Despite a certain “pension liberation” website falling foul of the advertising watchdog, the chairman sees only brilliant financial alchemy at work.


“Can we talk about psychopaths?” I asked the chairman of the implausibly-sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management as we enjoyed a pint or two of Credit Where It’s Due At The Press Release On Garden Theft Entitled Gnome Alone. “Can we talk about pension liberation sellers?” he asked all but simultaneously. “Can I make the obvious joke?” I said.

“But OK, the psychopaths can wait – what did you want to discuss about the pensions liberistas? After all, it can’t have been that long since we were chatting about whether a whole new circle of hell needed to be invented for them, can it?” “It was 23 pubs ago” the chairman replied helpfully – not to mention specifically. “But something new has come up.”

“You mean the Advertising Standards Authority’s adjudication that part of the website was misleading?” I checked. “Apparently the ad must not appear again the way it was although, when I checked a little earlier, it either still was the way it was or Pension Cash Now was running quite a tricky game of ‘Spot the difference’.

“It’s an undeniably upbeat site that promises ‘we show you how to take control of your pension and enjoy a cash bonus worth £000s’ but what appears to have upset Greater Manchester Pension Fund is the line ‘You can claim up to 20% of your pension value at ANY AGE with ZERO impact on your retirement nest egg’, which it felt was misleading and tough to substantiate.

“I am not sure why the pension fund thought that was especially worse than the questionable maths of ‘If you have a pension worth £25k or more we can get you up to £5,000’ or the breathtaking cheek of ‘Why should your money go in someone else’s pocket?’ or … hey – I may just have won the site’s ‘Spot the difference’ competition because I now realise one line is not quite the same as the ASA said.

“When I looked earlier, what the line in question actually said was: ‘You can gain a CASH bonus of up to 20% of your pension value at ANY AGE with ZERO impact on your retirement nest egg.’ I mean, do you think that’s really different enough to keep the ASA happy?” “I wouldn’t bet against it” said the chairman. “I wouldn’t put anything past those geniuses at Pension Cash Now.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Did you just call them geniuses?” “Absolutely,” said the chairman. “Why – what word would you use to describe the sort of people who can stand squarely and unashamedly behind the claim the site makes to personal pension holders, ‘You can get a CASH bonus of up to 20% of your pension value with ZERO (yes ZERO) impact on your pension savings’?”

“I’m not sure,” I said. “There are so many words that spring to mind I find it almost impossible to choose.” “Oh truly there are none so blind as cannot see,” sighed the chairman, shaking his head sadly. “This, my friend, is nothing less than financial alchemy and I would employ every single member of Pension Cash Now into our product development team except that …”

“Except that?” I prompted. “Except that every time I ring up to make an offer they always try and get me to sign over my pension,” said the chairman. “Still, that only means I’ll probably also stick a few into our sales team … just as soon as I can get a word in edgeways.” “And nothing makes you worry some of the site’s claims are not so much financial alchemy as financially improbable?” I asked.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” snorted the chairman. “If there was anything untoward going on, then surely the financial regulator would have taken action by now – I mean, these days Scam gets hit with a visit from an FCA Swat team if a brochure contains a typo or our stationery cupboard is a bit messy. Anyway, switching the subject completely away from regulation, weren’t we also supposed to be chatting about psychopaths?” “We appear to have run out of time,” I replied. “Still, in Her Majesty’s financial services industry, I dare say it’s a topic that will keep for another day.”