County Capital Wealth Management, which trades as The Pension Review Service, has become the first of the British Steel advisers to recover its pension transfer permissions after voluntarily giving them up.
County Capital Wealth Management re-established its transfer permissions on 10 August after a six month re-submission process that saw the firm working with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to ensure it met the necessary regulatory requirements.
The firm is the first of the advice firms associated with losing permissions as a result of advising British steelworkers to regain its pension transfer permissions. It was one of ten British Steel adviser firms to give up its pension transfer permissions as a result of the saga.
The County Durham-based firm, which also has an office located near a British Steel site in Scunthorpe, volunteered to “immediately cease all regulated activities relating to pension transfer business” on 6 February, following discussions with the FCA.
The firm’s managing director Mark Abley told Professional Adviser the re-submission process was largely about the FCA making sure the firm understood the rules around defined benefit (DB) transfers, and that the firm has “re-vamped” its entire transfer offering in the process.
He said the firm had a lead contact at the FCA throughout the process who looked at the various submissions it made. Once that contact was satisfied the firm met the FCA’s requirements, the case went to a more senior manager, who again looked to see if the firm was meeting regulatory requirements.
Then, once that manager was satisfied, the case was passed to a manager with even greater seniority who ultimately made a decision on whether the firm could re-apply for its permissions. That process took around six months.
‘Learnt a lot’
Abley described the process as “thorough”, acknowledging it was both disruptive and helpful to the business.
He said: “We’ve learnt a lot as a business about process and how we document things and how things are recorded – every cloud, as they say. I’ve had a number of things in my lifetime that have tested me and this is in the top three – the other two were when I was in the forces.”
Abley said the FCA had made clear they would return to the firm to review its process but did not specify when.
He added: “All the regulator has been doing, is doing its job. If they see something that gives them cause for concern they’ve got to act on it.
“We’ve been through a very thorough process, and it hasn’t been easy because of all the scrutiny we’ve been under, but we’ve come through it and that’s the important bit.”