Quilter could face complaints after Lighthouse presence on British Steel sites

Hannah Godfrey reports...

Financial advice and life giant Quilter could potentially see complaints made against it from British Steel workers following an affinity partnership between the steelworkers’ union and advice firm Lighthouse.

Unite the Union, which represents steelworkers, is one of Lighthouse’s affinity partnerships. As a result, the firm has given advice and guidance to British Steel workers.

Thanks to the affinity partnership, advisers at Lighthouse – a firm acquired by Quilter earlier this year – provided educational seminars to steelworkers looking for advice or guidance. The partnership also meant four Lighthouse advisers were based at the plants – two at Scunthorpe and two on Teeside.

Professional Adviser understands Quilter could see some complaints from steelworkers for the defined benefit (DB) transfer work it provided to the men as a result of Lighthouse’s involvement. PA understands the firm is currently facing two British Steel Pension Scheme-related complaints, but they are not related to transferring away from the scheme.

PA is also aware of a recent meeting that took place with individuals working at the Scunthorpe plant. The men had been advised by a variety of firms, including Lighthouse. PA understands the situation in Scunthorpe has similarities to the situation in Port Talbot, South Wales, with many steelworkers believing they were mis-advised to transfer out of the DB scheme.

PA also understands, however, that where Lighthouse received a referral from Unite the Union, it advised individuals to transfer in just one-in-10 cases – a rate noticeably lower than the 69% transfer rate the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) quoted following its dive into DB data.

A spokesperson from Quilter Financial Planning said Lighthouse was actively engaged with the steelworkers to “ensure they were getting suitable advice on their pensions”.

They said: “Lighthouse is the preferred provider of financial advice to a number of affinity partners. This mainly comprises organisations and unions, including Unite. Lighthouse will engage with any member of an affinity partner seeking advice upon any aspect of financial planning, but does not make unsolicited approaches.

“Given the relationship with Unite, Lighthouse was actively engaged with British Steel workers to ensure they were getting suitable advice on their pensions.”

Echelon Wealthcare managing director and IFA Alastair Rush, who has been helping steelworkers in Port Talbot seek redress following poor DB transfer advice, said the stories he heard from Scunthorpe and Teeside steelworkers were “depressingly similar” to the stories from Port Talbot.

“Lighthouse participation was mentioned frequently, as was activity from one or two advisers active from South Wales,” the IFA continued. “If it’s true that the union extended office space to Lighthouse, it afforded the transfer process a potentially unfounded sense of legitimacy that, it seems, many steelworkers now regret taking at nothing more than face value.

“If men and women conclude that transferring was not in their best interests, they will seek to look for redress in numbers.”

Earlier this month Professional Adviser revealed David Thomas, who was a director a Bridgend-based firm DPT Financial Solutions – an appointed representative of Quilter – was terminated by the Quilter Financial Planning network after failing to properly follow its advice processes. Thomas had also played a role in advising British steelworkers on their DB pensions.

Unite the Union has been contacted for comment.