Last week, I initiated the transfer of the last of my pension funds into my Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP). This should be a relatively straightforward transfer of the Protected Rights element of a former pension plan. The first step was a response from the pension company receiving the funds. They need me to fill in a form explicitly stating that I did not request any financial advice about this transfer to guard them against mis-selling claims.
It is ironic that the Protected Rights must be transferred into a stakeholder pension (and not my SIPP) as these contributions were made by the UK Government on my behalf so it must be entrusted to those sensible men in grey suits and not invested in the funds of my choice in my SIPP. Tell that to the people who lost thousands of pounds of their hard earned money that was supposedly secure with Equitable Life.
However this is a minor inconvenience compared with the pain, delays, bureaucracy and sheer incompetence I suffered three years ago. After twenty years working for various IT companies, I had accumulated small pots of money distributed across a variety of pension funds. I decided to consolidate all of these pension funds into a self invested pension plan (SIPP).
This was mainly so I had direct control over exactly where my money was invested and to reduce the impact of the management charges paid to the men in sharp suits. In a SIPP, you are charged for each share transaction. If you buy and hold shares for the long term, then the SIPP charges are much lower than a managed fund. In addition, one significant pension fund was invested with Equitable Life which was in dire financial straits, subject to a lot of negative media coverage and was closed to new business.
So I wrote lots of letters, filled in lots of transfer forms, made lots of phone calls and opened an account with SippDeal. The transfers of seven different pension funds were all initiated around the same time (January 2003) and the final batch of funds were made available for trading in early July 2003.
Once I learned how to play the game (write letters in the first instance, fill in the required forms promptly, take copies of all correspondence, telephone in the second instance, get names of the people you deal with, record the date and time, record what was promised, get a direct dial extension, keep comprehensive records), I found that most companies were relatively efficient in handling the transfer.
However a dishonourable mention goes to Scottish Widows who really did plunge new levels of incompetence (letters getting lost, faxes getting lost, people promising to call back etc etc). Maybe I was unlucky but all I can say is that I am really glad Scottish Widows are not managing my pension any more.
The SIPP appears to be performing really well as the funds are primarily invested in high yielding FTSE 100 companies. However, this may be misleading as the FTSE has performed well since January 2003.
What I should really do is to compare the performance of my stakeholder (with the PR funds) invested by the wise men in grey suits against my SIPP. Maybe when the transfer of this latest pot is complete, I will do exactly that.