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17 Jan, 2008

Published: 07:00 Thursday 17 January 2008 By: Anonymous, Mystery Advisor

Complex Sipp/SSAS work sorts out the men from the boys when it comes to providers. Our anonymous adviser finds two that make the grade.

We have recommended Sipps since the late 1980s where the predecessor of Winterthur Life was Provident Life. We had a great relationship with the consultant, but we have gradually moved most of our Winterthur Life schemes to other providers because we just could not cope with its poor administration. Whether they have improved now, is something we cannot comment on, due to the fact we have very little contact with the company.

One characteristic of excellent customer service is the ability to consistently exceed the customer's expectations. But how often does that happen in our daily lives? Well, I am pleased to report here on two Sipp/SSAS providers who have really raised the bar.

A lot of our Sipps which were transferred from Winterthur Life went to Wolanski & Co, now Alliance Trust Pensions, although for a time we became a little fed up with seeing the name of Alliance Trust, having been one of those unfortunate recipients of Hyman Wolanski's now infamous 'multiplying' email just before Christmas 2006.

At the time, several of our clients expressed their concern that the business being sold to Alliance Trust would reduce the level of personal service. Although like many insurance companies and pension providers it has struggled with general Sipp administration since the increased workload after 'A' Day, I am delighted to report that the Alliance Trust Property team has excelled themselves. A recent example of its good work was for a group of our clients who were purchasing a commercial property. We had eight Sipps investing together with borrowings and the solicitor needing to exchange quickly. A property with borrowing through a pension scheme can take time and be complicated and it required a flexible and efficient approach. Alliance Trust was superb and thoroughly deserve our praise for their competent service.

Another accolade should go to IPS Pensions on the work done for a SSAS, also with a property purchase, but in this instance, a SSAS with a limited liability partnership. It again demanded quick action, a joint ownership agreement with VAT registration issues and also commercial borrowing. IPS handled everything smoothly, leaving us very confident in their ability to continue to deal with issues of a similar nature in the future.

This leads to comparison with the service received from Hazell Carr. This firm has so far taken six months to wind up a SSAS and transfer its assets to two Sipps, often taking a week to reply to emails and other correspondence which has compounded the frustration of the clients concerned. The particular scheme in question began as one from Scottish Equitable. Apart from AXA, which we have always trusted on SSAS issues, I would now rarely consider an insurance company for this type of scheme.

If commercial property purchase occurs it is important to choose the provider very carefully as the process of buying a commercial property in a pension scheme is more about service standards and being able to deliver on time, rather than just the pure cost of the services provided.

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