Sexy-cash is back incentivizing pension transfers – let’s nip this in the bud

This advertisement appears to find money from nowhere, but that is not the case. The “cashback” from transferring into an AJ Bell SIPP is money that has been taken out of your pension pot and it is effectively a kind of pension liberation.

Incentivizing people to transact using cashback is nothing knew, Steve Webb christened the practice “sexy-cash” when Boots paid members of its pension schemes a cash incentive to give up valuable features of their defined benefit promise. Part of the problem that the then Pension Minister uncovered was that people were being incentivized from a pension pot that had been subsidized by the tax-payer to pay pensions – not give them up.

Now we have a reputable SIPP provider giving its policyholders the right to additional tax-free cash so long as they bring money to their AJ Bell SIPP. And just in time for Christmas too!

I can’t see how this is anything but “sexycash – the sequel” with the money available being a rebate of charges on the transfer from AJ Bell. Indeed, there is an alternative (but much less sexy offer on the table – being a rebate – into the SIPP – of costs incurred by the policyholder to rebate costs of transfer levied not by AJ Bell but the ceding provider. It’s an either/or offer but I doubt that many people will go for an enhancement of £500 into their SIPP when their entire Christmas could be paid for by the pension (and the tax-payer).

I am with “Lee”, though maybe not so anti-consolidation, just against the means to incentivise which puts short term “sexy-cash” before the longer term interests of providing a wage for life from the consolidation


In the non-advised world of exexution-only SIPPs it is all too easy to woo-investors away from low-cost and easily manageable workplace pensions into the highly sophisticated arrangements run by AJ Bell and others and if you were in your fourties and struggling to pay your bills, the simple route to pension liberation outlined in this advert might be precisely what was needed to meet a short-term cashflow need.

But there are people up and down Great Britain and all over the Continent currently paying punitive bills to HMRC for participating in illegal pension scams for precisely the same reason. The pension liberation schemes that came to market in the first decade of the 21st Century were appealing to the same instincts as the AJ Bell cashback offer.

I hope that someone at the FCA will have a quiet word in Andy Bell’s ear. While there is nothing illegal about cashback, it opens the door to abuse – with the scale of the cashback ramping up with the charges imposed on entry to the SIPP, while AJ Bell’s are reasonable, the next round of cashbacks might not be.

As with all the other sexy-cash schemes, it is far too easy to exploit a loophole , once the loophole has precedent. Let’s nip this potential abuse in the bud and stop the practice of cashback on pension transfers, before it takes off. We have been here before.




About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in actuaries, advice gap, age wage and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sexy-cash is back incentivizing pension transfers – let’s nip this in the bud

  1. George Kirrin says:

    Some platforms (eg Fidelity’s) are now offering a cash account for customer deposits outside any tax wrapper, so fees may be paid from the cash account rather than deducted from the tax-advantaged fund. The argument is you have more gross capital with which to accumulate tax-advantaged returns, although for most of us it means you’re paying expenses out of taxed income.

    Cash backs in retail space seem to involve a form of VAT arbitrage between manufacturers domiciled in one part of the EU and retailers in another. It will be interesting to see how these operate after Brexit.

  2. DaveC says:

    Can anyone explain this in layman terms?

    You transfer your £100,000 to them.

    They take 1% commission perhaps. £1,000.

    You have a pension pot of £99,000 to SIPP, and no doubt the SIPP provider has a load of juicy fees for using the SIPP actively (which I’d assume anyone buying a SIPP would want to do right now)

    The provider has a commission and also takes fees when the SIPP is used and AMC etc.

    They give up the commission, or a sum of money proportionate to the commission, to the punter as cash-back for transferring to them?

    Cash-back incentives from pension providers rings alarm bells. There is only one source of money to pay for this and that is pension funds.

    I’m surprised the pension regulations even make this a possibility.

    I wonder if there are any 99% cash-back pension transfers available.

  3. Robert says:

    The ‘Sexy-Cash’ (pension transfer) was taken by many Tata Steel employees in the hope of a tax-free windfall and early retirement.

    I’m now hearing conversations where workmates will have to keep working for longer or take a part time job etc which is certainly not the outcome they were expecting!

    As the saying goes…..’If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’

    The last thing we need now is companies who are incentivizing pension transfers!

Leave a Reply