FCA bans adviser over £8.4m pension advice failures

FCA bans Simon Hughes for failures in advice given to British Steel Pension Scheme Members.

Related topics:  Later Life,  Regulation
Rozi Jones | Editor, Barcadia Media Limited
3rd October 2023
"Hughes demonstrated a high degree of incompetence and was grossly negligent in the advice that he provided."

The FCA has banned Simon Hughes of S&M Hughes, now in liquidation, from advising customers on pension transfers and pension opt outs, and from holding any senior management function in a regulated firm.

Hughes will also pay £158,600 to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) to contribute to redress due to his customers, most of which were members of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS). The FSCS has so far paid out over £8.4 million in compensation to Hughes’ customers for the unsuitable advice they received.

The FCA says Hughes was solely responsible for the pension transfer advice provided by the firm in his role as pension transfer specialist and financial adviser. Between April 2015 and May 2019, 232 out of a total of 287 customers were advised to transfer out of their defined benefit pension scheme, including 188 BSPS customers. This is despite FCA guidance stating that, as a starting point, it should be assumed that such transfers are not in customers’ best interests.

The regulator says Hughes "did not have a reasonable understanding of the alternative options available to BSPS customers and gave undue weight to the customers’ stated desire to transfer their pension".

He also failed to obtain the necessary information relating to the customers' financial situation and failed to properly assess whether customers would be reliant on the income from their DB pension and whether they could bear the risks associated with a pension transfer. He also recommended transfers to customers without adequately considering if the transfer met the customers’ stated objectives.

Therese Chambers, joint director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: "The decision to transfer out of a DB pension scheme is a potentially life changing one and it’s vital that customers get suitable advice. Mr Hughes demonstrated a high degree of incompetence and was grossly negligent in the advice that he provided.

"BSPS customers were particularly vulnerable, and Mr Hughes let them down badly. It is only right that he can no longer hold a senior role in financial services."

More like this
Latest from Property Reporter
Latest from Protection Reporter
to our newsletter

Join a community of over 30,000 intermediaries and keep up-to-date with industry news and upcoming events via our newsletter.