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Technical updates

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The self invested pensions market is an evolving and changing space.  We regularly publish our informal thoughts in our blog and welcome any input on the relevant issues. If you would prefer to get in touch with us direct rather than posting a comment please feel free to do so via the contact page on his website.

On 6th April 2016, the Lifetime Allowance (LTA) for pension savings falls from the current £1.25m to £1m. These notes explain the effect of the latest round of changes on SIPPs and SSASs. Anyone with other types of pension schemes in particular defined benefit schemes should seek separate guidance. Read the rest of this post…

The Chancellor has confirmed that the current tax treatment of pension contributions is to continue (for the time being at least), and now is a good time to confirm the new Tapered Annual Allowance which applies for pension contributions in the 2016/17 tax year. Read the rest of this post…

Out with the Old??

27.01.2015

I may well be stating the obvious but what an interesting year it looks like we have in store, with the new flexi-access pensions regime coming into force in April. This year is my 20th in SIPPs and I am happy to report that sexy pensions are definitely on the way - we will be engaging with you shortly for your feedback on our ongoing product development in this area. In the meantime it is easy to overlook the fact that some of the changes have an effect now, and there are points which are worth thinking about.... Read the rest of this post…

So Long Buddy

04.08.2014

Almost as exciting as England finally winning a Test match are the wholesale changes to pension legislation being introduced in 2015. I think we would all agree that the flexibility brought about by the new rules is certainly welcome and as always, clients receiving quality financial planning advice will be best placed to maximise this flexibility. Read the rest of this post…

As if the changes in the recent Budget and new LTA are not enough, there are important changes to Key Features Illustrations from 6th April. While they seem to have gone under the radar the changes to Illustrations are equally important. Read the rest of this post…

Budget 2014

21.03.2014

Well I am not sure we were quite expecting that much pensions related activity in the Budget? Read the rest of this post…

News that HMRC have changed processes on registering a new pension scheme appears to be a positive move in tackling pension liberation, but our own experience only a few days later makes me wonder if this is going to give as much protection as we would like... Read the rest of this post…

Big is best?

17.10.2013

My very first blog 4 years ago had this title, with Curtis Banks barely out of the starting blocks and some doubts as to whether we actually had any clients at that point. I remember it well it was actually my first day here. Fast forward to the present and it’s not so easy for me to be having a go at the bigger SIPP providers, now we’ve joined the club. A survey just out put us at Number 8 in terms of assets under management and if you take out the companies who don’t specialise in what I call Full SIPPs, it supports our claim to be a Top 5 Full SIPP provider. Read the rest of this post…

A key theme from the regulator for some time now is that a regulated product provider has a duty of care with regard to the client outcomes within their own product. The FCA regards us as the “gatekeeper” – effectively we decide who we allow through the gate into the world of Curtis Banks SIPPs. This manifests itself in a number of ways, the most common one being the types of investment we will allow, and it can annoy clients (“it’s my SIPP, I’ll invest it where I want”) and advisers (“who do you think you are to question my advice?”). Read the rest of this post…

Long Time Coming

07.11.2012

Sometimes I’ve wondered if I have been going too far in recent blogs when pointing out the shortcomings in sectors of the SIPP industry. Was I being too negative? Are some providers really that bad? The answer arrived with the findings of the FSA Thematic Review on SIPP operators. You only have to read the first page: “poor compliance with regulatory requirements”, “poor systems and controls”, “inadequate controls over investments”. Sounds like I wasn’t going too far after all, more like I wasn’t going far enough! Read the rest of this post…

One size fits all?

