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Free mental health talks for Quilter advisers 

Wealth manager and Financial Planner Quilter is partnering with mental health support company Spill to offer free online talks to its advisers.

The campaign will run during Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 from 10-16 May. 

The company says it decided to run the talks because the pandemic has meant an “extremely challenging” time for everyone including financial advisers.

It says many advisers have had to cope with increased demands and workloads as well as new ways of working with clients who needed their own support through major financial and life events.  

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The talks cover a number of issues including why it is harder to ‘switch off’ these days and how to change workplace culture for the better.

The lunchtime talks are available to advisers and their colleagues:

  • Mon 10 May 1pm – 2pm ‘How to overcome imposter syndrome feelings’ 
  • Tue 11 May 1pm – 2pm ‘How to (actually)
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Editor’s Column: The pandemic pension rethink

 

The pandemic is not over yet, far from it, and it is too early to predict the long term impact but if there is one certainty it is that many people’s retirement plans are changing.

We were given a useful indication of this by figures from the Office for National Statistics out this week that revealed that one in eight workers over 50 have changed their retirement plans.

Interestingly, 10% of over 50s want to bring their retirement forward but another 9% want to push it back. 

Some 1.3m people over 50 are still on furlough and many will be considering how to make up retirement shortfalls. Others, of course, may be closer to standard retirement ages and be thinking now is a good time to quit, a possibility due to the Pension Freedoms introduced in 2015. 

Those working from home are more likely to carry on working later in

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PIMFA launches guide to help members fight online fraud

Wealth management trade body PIMFA has published a guide to online fraud prevention for member firms as concerns grow about a rising number of internet scams. 

The launch comes as PIMFA joins 16 other organisations, including Which?, City of London Police, The Investment Association and the ABI in calling for legislation to tackle the growing menace of online fraud.

The organisations want the government to include online scams in its proposed Online Safety Bill – which could be announced in next week’s Queen’s Speech.

The guide includes information on the common types of fraud including impersonation fraud, retail bond fraud, social media fraud and cloned websites. 

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It also provides examples of real-life situations in which a firm or its clients were the victims of fraud, as well as advice on best practice to help prevent fraudsters from gaining access to clients. A guide for consumers will follow shortly.

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Bank of England holds interest rates at 0.1%

Bank of England policymakers have held interest rates at the record low of 0.1% as it expects the UK’s economic recovery to gather pace.

The hold marks 14 months since rates were cut at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Bank said that the UK economy is set to enjoy its strongest growth in over 70 years as Coronavirus pandemic restrictions are lifted. They have forecast that the economy will expand by up to 7.25% this year.

The Bank also added in the Monetary Policy Report that it expects the unemployment rate to peak at 5.5% later this year, below the 7.75% peak it predicted in February.

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Laith Khalaf, financial analyst at AJ Bell, said that whilst the Bank has sharply upgraded economic forecasts for the UK, it shows how much uncertainty there is in their predictions.

He said: “The Bank of England is expecting a consumer

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Altmann calls for compulsory Pension Wise guidance

Former Pensions Minister Baroness Altmann has backed the FCA’s ‘stronger nudge’ plan for pensions savers to get Pension Wise guidance and has called for the guidance to be compulsory.

She said: “I am delighted to see the FCA consulting on this. I would have preferred an automatic enrolment option, rather than leaving the provider in charge of the messaging for customers, but hopefully the providers will explain clearly to customers why they would benefit from using PensionWise and then they can have a much better chance of making the most of their money.”

She said the FCA was “finally acting” to protect pension customers better and the move would mean it was much more likely that pension savers will get the “independent, unbiased guidance offered by PensionWise.”

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While the government-supported Pension Wise guidance is highly rated about 90% of potential users never engage with it meaning usage is

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FCA proposes mandatory Pension Wise appointments

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has proposed new rules to require defined contribution pension providers to offer to book Pension Wise appointments for members before they access their pension savings.

