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Why the platform transfer problem is so important

Thank you to the 54 people who have taken the time to email me in recent weeks sharing unsatisfactory to woeful platform transfer experiences, the vast majority of which relate to cases since the beginning of last year. 

It’s clear that many of you have had an exasperating time and lost notable amounts, whether transferring in cash and missing part of the recovery period or being unable to trade for extended periods of time. Lost dividends, missed pension drawdown payments or a platform sending personal information to the wrong customer are examples of the sorts of problems that seem pretty inexcusable. 

I feel strongly about this issue for multiple reasons. The first is obvious: it’s simply not acceptable in this day and age to be left without access to your money for months. I appreciate that there are a number of parties involved and where electronic transfers are not supported this slows things down. But the bottom line is that the industry as a whole has underinvested in supporting the process. 

The second is that obstructing transfers – whether purposefully or not – is anti-competitive and, perhaps, takes the pressure off platforms to deliver the best possible service to customers. If a platform doesn’t fear losing customers to rivals, it is under less pressure to deliver an optimal service or lower its fees.

But facilitating transfers out is not a commercial imperative for any platform, which is why this issue has been an ongoing saga. Fortunately, there is some action happening behind the scenes. 

An industry body called Star (Speedy Transfers and Re-registration) has been set up to improve the process by setting and measuring against a best practice framework.

Platforms that have signed up for the scheme will report their transfer times, both in and out, on a quarterly basis to Star. And it will award platforms with a ‘gold’, ‘silver’ or ‘bronze’ badge, depending on how responsive the company has been with transfer requests.

The criterion for each badge has not yet been set, but Andrew Marker, the steering group’s chair, says that Star will start accrediting platforms in the first quarter of 2022. He thinks that it is reasonable to expect platforms to be able to complete transfers within two weeks. Joining the scheme is not a regulatory requirement, but you can see on Star's website that the major platforms have signed up.   

Hopefully, the scheme will improve the situation. At least the platforms that have signed up have shown a will to make the process better. It will be interesting to see what transfer times they report come next year when the Financial Conduct Authority conducts its review. 

But I also encourage you not to let a potential delay put you off transferring if you want to. While I’ve highlighted a number of horror stories recently, I think that most transfers are completed without a problem. And customer service teams should be in a better place now than they have been for much of the past year or so. 

If you experience unreasonable delays with a transfer you can always get in touch with me and I’ll try to chivvy it along. It appears to have been working so far.