15.10.2012

The subject of a list of approved investments for SIPPs has been doing the rounds for some time and it now looks like it’s the popular choice, among SIPP providers at least. We’ve always had our doubts about it, so time perhaps to explain why. Read the rest of this post…

Indecent Proposals

11.10.2012

Many (hopefully most?) SIPP providers will (or should) impose “decency limits” on the levels of adviser charging they will be comfortable with. It was one of the questions asked by the FSA in their survey of SIPP providers in 2011, and the subject of a recent article saying that providers could get sued if they didn’t impose these limits. We think it is a key area where the product provider needs to be doing something as part of their “good housekeeping” role. Read the rest of this post…

SIPP capital adequacy is in the news again, with news from one of our competitors that they are holding a whopping 4 times the FSA requirement. Well yes they are, but you’ll have spotted from one of my earlier blogs that 2 otherwise identical SIPP providers can have different capital requirements of 6 weeks or 13 weeks expenditure, depending on how they hold client money. Read the rest of this post…

Same old stuff

10.08.2012

Well, there are lots of positive things to say about SIPPs: flexibility, transparency, quality of service etc automatically jump out and more often than not I am the first to sing their praises. I’m making no apologies though about returning to the same old stuff, as I am now reading that the Serious Fraud Office and seven other agencies are joining forces against pension fraud, much of which is said to be centred on SIPPs. Read the rest of this post…

Catch 22

04.07.2012

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22.........” Or, in the more erudite wording of the formal definition of a Catch-22 I read on the internet “A paradox in which the attempt to escape makes escape impossible”. Read the rest of this post…

Worth The Agro?

31.05.2012

Many of you will have seen the reports in the trade press of the recent administration of the Sustainable Wealth Group, which includes Sustainable Agroenergy Ltd specialising in tree plantations in South East Asia. Reports are of 1,500 – 2,000 SIPPs with total sums involved of around £40m. Read the rest of this post…

Terms of Business

21.05.2012

We feel keeping up with FSA expectations is generally a positive selling point for us , but one of the downsides is when we are perceived to be making a nuisance of ourselves asking for things which others don’t ask for. The difficulty we have is that with SIPP regulation barely 5 years old, standards across dozens of providers can be variable. Read the rest of this post…

The DIY SSAS?

23.04.2012

When you think about this, this difference between a SIPP and a SSAS is bigger than first appears. For a start, the SSAS operator need not be a trustee of the SSAS in the same way or even act in the capacity of Scheme administrator as it would be under a SIPP, removing the inconvenient matter of having to sign up to the investment as a trustee. The SSAS members can be the only trustees and hence invest the money where they want. Read the rest of this post…

Keep It Simple Stupid. Due to my various limitations words often directed towards yours truly. Well as we hold our breath for next week's budget we sincerely hope that the “Coalition Quad” stick to the KISS principle. Further tinkering with pensions legislation runs the risk of seriously damaging the credibility of the pensions industry and more importantly consumer trust in pensions saving. Read the rest of this post…

For regular followers you will know that we like to keep you abreast of our progress as a provider and it’s that time of year again. As you may know we started trading in July 2009 and thankfully our business plan has remained on course as Scheme numbers have grown to in excess of 4000 in two and a half years, with terms of business now in place with over 400 introducers. Read the rest of this post…

...Now if you are a global business your brand might be worth lots of money, but if you are a small local tradesman your intellectual property possibly isn’t worth much, and not the amount it has been transferred to the SSAS for. A cynic (who me?) might say this is a convenient way of getting round the loanback rules.... Read the rest of this post…

Family SIPPs, and the Scheme Pensions they aim to provide, have become an endangered species recently, and recent reports indicate they might even be close to extinction. The key component of these products was the Scheme Pension, a fixed rate of pension which a SIPP or SSAS could provide through income drawdown, individually calculated for the client rather than using a standard GAD table. The income could be a lot higher than under normal drawdown, particularly after age 75 under the old ASP restrictions or if the client had a reduced life expectancy. Read the rest of this post…

Why is this important? Well, all regulated firms have minimum capital adequacy requirements and the FSA have been looking closely at SIPP operators recently. Their concern is that the more complex nature of SIPPs, and the unusual investments in many SIPP books, could mean that SIPP operators will need more capital, should they ever need to run down their operations in an orderly way. Read the rest of this post…

An important subject this one, with increased regulatory interest in the more unusual investments held by SIPPs, the advisers who promote them and the SIPP companies which allow them. Read the rest of this post…

Green is good?