Under the new rules providers would need to ‘nudge’ members to Pension Wise for guidance before they can enter drawdown and offer to book an appointment with the service for them.

Currently providers are required to signpost scheme members to Pension Wise guidance and encourage them to use the service or take independent financial advice.

The regulator said the new proposals would mean savers “will be given a further opportunity to take Pension Wise guidance, including making the appointment arrangements for them, before they access their pension. This will make it easy for consumers to book an appointment while they are already engaged in a conversation about their pension. The proposals would implement a requirement set by Parliament to encourage

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FCA opens door to more SPACs but tougher rules

The FCA is to consult on stronger rules on special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), an increasingly popular takeover vehicle. 

SPACS, popular in the US, are used pre-funded shell or ‘blank cheque’ takeover vehicles to acquire other firms.

Greater use of SPACS could see them used to acquire Financial Planning and wealth management firms, currently at the centre of takeover activity. 

A number of financial firms in the UK, including Goldman Sachs, are building SPACs teams.

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The FCA currently estimates there are 33 SPACs listed in the UK and 40% (13) have their listing currently suspended (often done while acquisitions are under way). Of the estimated 20 SPACs with live listings, 2 are over £100m in market capitalisation while two thirds are worth around £5m or less.

In its new consultation document CP21/10, the FCA proposes  amending its rules to allow more use of SPACS but tighter regulation. Firms

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Nearly 2m financial complaints in 6 months – FCA

Latest data from the FCA has revealed that in the second half of 2020 the number of complaints received by financial firms – excluding PPI complaints – rose by 3.3% to 1.93m.

Overall, the number of financial complaints – including PPI – fell by 26% mainly due to the rapid decline in PPI complaints following the deadline set by the FCA.

The data only covers firms that have reported 500 or more complaints in a six month period (approximately 290 firms).

The most complained about firms for investments were Retail Money Market Ltd (trading as RateSetter), Bank of Scotland, Sun Life, Barclays Bank and HSBC. Scottish Widows, Lloyds Bank and Phoenix Life were also in the Top 10.

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Among the most complained firms about for decumulation and pensions were Equiniti Financial Services Limited, Curtis Banks Limited, James Hay and Financial Administration Services Ltd. Cofunds and Interactive Investor were

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383,000 used flexible pension withdrawals in Q1 – HMRC

The number of people using flexible pension withdrawals rose by 6% in the first quarter of 2021 to 383,000, according to the latest HMRC data. 

Retirees withdrew about £2.6bn in flexible payments from their pensions.

There was a 6% increase in the number of individuals withdrawing year-on-year although the data shows a 4% fall in the average value of withdrawals to £6,800. 

The number of withdrawals is 6% higher than in the previous quarter, suggesting more frequent withdrawals but with lower sums withdrawn each time.

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In total, £45bn has been flexibly withdrawn from pensions since the Pensions Freedoms were introduced in 2015.

The number of pension savers taking income via UFPLS (uncrystallised funds pension lump sum) saw a 96% jump in Q1 2021, compared to Q4 2020.

Commentators said the data suggested withdrawals were returning to a more normal pattern after last year’s turmoil.

Andrew Tully, technical director,

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Editor’s Column: Have we turned a corner on scams?

If there is one positive from the London Capital & Finance fiasco it is that the whole sorry business has prompted government and regulatory action to stop a repeat of LCF.

Just in case you haven’t heard of this mess, LCF offered mini-bonds at an unrealistically high annual return. It convinced 11,600 investors to pump in £237m of their life savings and then promptly collapsed. 

The Serious Fraud Office is currently all over the case, but enough of the good news.

This week, in the first sign of a regulatory change of heart post-LCF, the FCA published plans to strengthen its rules on financial promotions which offer high returns, a move backed by Financial Planners we spoke to.

The FSCS, in something of a pincer movement, also warned this week that many retirees were being tempted to put some of their nest egg into high risk investments to beat poor

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