Blog: Cleaning up pension scams with soap (operas)

Martin Tilley has storyboarded a 'pension scam adviser saves the day' storyline for any of the prime time British soaps... Who would you pick to play the trusted IFA?

I have a bit of an issue with the national tabloids and their habit of reporting, often with sensational headlines, the failings of the pension industry, be it product providers or those providing the advice.

Rarely if ever does a good news story or an exceptionally good piece of pension planning make the front pages. Or any page for that matter.

In reality, the failings of which there are a few, are limited to a distinct minority but this doesn’t make the loss for those individuals any less painful.

The problem that the industry faces is the negative publicity, blown out of proportion which can have the effect of creating distrust of the adviser and pensions industry.

This can lead to non-advised action by consumers and overall the potential for more bad outcomes.

The recent figures issued by the City of London Police suggest that over £9m of scams have been reported since the new pension freedoms were introduced in April of this year.

So how can the industry, with the intention of restoring its good name, get across to the public the added value that talking to an adviser can bring?

It has to be through education, one method could be via role play, but I concede it would be difficult to conduct such an educational service nationally to the millions of individuals who may benefit from it.

But then an idea came to me while overhearing a lunchtime chat in the office, it centred around a storyline from one of the television soap operas.

These programmes, with their millions of followers and ongoing storylines seem to hold the interest of many and the viewers’ relate to situations that the fictitious characters find themselves in.

These larger than life characters and the storylines they play out are often more influential than the warnings on a written page. Such is the impact of some of the storylines that programmes are sometimes followed by a statement that “if you have been affected by the storyline of the programmes, help can be obtained by contacting some support association”.

So, how about a storyline where one of the characters is called out of the blue and is persuaded that the new pension freedoms permit the liberation of their pension and the cash sum can be invested in some spurious investment promising the world?

The storyline could take the victim through the elaborate sales process and the tactics used to win over the victim who, about to sign on the dotted line, decides to boast about the opportunity at the local pub. It is there that a well-meaning and more worldly wise character overhears the conversation and suggests a second opinion from the local financial adviser.

The subsequent meeting reveals the plan for the scam that it is and disaster is averted.

A gripping storyline, where the now relieved character returns to the pub and now feeling more financially secure buys a round of drinks for patrons while extolling the virtues of the financial adviser.

The titles roll with the announcement that if you or anyone you know is approached by these purveyors of misery, financial advice should be sought from a regulated financial adviser. No cost financial education – would that not benefit all?

Martin Tilley is director of technical services at Dentons Pension Management