Contingent charging is dead - long live contingent charging

Top advice
6m read
Jun 2020
Ian Beestin

A friend was about to depart on a flight home when the pilot announced:

“I am sorry to inform you that, due to a technical fault, we will have to find another aircraft before we can proceed”.

This was greeted by much moaning but the passengers eventually settled down. In a shorter time than they had expected there was a further announcement, “I am pleased to advise you that we will be on our way shortly. Delighted at this my friend asked a member of the cabin crew “Did you manage to find another plane”, “No” she replied, “we managed to find another pilot.”

My friend’s onward journey has shifted from being contingent on finding a new plane to contingent upon finding a new pilot and, as her telling of the story attests, I am pleased to say she made it home safely.

I know a number of advisers who have previously expressed concern that, if they failed to engage with a client who wanted to transfer their DB pension (because it was clearly in their best interest to remain in the scheme), the client would simply go and find an adviser who would. I think the need for advisers to triage clients, followed by the ban on contingent charging from October 1st, makes this challenging scenario far less likely in the future.

Furthermore, as the contingency for onward flight changed from a replacement plane to a replacement pilot in my friend’s story, I think that from October 1st, advisers should consider making their DB review charge contingent upon the outcome of triage if to date they have been making it dependent upon the outcome of the review.

Making this new charging model work successfully is contingent (see what I did there) on the triage process being of the highest quality. At the end of triage the enquirer should have a much better understanding of the subject and be able to make an informed choice about whether they wish to proceed to, and pay for, advice. To quote from everyone’s favourite regulator, triage should look like this:

“You should present information factually, without making judgments, to ensure that triage services do not become regulated advice: Balanced - You should give information on the features of both DB and DC schemes. Unbiased - You should not put disproportionate focus on any specific aspect of a DB or DC scheme. Factual - You should present information factually without commenting on the value of it. Non-personalised - You should provide information that is generic and not personalise it to the client’s circumstances.”

Source: FCA’s Guidance Consultation 20⁄1: Advising on pension transfers

Mark Thewlis, pensions expert and Money Alive Co-founder, who drafted the scripts for the ‘Final Salary - Stay or Transfer’ box set, said these were exactly the points in his mind when he wrote them back in 2017. Since then we have kept them up-to-date and relevant by liaising with Mark, Damian McPhun (a specialist financial services lawyer) and a PII expert to make sure Money Alive continues to offer an effective triage solution for advisers and their clients.

In the same document the FCA gave some specific comments to help advisers understand what good looks like:

"Good Practice – triage services and existing clients. To prevent their knowledge of a client influencing any initial discussions/triage, a firm directs clients to an unconnected third-party triage service. The firm undertook due diligence on the third party to satisfy themselves that it limits its guidance to helping the consumer understand the different options available to them."

“Good Practice – triage services. A firm directs potential clients to an online triage presentation where each client has a unique log in so the firm can monitor how each individual interacts with the Presentation.”

In a recent podcast with Professional Adviser’s Editor, Hannah Godfrey, regulatory expert Rory Percival made the point strongly that record keeping was an ongoing concern for the regulator. A further benefit to advisers of using Money Alive is that it not only creates records of the client’s individual engagement and understanding of the triage content, but it also makes it easy for firms to keep data on their entire universe of enquirers and of these, how many proceed to advice and how many transfer. This chimes nicely with another point made by the FCA:

“Good Practice – pension transfer MI By keeping records of DB transfer advice given at PTS level, a firm was able to identify key statistics. They identified differences in conversion rates (the proportion of business where a transfer was recommended).”

Money Alive’s platform’s ‘Outcomes feature’ puts this MI (which is also very useful for PII negotiations and satisfying principle 8 of the PFS Gold Standard) at adviser’s fingertips.

Of course there is much more to Money Alive than DB triage and all our interactive box sets, including Pension Freedoms, Drawdown Review, Wills, Power of Attorney and Long Term Care, are available to all subscribers. We have a few more in production too!

We never started Money Alive as a DB triage service. We started it because we wanted people to get access to engaging and impartial information to help them make better financial decisions. Our platform has been designed to make it easy for advisers to help their clients achieve genuine understanding of a topic and for advisers to be able to evidence the fact too.

If you compare the position of a client who has been handed a piece of paper comparing DB and DC to one who has watched the Final Salary box set, which one is genuinely in the better position to decide to opt in or out of the next stage of the process? Now is a good time for firms to review their approach to triage because, to support operations post the contingent charging ban, it needs to be driven by quality, balanced and detailed information.

Finally, if you have any concerns about introducing your clients to a third party to educate them on key financial topics, you can take comfort from a survey over a thousand clients who have viewed a Money Alive box set:

  • 98.1% of viewers valued their adviser giving them access to Money Alive.
  • 94.3% of viewers agreed they were better informed ahead of their advice meeting.
  • 9.3 out of 10 is the average score viewers gave the quality of Money Alive’s information.

To date, advisers have used Money Alive to triage over 10,000 enquirers. As well as reducing regulatory and commercial risk, Money Alive can help save time and improve PII renewal conversations too.

The FCA asked advisers to do their own due diligence on their triage partners and we would be delighted to discuss, in detail, the what, how and why of our unique approach. You can even trial it for free - with the charge contingent (see what I did there Pt II) upon you deciding you want to make Money Alive your triage partner.

See also