When advice isn't actually advice!

You may have noticed what seems to be an increasing number of websites offering 'free pension reviews'.

What you may not have noticed is that many of these people are neither appropriately qualified nor are they even authorised by the Financial Services Authority to advise on pensions of any type. In fact, out of 4 recent pension reviews I looked at recently, 3 of the posters were not authorised by the FSA to advise on pensions.

The FSA calls adverts 'financial promotions' and as such they are required to be fair, clear and not misleading. Many of the posts I have seen on some social networking websites comfortably fall foul of financial promotions rules, which are there to protect the consumer.

Some people mistakenly think that SIPPs (Self Invested Personal Pensions) are not regulated by the FSA. One chap was inviting people to contact him about transferring their pension to a SIPP as the 'alternative investments' vendor had told him (by email) that SIPPs are not regulated. SIPPs have been regulated since April 2007 and he was an unwitting party to falling foul of the FSA's enforcement team.

Any website which says words along the kines of "authorised SIPP investment, approved by HMRC" is also misleading. Avoid!

Mortgage advisers are also generally not permitted to advise on pensions or anything else that contains an investment element (unless they are an IFA that specializes in mortgages, which is rather unusual).

You can of course take financial advice from your mate down the pub, the taxi driver or even the Chancellor (chance would be a fine thing!). However, you do so at your own risk. If (and possibly when) things go wrong, there is no comeback, no professional indemnity cover, no Financial Compensation Scheme, and no Financial Ombudsman.

Just because someone else has invested their own pension or savings into an investment, does not make it a good deal or make it a suitable course of action for you. Be extremely wary of anyone suggesting you do anything with a 'gold plated' pension scheme such as Military or Local Government pensions.

Do your research and look on the FSA's register to ensure the company and individual you are dealing with, or the person the 'introducer' is inviting you to deal with/through, is currently authorised as a Financial Adviser (they should have a CF30 designation), although this will not tell you if they offer restricted or unrestricted (Independent) advice.
Good post.

I would add that FSA authorisation alone should never be used as the be all and end all of whether or not you use an adviser.

The recent discovery of an unregulated 'roper' trying to pull ex forces clients in to switch their pensions to investments in hotel rooms in the Carribbean is a point in question. The guy doing the chasing and the advertising had no regulation or qualification at all - but the scam only worked because he had a tame IFA in his pocket prepared to add a gloss of respectability - in fact the guy in question would in my opinion be a devious, thieving robbing c***. He was however, FSA registered!

Any recommendation to switch pension should be accompanied by a report which would need a tree on two worth of paper. The IFA has to give a full reasons why and outline both the benefits and the potential shortfalls of the switch.

Never be pressurised - if in doubt it seems we are building a few Subject Matter Experts on finance on this board and I know I for one am happy to help anyone who asks for guidance in my particular specialities...

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