Christine Hallett talks to Helen Morrissey about how Carey Pensions UK will look to help advisers, pensions trustees and individuals deal with challenging times
Tell me about your career
I started working at 16 at the Midland Bank in Poultry, London and from there I went on to the Abbey National where I worked my way up through the ranks for the next 18 years. I ended up relocating to Milton Keynes in 1985 where I was working in project and operations management. During this time I completed my MBA. I left to join Pointon York as operations director in 1996 and went on to be made managing director in 2000 and then CEO once SIPPs became regulated in 2007.
It was a great challenge moving to Pointon York as it was a move to a small, independent specialised company operating in a market that was relatively new to me. I saw that there were great opportunities to reshape the company so it could really meet the challenges of the future.
I spent a very happy 13 years at Pointon York and we went through many changes before becoming fully focused on SIPPs in 2001.
At the time we were the only company to specialise in SIPPs in this way and my focus was to build a strong team that would help us work through the issues brought by simplification as well as enhancing our reputation in the market. I left there in December 2008 as I wanted to explore new challenges and start building a business from scratch. I was given the opportunity to progress this venture with the Carey Group, an offshore financial services company which is looking to build a UK presence in the pensions arena. The Carey Group is closely linked to Carey Olsen, the largest international law firm in the Channel Islands. We¹ve been busy putting together FSA application forms and establishing systems and procedures and recruiting staff. It has been very exciting.
How are things going so far?
We received our FSA approval in August and received our first SIPP application soon after. The company will not be a pure SIPP company as we want to establish it as a pension and trustee company. We will be offering personal pensions as well as full SIPPs, group SIPPs and workplace pensions.
In addition to this we will complete our full pension offering by offering a SSAS. On the service side we will be providing third party administration services for pension schemes as well as an independent trustee service. We will also be offering a bespoke consultancy service to clients.
I feel that the range of services on offer fit well with people¹s needs and offer great synergies in terms of what the Carey Group already propose. The Carey Group¹s big interest is pensions on an international scale as they do administration and trusteeship for international companies. They also have a Guernsey-based QROPs as well as offices in different jurisdictions. I think Carey Pensions UK forms a snug fit with the Carey Group as a whole.
In terms of what I have decided product and service wise, I looked to provide things that I thought were genuinely important. A lot of people pay lip service to Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) and while we have the principles to work with, I do wonder exactly how much people do embed them into their service. I have really aimed to look closely at the principles and challenge how I think about them. For instance one principle is around transparency and appropriateness. SIPP transfers are not always appropriate for a client and so that is why we also have a personal pension option.
We pretty much charge a fixed fee. We are not charging for protected rights, we are not charging transfer out fees either. The way I see it is that if we are delivering service to the standards we promise then people should not want to transfer out. If someone wants to transfer out then it is our fault and so they should not be penalised.
We are committed to providing clear communication going forward and if advisers and clients want access to information then they should be able to have it. We are passionate about service and look to build strong relationships with the industry and our clients by offering them cradle to grave administration.
Tell me about the team that you will be working with?
We will have a small team to start off with and we have two experienced SIPP account managers as well as technical support and a business support manager.
We are also in the process of recruiting business development managers though we do have business development support on the Carey Group side.
As scheme numbers grow we will look to recruit on the administration side of things and we will look to build resources based on capacity.
How is it going so far?
I am feeling very confident as well as very excited about the prospects for the company. I have been used to dealing with strong teams in previous jobs and it is great to see it continuing in this role with the experienced people we have recruited.
So far we have taken our time with things as we want to make sure we get everything right.
What do you see as your key challenges for the future?
The key challenge will be to build some critical mass within the business.
We need to focus on building a sustainable business while also maintaining high service standards and our regulatory duties.
It will also be interesting to see how people view me in my new role as I worked at Pointon York for such a long time but they know I left Pointon York in a strong position and the time was right for me to build something for myself.
We will aim to fill the gaps that currently exist in the marketplace and I hope to be able to put my experience to good use in delivering that.
It has been widely predicted that we will see consolidation among some of the smaller providers in the SIPP market. How do you feel about that given the fact you are starting up a small business yourself?
We have actually seen a few smaller providers starting up recently and I feel smaller independent companies are in a stronger position than ever before. I believe these small providers are able to deliver to higher standards as they are not hampered by the frameworks of larger businesses. I feel smaller businesses are more responsive and that is what the adviser needs in this current climate. In addition to this, the fact we are independent also counts for a lot.
The FSA is highly focused on the SIPP market right now and there have been many questions around transfers etc. Our independence means the IFA is not tied to us which is important.
How do you feel about the future?
I just feel there are some great opportunities out there if you are willing to build relationships and be responsive to people's needs. I also feel that we need to be as transparent as possible. The SIPP market in particular has suffered as people are confused about the different types of SIPP available and how they are priced. We need to lift the lid on these products and really explain to people what they are getting as this will enable them to compare like for like and get the best product for their needs.
I also feel that SSAS will continue to be a robust market going forward. If you think about what they were designed to do they are there to create a framework for small businesses to create a retirement fund that can then be used to support that business. If more people used SSAS they could do loan backs that can prove vital in supporting businesses through tough times such as those we are currently experiencing. With this in mind I think we may well see something of a re-emergence of SSAS as more businesses look to establish them.
As for the occupational pension scheme market I think we will continue to see turmoil here for some time to come. We are seeing deficits widen and advisers are looking for new ways to deal with it. This again will be another area where we will look to provide a strong service and bring a fresh approach to these challenges.
Christine Hallett is chief executive officer of Carey Pensions UK
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