – as some do – that large life companies require some legal forearming against small customers. It is a travesty to suggest that the law as to an individual’s rights should be ignored for regulatory expediency.

  19. Phil Castle says:

    Moneymarketing are now by their headline implying that Ms Hughes is either a scammer or being scammed Sam Broedbeck wrote the article and either he or his editor Natalie Holt should know better than that. Were I Ms Hughes I’d be looking for a public apology and clarification as Sir Philip Green seems to be trying to get from Frank Field.

  20. henry tapper says:

    Ms Hughes has commented on this blog to the effect that she is neither a scammer or scammed. Whatever you think of her choice, she has the right to make it. It is to our great discredit if we pillory someone for what they do with their own money (provided that what they do is within the law).

    thanks for bringing this to our attention Phil

    • Phil Castle says:

      Would you be able to make that comment publicly on the MM article Henry or are you happy if I quote you in it as I think it is essential that journalists are balanced in their headlines, which Sam hasn’t been (I would hope I’d get a call from him or Natalie Holt at some point confirming he has amended the headline and apologised to Ms Hughes for the impression it may give as to her character)

  21. henry tapper says:

    I’ve read the article and like much of what MM produce, it is sensationalist. Please quote me in anything you post

  22. Regardless of the merits of this specific case or Ms Hughes motivation – and I am pleased to learn she hasn’t been scammed – be assured that there are scammers out there, ruining lives.

    Our staff deal regularly with people who have been scammed and they are often vulnerable people who believed the lies they were told that some loophole existed that allowed them to access their pension early. They may have “liberated” a relatively modest sum, have seen the unregulated introducers skim 30%+ from their fund, seen the rest disappear in speculative unregulated investments and be potentially facing significant tax charges. They are often at their wits end and so called “liberation” has taken a toll on their finances and more importantly on their health and relationships and sadly, in at least one case, their life.

    Increasingly the scams are less about liberation per se and more about funds being invested in, at best, wholly inappropriate illiquid and speculative investments and at worst out and out frauds. We have seen cases where members have stated in various correspondence that they want low risk investments but have somehow been persuaded to sign forms declaring themselves to be sophisticated investors.

    And I guess a number of you are thinking, well, “caveat emptor”.

    I think (hope) these scammers would be spotted by anyone in the business, but they are well organised and, to the average man on the Clapham Omnibus, plausible. From the perspective of someone who is not steeped in the financial sector they have plausible websites, plausible literature and a plausible story to tell. They also use tried and tested high pressure selling techniques that work.

    I believe the Royal London v Hughes decision is correct in law and the bottom line is that Henry’s analysis is correct. Once a trustee has exhausted the process you are invariably left with a member who has a statutory right to transfer. As one of our legal advisers said to me when I asked about what other options were available to the trustee on a case where I am convinced the accepting arrangement was a high risk of being a scam and a member, despite our warnings was insistent about transferring; “Well Neil, you could always break the law, but I couldn’t advise you to do that.”

    Henry also highlights the point that you need to be very careful about sticking your head above the parapet and labeling a particular scheme a scam where the evidence in the public domain may be compelling but fall short of the standards of evidence required by a court.

    Even if we did just refuse to pay the transfer an insistent member is likely to take it to the Ombudsman, or even the courts and it is hard to justify incurring costs and fees just to delay the inevitable.

    This means trustees and providers have to walk a difficult line between allowing members to benefit from the legitimate freedoms introduced by the Government and taking all reasonable steps to ensure that members are clear on the risks if the trustees and providers believe the scheme exhibits some or all of the features of a potential scam. It is an invidious position and I don’t think anyone should suggest that trustees or providers take a decision to not process a transfer lightly or because they are somehow desperate to hold onto the funds.

    But ultimately, unless and until the law changes, the final decision rests with the member.

    So then we are back to caveat emptor and making sure as a trustee that you’ve taken all reasonable steps to alert the member to the risks and have a cast iron discharge.