26.09.2011

“Eco-investments” have seen a big increase in popularity recently, partly driven by frustration at low returns on traditional investments and partly by the wish to do something good for the planet and earn money at the same time. Whether its forestry, farmland, bio fuels, carbon credits, wind turbines or solar panels, there’s a big choice out there and many SIPPs have bought into the idea. Read the rest of this post…

Anyone who has been drawing the maximum GAD could be seeing a big reduction when the pension next gets reviewed. Estimates vary, but reports that maximum pensions could halve in some cases could turn out to be true. Our experience is that those in income drawdown generally know it’s coming, but it could be worse than they expect. Read the rest of this post…

Since we started trading in July 2009, our business plan has remained well on course and has been strengthened by the acquisition of the Montpelier SIPP and SSAS book in May this year. We are halfway through our current trading year and now is a good time to report on our current position. Our business plan has been to develop relationships with quality financial advisers for the introduction of SIPP and SSAS clients, and to explore potential acquisitions, in order to build up a significant book of clients to deliver sustained long term profitability. We have been highly successful in achieving this. Read the rest of this post…

Flexible Drawdown

05.07.2011

There seems to be mixed understanding on Flexible drawdown at the moment given that a number of SIPP providers are reluctant to offer this until later in 2011. An example is the question that I am asked on a regular basis: “when are you launching your Flexible Drawdown SIPP?” There is a slight “Emperor’s New Clothes” feel about simply rebranding and presenting a Flexible Drawdown product so that is not the direction we are going in. The reality is that Flexible Drawdown is an option currently available under the Curtis Banks SIPP, Group SIPP and SSAS. Read the rest of this post…

Business As Usual

16.06.2011

On the news front you may have noticed in the financial press that we recently acquired the assets of Montpelier Pension Administration Services Ltd (MPAS). This is good news for us – it bolsters our SIPP and SSAS numbers to approximately 3000 and moves us up into the top 10 full SIPP providers – but more importantly, it strengthens our position to cope with the increasing regulatory responsibilities which SIPP providers now face. Read the rest of this post…

Cheltenham

25.03.2011

I’ll get the serious message bit out of the way first in case you do a Ken Clarke and fall asleep by the end of this blog. Read the rest of this post…

Part 3 comes hot on the heels of Part 2, with clarification now received from HMRC which means that (in a darkened room with a wet towel wrapped round my head) I can now understand how these new GAD rates will operate. Read the rest of this post…

Regular viewers will remember Part 1 where I speculated about the possibility of a new GAD table coming out as part of all these new changes and, lo and behold, it appeared yesterday. Read the rest of this post…

Calling this Part 1 may well prove dangerous given that there are still a few grey areas in the new drawdown rules (which we’re working hard to get to the bottom of) and a sequel or two may well be necessary on this subject. An interesting rumour which is doing the rounds is whether we are going to get an entirely new GAD table as part of all these changes rather than just a new set for those over the age of 75 as we say goodbye to ASP. Read the rest of this post…

Wow! First the new contribution rules, now the new income drawdown rules have been published – Christmas has come early! Financial planners are going to be busy over the next couple of years and it’s a great opportunity to help clients get best value from the new rules. The headline rules follow the proposals from a few months ago, normal drawdown and the option of tax free cash beyond age 75, 55% tax on lump sums on vested funds on death and the new option of flexible drawdown subject to maintaining a secure income of £20,000 p.a. Read the rest of this post…

A long held view of mine is that SSAS clients deserve to be treated in a similar vein to SIPP clients – the products are virtually identical except for the huge amount of PR and product development bestowed on SIPPS over the past 10 years. As part of our commitment to give SSASs the same high standards of treatment as our SIPP clients, we have just launched our online SSAS service. You and your SSAS clients will be able to log onto our website and view data such as the SSAS asset values, bank account transactions and fund splits, in the same way as you currently can for SIPPs. Read the rest of this post…

RIP Annuities?

