Lighthouse adviser ‘confident’ in advice given to British Steel workers

Hannah Godfrey reports...

An adviser working for Lighthouse at British Steel sites Scunthorpe and Teesside has said she is confident in the advice given by her firm.

Last week RP’s sister publication Professional Adviser reported Quilter, which bought Lighthouse earlier this year, could see complaints from steelworkers following Lighthouse’s affinity partnership with the steelworkers’ union, a relationship that led to Lighthouse advisers being present on British Steel sites in Scunthorpe and Teesside.

In an interview with Professional Adviser, however, Lighthouse adviser Jeanette McHardy has spoken of her confidence in the advice Lighthouse gave the workers, having had their files looked at by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which she said the regulator was “very happy with”.

“It was a very, very difficult period because – and I’m very grateful now – our compliance department was extremely tough. I’m very confident that the advice we gave was extremely solid and correct. Not only that, but my clients are still my clients. We continue to look after them and do the job to the best of our ability,” she said.

“Because of the number of people we saw – and obviously it has been highlighted that we’ve been on site – I’m desperate to make sure that people know that we were there doing the right thing by people and we continue to and certainly they wouldn’t allow us to remain on site if they thought any other way.”

McHardy took over from a retiring colleague in 2014 to work with the steelworkers. In 2016, conversation with the men turned to pensions as it became apparent Tata Steel would be examining options to structure the business, which would include decoupling the defined benefit pension scheme from the company.

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The Lighthouse adviser, who was initially based in Scunthorpe, said she was asked to carry out seminars for the men by the HR department at the steel plant and Unite the Union. Steelworkers were able to approach McHardy and her colleagues to ask questions about their pensions.

“I was then asked to go up to Teesside by HR in Teesside to replicate the seminars because they had got such a good response and I think they probably helped the HR departments and the unions because of the amount of queries and questions they were getting,” she added. “We’re still regularly working with the sites. I’m regularly in Teesside and in Scunthorpe to provide for any support they need.”

McHardy said she had heard numerous examples of steelworkers in Scunthorpe being targeted by advisers: “We had guys telling us they had invitations from advisers in Australia contacting them offering advice. They were contacted even on their LinkedIn sites by people abroad, it was ridiculous.

“I also heard advisers had set up on Scunthorpe high street and were literally stopping people in the street to say ‘are you a steelworker? Come and talk to me.’ It was horrendous, they were bombarded.”

Port Talbot

Up until recently, the narrative surrounding the steelworkers largely focused on those based in the Welsh town of Port Talbot, who allegedly received poor advice from several adviser firms. McHardy told PA that at one point it looked as though Lighthouse would get involved in South Wales, but the plans never materialised.

She explained: “We had a call from HR in Port Talbot who had heard of the work that we were doing on the Scunthorpe and Teesside sites, and they asked us to go down. A colleague went down and had a meeting with some HR and union representatives and explained what we were doing and that we would happily have colleagues replicate the service in Port Talbot, but they never agreed to it, unfortunately.

“Nobody from Lighthouse ended up being invited on site down there, which I think is probably a bit of a shame in retrospect.”