Pension Awards 2016: how we chose this year's winners
This is the third year of the Money Observer pension awards, and is arguably one of the most interesting years for a review of the companies that have made the running in 2016's eight pension categories.
That is because this year's awards come nearly two years after the April 2015 introduction of the revolutionary 'Freedom and Choices' legislation, which introduced far greater flexibility in how retirees can take their pension pots.
Whereas last year some pension providers had not introduced all the new freedoms into their product range, this year there has been a wider field from which our judges have been able to select the winners.
The six main pension options at retirement remain: leaving your pot untouched, buying an annuity, flexi-access drawdown, uncrystallised fund pension lump sum - UFPLS (taking cash out in chunks), cashing in the whole pot, and mixing and matching those five options.
NEW AWARD CATEGORY
But as the new freedoms bed in, pension providers and independent financial advisers are working towards giving clients a more holistic retirement planning service, so that they can move seamlessly from the pre-retirement (accumulation) phase into the post-retirement (decumulation) phase of their retirement.
Some retirees require a high level of income in the early years of retirement, but by their early 80s income needs may level off as they become less active. Then in their late 80s to early 90s, income needs may surge because of health problems and care needs.
Hence a new award this year: 'Best Online Provider Pre- and Post-Retirement', which seeks to identify those providers that best help individuals through the saving and spending phases of their lives.
Many thanks to our judges, and congratulations to the winners and highly commended providers. We hope the awards will be valuable pointers to the companies most effectively meeting consumer needs before and after retirement.
Our six judges (profiled below) were asked to nominate their first choice (50 points), second choice (30 points) and third choice (20 points) for each category. Winners were picked on the basis of total points scored.
In some categories not all six of the judges made a nomination. Where there were several runners-up with the same score, we chose the provider (if any) with a first-choice nomination.
MONEY OBSERVER 2016 PENSION AWARDS JUDGES
Mark Polson, Lang Cat
Mark Polson is the founder and principal of the Lang Cat, a specialist platform, pension and investment consultancy.
The company works with platforms, life companies, fund managers and large advisory firms, helping them to develop new business propositions and turn marketing strategy into action. Polson won Professional Adviser Personality of the Year award in 2013.
David Trenner, Intelligent Pensions
David Trenner has worked in pensions for nearly 40 years, holding the Advanced Financial Planning Certificate including the G60 Pensions qualification, and has been a senior pensions examiner for the Chartered Insurance Institute.
Intelligent Pensions has won awards for excellence in pensions advice from Retirement Planner and New Model Adviser in 2014.
Minesh Patel, EA Financial Solutions
Minesh Patel set up EA Financial Solutions in 2002. His team has grown to four who handle new business generated through recommendations and referrals, largely from business owners with between £2 and £10 million worth of assets.
In 2013, Patel won the Adviser of the Year award from Unbiased.co.uk, a website providing access to professional advisers.
Nick Bamford, Informed Choice
Nick and Andrea Bamford established Informed Choice in 1994. Nick has been an independent financial adviser since 1989.
Informed Choice has grown to be one of the best-known niche IFA firms in the UK. It has won numerous awards, including the prestigious IFA of the Year award in 2010 and six Gold Standard for Independent Financial Advice awards since 2006.
Justin Modray, Candid Money
Justin Modray has worked for a number of IFA firms including Bestinvest. He left in late 2007 and later built the Candid Money website, launching it in November 2009.
He co-founded and runs the low-cost independent adviser Candid Financial Advice and the investment platform comparison site comparefundplatforms.com.
Billy Burrows, Retirement IQ
Billy Burrows has worked in annuities for 25 years and has set up several annuity websites, including William Burrows Annuities. He now runs his own consultancy business and is a leading commentator on annuities and drawdown.