Overseas pension products imminent

UK life offices will within three years be offering British customers pension products that are registered overseas predicts pensions law guru Robin Ellison.

Ellison, head of strategic development, pensions at Pinsent Masons, says the cost of UK regulation will force providers to develop new products run from more amenable jurisdictions.

Some life offices, including Standard Life, are understood to be already looking at offshore pension products for UK consumers expecting to pay tax in the UK in retirement. While there is no tax advantage in moving a policy offshore for UK taxpayers, lower costs for providers could filter through to lower AMCs, he says.

Ellison sees the trend as part of a wider role for Europe in UK pensions. He sees three potential markets for Europe – private individuals with a Ssas or Sipp, companies trading in the UK and multinationals.

He says jurisdictions such as Ireland, Malta, Luxembourg, Belgium and Austria would all save costs for pension providers and administrators.

Ellison says: “Tax rules in the UK are 3,500 pages long – in Belgium they are four or five pages long. While there aren’t many real tax advantages if you take your benefits in the UK, it is simpler so you can offer cheaper products.”

Alan Fergusson, director of employee benefits at Kudos Independent Financial Services says: “Customers don’t just look at price and if they are being offered something offshore that they can get onshore then I think the added complexity is going to put them off. Offshore still has a racy reputation, regardless of the strength of the brand of the provider, and that is not necessarily what people want with their pension.”