Available adviser capacity is being stretched to the limit by a rapidly increasing demand for specialist DB pension transfer advice. Could putting in place an effective pre-advice triage process be the key to supporting this demand efficiently and safely in your business - and ensuring good outcomes for your clients, asks Alastair Black?

The challenge

The FCA’s 2016 adviser survey showed that demand from existing clients for DB advice more than doubled over the previous year - with enquiries from prospective new clients up a staggering 246% too.

Meanwhile, the FCA estimate 35,000 people a year may transfer from DB to DC, with some commentators putting the annual figure as high as 100,000.

Managing this considerable demand effectively hinges on building a robust, repeatable screening process that allows you to focus your valuable time quickly on the right clients.

And that’s what triage is all about.

triage quote

Why use triage?

A DB pension is a valuable benefit that meets the needs of most scheme members safely and without any hassle. Most people, most of the time, will be best sticking with DB. For these (potential) clients, time spent advising on DB transfers that have little prospect of going ahead is time that could be better spent. And no-one wants to pay a fee to be told to do nothing.

The FCA rules are clear in support of this. An adviser’s starting assumption should be that a DB transfer isn’t suitable. A transfer to DC should only be recommended if it is clearly in the client’s best interests. But it doesn’t mean it’s safe to leave clients in DB where DC would suit them better. It’s about doing what’s right for the client.

Getting triage right

Applying the triage rules effectively drives out two key outcomes:

  1. It helps you quickly filter out the cases where a transfer to DC is likely to be worth serious consideration for the client (or potential client),

  2. It helps the client gain a better understanding of whether moving from the safe DB environment is likely to be right for them

    before incurring the time and expense of providing full transfer analysis and advice.

Effective triage should mean that a higher proportion of DB transfer cases you advise on are likely to result in positive recommendations to proceed – because you’ve already eliminated the majority, where a transfer is unlikely to be suitable, at the pre-advice ‘screening’ stage.

Keeping records of every case you put through triage, not just those you’ve given advice on, creates an audit trail that explains this, evidences a robust process and helps manage any challenges from the Regulator.

How does triage work?

Triage isn’t advice. And it’s important that the (potential) client understands this. It’s typically a brief (perhaps 15 minute) conversation for both parties to explore if there’s a basis to do business. It should result in a common understanding and agreement on whether or not to move to DB transfer advice.

Document the outcome of the discussion on your file. But be careful - if you confirm it back to the client in writing, ensure they don’t think it is advice.

The rules of thumb

Triage is about using informed ‘rules of thumb’ to make a quick client assessment, built around four key considerations:

four key considerations infographic

This requires an assessment framework with agreed parameters for each of these four areas.

Setting your triage parameters

So how do you establish your triage ‘rules of thumb’ to give the quick initial assessment of whether or not a transfer from DB to DC is likely to be appropriate and merits proceeding to advice?

  • Needs - requires a fact-based assessment, perhaps based on a simplified fact find.
  • Sustainability and Value can be assessed numerically, using simplified criteria.
  • Understanding – can be tested using the softer skills in the adviser toolkit.


Alastair Black

Alastair Black, Head of Financial Planning, Standard Life

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