    • Phil Castle says:

      Neil, I also agree with you about the scams, but when an adviser calls and fully discusses and explains the background and intention of the member and the provider (in my case) implies to a family member who knows more about final salary pensions than the staff dealing at Swids ever will that I am trying to scam them, than they and I really do take offence, They undertook NO kyc excercise before refusing to transfer and even when it was pointed oit their arguments were legally deficient they still argued for months. In the end, they transferred, but NO appology or acceptance they were wrong. They are as bad as the scammers in my opinion.

  23. henry tapper says:

    I agree with your position Neil. In the end it is the member who decides know matter how the Trustees try. Perversely, the only way that Halifax found to stem the haemorrhaging of funds they experienced after 2008 was to make it easy for account holders to take their money. Bizarrely, they found that a the ratiocination of a polite conversation which started- “we’ll do everything we can to get your money” and ended- “if only this had been explained properly, I wouldn’t have asked to take my money” did more than just about anything to calm things down.

    From my experience, these conversations aren’t happening enough. Too often we are getting into confrontation too early with bad outcomes ensuing.

  24. jeff evans says:

    I too have tried to have my private phoenix pension transferred to my employers pension scheme which I’ve been a member since 2005.unfortunately I was layed off before the transfer took place and now phoenix life quote the hughes case in their refusal to transfer as I’m not an earner now.As I’m on long term sick awaiting an op I have at 60 years old little chance of regaining employment. The main reason for transfer is that I have another pension with Blue sky Pensions since 2005

    • Phil Castle says:

      Jeff, whislt they may (try) to refuse a transfer to a SSAS based on their logic, they cannot refuse a transfer from a personal pension to another personal pension or a stakeholder pension. Is there a specific reason why you want it transferred to the Blue Sky pension other than than having the convenience of it being in oen location?

  25. henry tapper says:

    the Blue Sky Pension is a master trust and a very good one, see ( It has very good at retirement options, has the master trust assurance framework and is supported and owned by Unite and the Joint Industrial Board., What part of the Hughes Case prevents your transfer going ahead? Do you know Jeff?

    • Phil Castle says:

      I don’t think it prevents it at all either Henry. I just think it might be easier to transfer to a stakeholder with a company with some brains and then back out again to Blue Sky if that is what he wants. (not advice). It’s nearly impossible for any dinoseur company to deny a transfer to a stakeholder and then transfers out from them from a reputable provider TO a reputable provider like Blue Sky shouldn’t confuse too much.

      • jeff evans says:

        They simply state that I need to be an earner before before they will transfer as at present both pensions are deferred. Bluesky have written again stating their disagreement with the decision and I await a response before taking it up with the power.

      • Phil Castle says:

        We had this too with Scottish Widows as mentioned above. Took months, but they backed down with NO appology in the end. Very small personal pension being Tfd to a SSAS, consuemr involved had just left HM forces with a VERY good final slary pension, but was doing a degree before returning to paid work, including a return to the reserves (paid work), but ther woudl eb a 6 month delay as they didn’t want to do any paid work until the new tax year. In the meantime they wanetd to buy a commerical property. Swids refused the transfer even after we’d explained ALL the background, but finally accepted the transfer could go ahead after the Hughes decision, but as I said no appolgy, nada…. but we couldn’t be bothered to purse it (yet) as a complaint. But may still do.
        These are jobsworths on many occassions who don’t have a brain and are following a tick list (for the right reasons I accept as it is to protecte against pension liberation), but their lack of brains results in them NOT referrring the issue and allowing a grown up discussion to take place DIRECTLY with their legal departments.
        Jeff – Make use of the name Henry has given you and go round the jobsworth if it is important to you. I could have solved my argument with Scot Wids simpl;y by puttingt he consuemr (a friend) on my own firms payroll, paying them a penny and then it would becoem a statutory RIGHT to a transfer rather than a discretionary one, which is what they are excercising.

      • jeff evans says:

        I will do thanks for your advice we will see what happens this has been going on since July 2016 with each correspondence to phoenix taking a month for them to answer. I think they hope I will just give .

  26. henry tapper says:

    Jeff can complain to Hare, David (UK – Edinburgh) who is chair of the Phoenix IGC, this doesn’t sound as if it is going to be sorted without some intervention. David is a past president of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and is as through as he is honest

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