Community union considers steel pensions advice action

Richard Bevan
Image caption Richard Bevan said the issue is 'massive' for him

A steel union has said it could take legal action if there is evidence its members have been mis-sold pensions by independent financial advisors.

One Tata worker told BBC Wales he has lost almost £200,000 by transferring out of the British Steel Pension Scheme after seeking advice of a local firm.

Richard Bevan has been working in the industry for almost 40 years, most recently at Tata's Trostre plant.

The financial firms he used said they acted properly throughout.

Mr Bevan said he turned to a local company to discuss what to do with his pension savings once it became clear that Tata's British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) would close.

He said he was advised to leave the scheme even after he had been written to by the BSPS warning him that a revaluation was under way that could mean he had much more in his savings pot than previously thought.

"The pension's got to last me the rest of my life," he said.

There are around 130,000 current and former workers in the BSPS in the UK.

As it ends, they have the choice to transfer to a new scheme, which is less generous but still better for most people than a second option, the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

But it is a third option, transferring out of the scheme completely, that is causing most concern.

Experts have warned of a "feeding frenzy" by some financial advisers.

With some facing an uncertain Christmas over this major financial decision, unions are urging people to be careful and say they will step in if evidence emerges of wrongdoing.

Community union national officer Steve McCool said: "We'd always need to examine, is there any kind of legal action that could be pursued on behalf of members?

"Unions will always in the first instance look to see what legal leverage that they would have in order to pursue the interest of their members if it's been proven there's been large scale mis-selling here.

"But time will only tell on that. We can't pre-judge it. Yes, we're very concerned. There's a lot of vulnerable people out there making decisions on amounts of money they've never experienced before in their lives."

Celtic Wealth Management is the Swansea-based company Mr Bevan used to transfer out of the scheme.

It says it did not offer advice and acted as a so-called introducer to Midlands-based regulated financial advisor, Active Wealth. Both companies say they acted properly throughout.

The regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) , has been to Swansea, to warn advisers of their responsibilities.

Image caption The FCA said it had found much the same circumstances in its work over the last 18 months

Megan Butler, of the FCA, said: "This is a highly specialised area of financial advice. Not every advisor can do this. They need a very particular set of permissions and skills to be able to do this.

"But what we have found is that advisors aren't always giving the care and attention they need to the individual to ensure that the advice is specific enough and suitable for them."

The Welsh Government provided Celtic Wealth Management with £118,500 of financial support under the Aid for Job Creation scheme in 2014.

"Like any other company receiving Welsh Government support, Celtic Wealth will be required to provide proof to ensure they are operating within the terms of their grant upon the completion of the project," said a spokesperson.

Mr Bevan: "As a taxpayer that money is indirectly coming from working people like myself.

"To think that a company, who I think have absolutely misled me to transfer my pension out, for them, to get government funding and backing, I don't think it's acceptable to be perfectly honest with you."

Members of the pension scheme only have another few weeks to decide where to transfer their savings.

For many, it will be one of the biggest financial decisions they will ever make.