TPO upholds transfer complaint against WTW and Lloyds Pension Trustees

The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) has upheld a transfer complaint against Willis Towers Watson (WTW) and Lloyds Banking Group Pensions Trustees, awarding compensation of around £25,522.

The complainant, Mr G, argued that the delays by WTW and the trustee or James Hay in effecting a transfer of his pension rights from the scheme and investing the cash equivalent transfer value (CETV) resulted in a lost investment return of £25,522.

He also argued that he had suffered considerable distress and inconvenience, for which the ombudsman ordered the trustee to pay £500.

However, the ombudsman did not uphold the complaint against James Hay, stating that the overall time taken by WTW, on behalf of the trustee, to respond to James Hay’s letter, dated 30 November 2016, was "excessive".

Furthermore, he stated that WTW’s failure to provide the requested information in a timely manner had prevented James Hay from investing the transfer payment received on 10 January 2017, which has caused “significant actual financial loss”.

Indeed, James Hay had requested the requisite information for the transfer and investments on 30 November 2016, subsequently chasing via a phone calls on 19 December 2016 and 12 January 2017, where it stated that WTW's failure was “delaying investment of £1.4m”.

In addition to this, Mr G also complained to WTW about its failure to provide the necessary information which was preventing him from investing the transfer in January 2017.

WTW sent the requisite information on 23 February 2017, with James Hay subsequently investing Mr G’s transfer payment in accordance with his instructions on 1 March 2017.

Mr G argued however, that if the information had been provided without undue delay, the CETV would have been invested on 10 January 2017, calling for compensation for the loss of investment return as a result.

TPO's decision emphasised that whilst James Hay and WTW have both said that they acted in accordance with standard industry practice dealing with the transfer, they have also admitted that there is no evidence available to corroborate this.

Despite this, it found that James Hay is entitled to rely on the agreement with Mr G, which established an understanding that it would seek satisfactory transfer information from WTW before investing the CETV.

However, the ombudsman, Anthony Arter, stated that the overall time taken by WTW to fully respond to the letter was "excessive" and that the oversight represents maladministration on the part of WTW.

He also stated that whilst WTW was extremely busy at the time, this does not excuse the firm from failing to give this request priority after being told that the delays were preventing investment of the CETV, stating that this amounts to further maladministration.

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