The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has banned Nigel Lewis and Susan Jones of West Wales Financial Services Limited (in liquidation) (WWFS) from advising customers on pension transfers and pension opt outs. Mr Lewis has also been banned from holding any senior management functions in a regulated firm.
Mr Lewis and Ms Jones will also pay £26,800 and £40,888, respectively, to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) to contribute towards the compensation owed to WWFS customers.
Between March and December 2017, WWFS provided unsuitable pension transfer advice based on the incorrect assumption that it would be in their customers’ best interests to transfer out of their secure defined benefit pension.
Ms Jones advised 27 of 28 customers to transfer out of their defined benefit pension scheme, 25 of whom were members of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS). In total, £9,769,550 of pension funds were transferred to riskier defined contribution schemes. As part of his oversight role, Mr Lewis was responsible for ensuring that WWFS provided suitable advice and to take reasonable steps to ensure advice was suitable. He failed to do so.
The FCA intervened and stopped WWFS from processing transfers for a further 141 customers, all of whom were members of the BSPS. Had it not been for the FCA’s intervention, the risk of loss would have continued, and these customers may have transferred out funds totalling £43,722,771.
Therese Chambers, Joint Executive Director of Enforcement & Market Oversight said:
‘Mr Lewis and Ms Jones performed a double act of carelessness and incompetence that put people’s hard-earned pensions at risk.
They would have continued to provide bad advice to many more had it not been for the FCA’s timely intervention. People need someone they can trust to give them informed advice on their financial future – and it’s not these two.’