Number of pension schemes accessed for first time up 18% in 2021/22

The total number of pension schemes accessed for the first time increased by 18 per cent year-on-year to 705,666 in 2021/22, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has revealed.

Its Retirement Income Data 2021/22 showed that all products saw an increase in first-time access over the year, with uncrystallised funds pension lump sums seeing the largest rise, by 28 per cent to 36,274.

Drawdowns also saw a relatively large increase of 24 per cent, from 165,988 to 205,641.

The number of schemes where savings were fully withdrawn at the first time of access rose from 341,404 to 395,237.

Just over a third (33.4 per cent) of schemes accessed for the first time in 2021/22 were accessed by pension holders who took regulated advice, up from 32.7 per cent in 2020/21.

The overall value of money withdrawn from pension pots rose from £37.4bn in 2020/21 to £45.6bn in 2021/22, an increase of 22 per cent.

Two-fifths (40 per cent) of regular withdrawals were made at an annual rate of over 8 per cent of the pot value, down from 43 per cent the previous year.

Meanwhile, sales of annuities rose by 13 per cent, from 60,383 to 68,514.

The FCA’s figures also showed that the number of defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC) pension transfers continued to fall in 2021/22.

There were 26,619 DB to DC transfers in 2021/22, down from 30,596 in 2020/21, while the number of firms that received a DB to DC pension transfer also fell, from 63 to 57.

Commenting on the figures, Broadstone technical director, David Brooks, said: “The fall in DB transfers is the culmination of a number of factors including the limited availability and increased cost of advice that has come about since contingent charging was banned, falling transfer values and a shrinking pool of retirees with DB pensions.

"However, we have continued to see transfer advice made readily available where trustees are taking a proactive role in the provision of advice and guidance to those members approaching retirement. In these scheme-run exercises, trustees are able to upgrade their retirement processes to improve education and outcomes for members while benefiting from economies of scale when accessing IFA advice.”

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