FCA to require pension providers to offer to book Pension Wise appointments for consumers

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has today proposed new rules to require pension providers to ‘nudge’ consumers to Pension Wise in order to benefit from guidance before they access their defined contribution pension savings. This includes booking an appointment with Pension Wise if the consumer wishes.

Currently, pension providers are required to signpost consumers to Pension Wise guidance and encourage them to seek appropriate pension guidance or advice to help them understand their options. However, take up of Pension Wise guidance remains low.

The FCA’s proposals mean consumers will be given a further opportunity to take Pension Wise guidance, including making the appointment arrangements for them, before they access their pension. This will make it easy for consumers to book an appointment while they are already engaged in a conversation about their pension. The proposals would implement a requirement set by Parliament to encourage consumers to take Pension Wise guidance. 

Sheldon Mills Executive Director, Consumers and Competition at the FCA said:

'Pension Wise is a great service which helps people to understand their options when accessing their pension savings. We know that when people use Pension Wise they are happy with the service and find it helpful. However, few people are choosing to attend a guidance appointment.

'Our proposals will help to ensure that consumers get more information about the service, are further encouraged to use it and can have an appointment booked for them there and then.'

The FCA is proposing that when a consumer has decided, in principle, how to access their savings, a provider must:

  • refer the consumer to Pension Wise guidance
  • explain the nature and purpose of Pension Wise guidance
  • offer to book an appointment, and where the consumer accepts the offer, book the appointment or provide the consumer with sufficient information to book their own appointment

While Parliament has chosen not to make these appointments mandatory, there is a desire to increase take up. The paper invites additional ideas on how to increase the take-up of Pension Wise beyond this nudge at the point of access.

Notes to editors

  1. CP21/11: The stronger nudge to pensions guidance
  2. The FCA is required by the Financial Services and Guidance Act 2018 to make rules for personal pension providers to ‘nudge’ consumers to Pension Wise. The Act requires DWP similarly to make regulations for trust-based schemes.
  3. During the passage of the Act, the Government committed to undertake consumer testing to ensure the effectiveness of the nudge. We have drawn on this research in our own policy-making. To deliver on this commitment, the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) commissioned the Government’s Behavioural Insight team (BIT) to conduct consumer testing of two trial treatments. The results of this research were published in July 2020.
    Drawing on the results from the consumer testing, we have been working closely with DWP on the wider policy considerations.
    During the passage of the Act in 2018, Parliament debated mandatory (or default) guidance, but decided not to take this forward, having heard arguments that a compulsory appointment could be perceived by consumers as a barrier to accessing pensions or a tick box exercise, rather than a natural and beneficial part of the process of accessing pension savings. More recently, Parliament voted against an amendment to the Pension Schemes Bill, now the Pension Schemes Act 2021, which would have required pension scheme members to be offered a pre-booked Pension Wise appointment, 5 years before they are eligible to access their pension savings.
  4. Find out more information about the FCA.