05.11.2010

Whilst whiling away the hours waiting for the new income drawdown rules (expected at the end of Autumn for those of you as interested as me in these things) I came across an article suggesting “another nail in the coffin for annuities?” Delving deeper, I found reference to an EU court ruling on equality which, amongst other things, potentially applies to annuity rates. Read the rest of this post…

There are few things in life that transcend both a man's vanity and his willingness to do things at which he has limited or no ability. Well I have found one and as it is at my expense I thought you may like to hear about it... Read the rest of this post…

Well, you all know the news by now, the new Annual Allowance for tax relief on pension contributions will be £50,000. Good news or bad news? Well, I think it’s very good news for 4 big reasons.. Read the rest of this post…

We hear a lot in the press on the growth of the SIPP market. Double digit growth year on year and I recently read a statistic that over 70% of new individual pension business is SIPPS. Wow – pretty impressive right? In fact for as long as I can remember SIPPS have been regarded as the success story in pensions following a myriad of own goals from different areas of financial services. All rosy in the garden and a super-smashing-lovely place to be? Well yes SIPPs are a huge success but a closer look at the market and its participants throws up some challenging issues... Read the rest of this post…

One of these days someone will produce a statistic on how much of our lives we spend being on hold in a telephone queue, a bit like those ones telling us how much of our lives we spend brushing our teeth or reading the paper. Judging by my own experiences this week, it’s probably several years. Read the rest of this post…

Computer says No

10.09.2010

Increasingly I ‘m being told that the computer often says no at other pension providers, but one area where this is looking like a big problem is the proposed changes to benefits resulting from the government’s plans on the abolition of the age 75 rules. Read the rest of this post…

Defaqto have just published their 2010 guide to SIPPs and it’s well worth a read, with or without the sun lounger and pina colada, over the Bank Holiday weekend. Defaqto are independent and knowledgeable and their analysis of the market is widely used. Every man (or woman) and his dog will tell you that their SIPP has super service which is why we place a great deal of value on independent verification such as that carried out by Defaqto. Thankfully we tick the right boxes on product features, which is why the nice Defaqto people give us 5 stars and rate us highly, which then helps advisers in being able to recommend us. Read the rest of this post…

Sexy Pensions?

16.07.2010

Whisper it but are pensions becoming sexy again? Arguing the toss on what defines sexy is a tricky one but what we can say is the latest consultation document from Westminster reinforces the notion that the Coalition Government are having a positive effect on pensions. These are really big changes, not just removing the age 75 rule but replacing all income drawdown with capped and flexible drawdown options from April 2011. This is by no means a done deal as the consultation period runs up to 10th September but nevertheless this is something to get excited about. Read the rest of this post…

The Age Lottery

05.07.2010

There’s two parts to this blog, as Sven might have said “first half not so good, second half better”. Both parts relate to the lottery people are facing of different pension rules depending on how old they are – or rather when they were a specific age, be it over 75 or age 50 – 55. Read the rest of this post…

Reasons to be cheerful After yesterday’s expected tough Budget, only a resounding win in the football this afternoon can possibly cheer us all up (unless you are female or non-English in which case an early exit might be the good news you are looking for). It wasn’t all doom and gloom in the Budget though; the news on pensions should cheer us all up regardless of what happens this afternoon. Read the rest of this post…

Not sure what was the more depressing over the weekend, Robert Green’s hand to eye coordination or what I read catching up on some pension stuff. The subject of cash deposits in SIPPs reared its ugly head again in an article posing questions of rip-offs, with lots of responses to the article being very negative about SIPPs in general. It’s clear that this issue hasn’t gone away and it is giving SIPPs a bad name. Read the rest of this post…

Even worse for advisers is that there is a real risk that their own client relationship is in danger of being damaged when service levels fall through no fault of their own - they are being caught in the cross fire and can ill afford to do so. Read the rest of this post…

That’s the headline on the front page of today’s Times, with talk of a rush to sell assets before CGT rates go up. If any of your clients are looking to do this, in specie pension contributions to SIPPs have to be an option worth considering. Read the rest of this post…

First we had the 7 page coalition policy document, now we have the “full” 36 page document. Lots more detail on pensions, then? Well, not quite, the first 9 pages of the new document are glossy words and a picture of the honeymoon couple, so it’s not as big as it looks, but a bit more detail is starting to emerge. Read the rest of this post…

Like most newlyweds, the LibDems and Tories are probably not thinking about pensions on their honeymoon, but already it is possible to pick up on some pointers for how the next 5 years might shape up. Read the rest of this post…

