WITH the subject of Brexit continuing to suffocate all aspects of debate in the UK, the majority of the population are getting on with their lives, most of whom don’t have the luxury of just sitting back and waiting to see what happens.

Leaving the EU is of course a huge moment for the country and whatever the outcome it is likely to have an influence of some sort on our futures.

However, aside from the Brexit hot air, the work of different consumer regulatory authorities is ongoing and important discussions are taking place that could have a real and direct impact on the everyday lives of pretty much every adult.

City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is currently undertaking a number of consultations on the subject of defined benefit pensions.

Unsurprisingly, given the potential financial risk to individuals, the theme of defined benefit transfers, regulation of advice and the related costs of this advice are a high priority for the FCA.

As it stands, anyone with a defined benefit pension can transfer the value of their fund into a private pension scheme.

There are pros and cons to doing so, and independent financial advice should always be taken; indeed, if the value of the fund being transferred exceeds £30,000, the law requires advice to be taken.

Among the proposals that are being brought forward, one surrounds the subject of non-contingent charging.

Given the complexity of pensions, it is crucial that individuals receive appropriate professional advice from a properly qualified adviser, no less so than if you were using an accountant or a lawyer to help you in their areas of expertise. And this advice costs.

At the moment, some advisers may or may not charge for the advice, depending on whether you actually proceed with a transfer, or more accurately whether the adviser recommends transferring or not.

The regulator’s suggestion is that a fee should apply, regardless of what the final outcome is. However, it is important for customers to note that the same work is involved in coming up with that advice whether they ultimately decide to transfer or not.

What this means is that consumers will need to accept that a cost will be involved, whatever happens.

The question arises as to whether this will actually discourage enquiries?

On a similar topic, there is a view from the FCA that fees for advisers authorised to do this type of work should be capped.

This is of course broadly good news for consumers, especially with some advisers charging around four per cent of a fund’s value - excessive by any measure.

It could encourage more to at least undertake a review of their pension situation, something that is critical for retirement planning.

That said, there is a risk it may discourage some advisers from continuing to provide this type of service, with the result being less choice for individuals, especially for those who require advice at an early stage before progressing matters.

If this is implemented the key message for consumers is that it will be more important than ever to shop around.

A further proposal is that one of the new workplace pensions should be the first port of call for any fund being transferred.

Currently, there is a presumption at the start of any advice process, that remaining in a defined benefit scheme is the best option.

After that, an adviser is free to recommend a fund they believe is most suitable to the individual’s requirements.

This new proposal begs a number of questions around how well an individual understands their pension, whether they can make informed decisions on how to invest it, or indeed how they will cope when no ongoing advice is available from the trustee or adviser who set it up originally.

While that could well end up being cheaper in terms of costs, will it be suitable for that individual, particularly those with substantial defined benefit transfers?

Ultimately, the whole issue of pensions is more important than ever, especially with the prospect of state retirement provision growing thinner by the day.

Whether these new proposals come into effect or not, if you are in this position with a defined benefit scheme, find yourself an adviser, make sure they are authorised, and ask questions.

And then ask some more.

Keith Brooks is a chartered financial planner at Aberdein Considine.