So the election is here- it has been on the telly so it’s official. Trying to decipher the hot air, sorry manifestos, and apply that to our small little world of pensions is no easy task. May be wide of the mark but my initial thoughts are that for our industry we have to ask ourselves if the outcome be it red, blue or yellow (OK Clegg did OK on the telly but this is still a push) how much will this matter? Some initial pre election musings... Read the rest of this post…

This blog is meant to be light hearted comment on the pensions industry, but sometimes it is difficult to see the funny side. For example the Budget news that the government is intending to plough on with the measures for restricting contribution tax relief for high earners rather than simply reducing the annual allowance. This is downright depressing as it ignores the almost unanimous pleas from the industry to deal with the issue much more simply (how often do we all agree on something!), and frankly the new rules are complicated enough already and it looks as if they will get even worse, if that’s possible. Read the rest of this post…

Light Relief

04.03.2010

Can anyone remember the football manager that had the nickname the tinker-man? He may well have surfaced at HM Treasury as the goalposts have been shifted again on pension contributions. Read the rest of this post…

Quite early on when deciding what sort of provider we would like to be two things were obvious: 1) Lets take the Roy Walker approach to the SIPP market and “say what we see” and 2) Rather than fritter (other words were used) money away on research why don’t we listen to advisers and planners about what matters to them. Read the rest of this post…

A report just issued by Investor in Customers highlights below-average performance by SIPP operators, compared with their benchmarks. Well, we spent much of 2009 banging on about poor performance, so it’s good to hear independent confirmation of what we have been saying. Read the rest of this post…

The start of a new decade inevitably brings with it a look back over the past 10 years and how life has changed. Amongst all the trends developing over the past decade – the rise of reality TV, texting, blogging and tweeting etc – a more serious trend has been widespread public disillusionment with pensions. Read the rest of this post…

End Of Year Report

18.12.2009

As we power through the end of the year looking forward to a well earned festive break it’s as good a time as any to look at our achievements since we launched the business and the overall SIPP landscape. Read the rest of this post…

Anyone with any exposure to the world of Curtis Banks recently will have heard us banging on about the worries of some firms exploiting loopholes in the pension rules, particularly taking unauthorised payments to accelerate the removal of funds from a scheme. Read the rest of this post…

In my safe domestic existence you would be surprised at the number of different ways of pushing your luck Read the rest of this post…

Missing The Point?

23.10.2009

The recent demise of the Freedom SIPP and the hefty tax charges on its unfortunate clients has generated a lot of column inches. Rightly so, and the comments that the regulatory regime is not fit for purpose when pension investors, through no fault of their own, suffer when their provider gets wound up certainly appear to be justified. Read the rest of this post…

Handle With Care

13.10.2009

The realisation as a teenager was hard to take: my future career was not going to be professional sports. At the time I dabbled with football, rugby and American football and was close to making the grade except for a lack of athleticism, skill and fitness plus I’d just discovered girls and pubs which as I have found in later life rarely add to productivity. Read the rest of this post…

Well you can dance if you want to (more running man than rumba myself) but I think as an industry we can come up with a more constructive response to the FSA’s findings on “non-relationship-managed” or small SIPP operators. Read the rest of this post…

Being Reasonable

09.09.2009

We all will have day to day experiences that will test our patience and OK personally some gripes are justified and some just plain and simple lack of tolerance. Read the rest of this post…

Calling All SSAS's

20.08.2009

Despite being virtually identical to SIPPs, a large proportion of SSASs are overpriced, underserviced and out of date. Read the rest of this post…

Now I have looked this up and hybrid should mean "something made up of a mixture of different aspects or componenets". Well except in our industry where it seems that hybrid means "not quite a ...........such as my friend has a hybrid-attractive girlfriend and I support a hybrid premier league football team". Read the rest of this post…

Taking a Turn

29.07.2009

Unsurprisingly SIPP fees and their transparency interest me and are something that I will talk about on a daily basis - rock and roll lifestyle choice I know. Read the rest of this post…

Big is best?

20.07.2009

What’s the biggest problem advisers face on SIPPs? Well, one of our top adviser contacts reckons it’s poor service from SIPP providers. Most advisers with involvement in the SIPP market know that there are providers giving poor service, and when I talk to them the same names keep coming up, it’s a sort of unwritten secret. Read the rest of this post…