BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
I was six months old when Sean started work in a local retail company, since gone, and 13 when he left. During some of that period he paid into the company’s pension scheme. Over the next 50 odd years, on and off, he wondered what had become of his contributions to the plan.
Sean read my article about the need for people to keep a record of their pension pots. I wrote that “many people may have several pension pots, probably managed separately through different employer, trustee, or pension provider making it very difficult to arrive at a single figure of how much you have put aside and its estimated value at retirement”.
I cautioned on the danger that pensions can fall between the cracks through moving house and forgetting to tell your pension provider, loss of paperwork, employers no longer trading, pension providers no longer in Ireland or amalgamation and re-amalgamation with another provider, all of these in Sean’s case.
It’s no wonder money seems to disappear!
According to experts there is currently more than €500 million in unclaimed pensions funds in Ireland. I was at a recent seminar and was speaking with other advisors about the contractions in the market between broker amalgamation and the loss of so many insurance companies – we listed off quite a number of companies including, Abbey Life, Life Assurance of Ireland, Scottish Provident, Friends First, Royal Liver (another on-going case we have, but the need of in date photo ID is causing a problem!), and Norwich Union – all gone, renamed or subsumed into a bigger entity.
But the good news is providers with unclaimed funds must keep a register of unclaimed policies. They must if at all possible contact customers to tell them how to claim the proceeds of the policies and they are required to advertise in the national press twice a year to inform customers whose policies are worth less than €500.
If after 15 years there is no ‘customer-initiated transactions’ the money is transferred to the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).
The NTMA is a state body which operates with a commercial remit to provide asset and liability management services to Government including managing the unclaimed funds from dormant accounts.
According to Citizens Advice these funds are used to support “the personal and social development of people who are economically or socially disadvantaged, the educational development of people who are educationally disadvantaged and people with a disability (within the meaning of the Equal Status Acts)”.
But if people become aware of their own or a relative’s policy(s) and find the funds have been transferred to the NTMA they can contact them and apply to reclaim the funds as even though they are transferred they still remain the property of the account holder. They may be reclaimed at any time from the original account holding branch, or Head Office as appropriate, and this is where Seán’s money lies!
When Sean called initially I asked for the usual to track down the pension; paperwork – any written information which would have policy no.s, company names etc. Nothing was available so getting information wasn’t going to be straightforward especially with the passage of time.
So, I began the process with a letter of authorisation allowing me to write to each insurance company to see if they had a pension in Sean’s name, as all we had was his date of birth. One after another company came back saying they had no record for his date of birth and one asking that we send them documents with a policy number to aid the process!
Sean and I didn’t hold out much hope until last Tuesday a letter landed on my desk confirming that Sean did indeed have a pension from the Sixties with a company since amalgamated, and the funds had been transferred to the NTMA but could be reclaimed.
According to the rules we are applying through the insurance provider to have the funds reclaimed with hopefully interest attaching. We will then mature the plan and Sean will in a few weeks enjoy the proceeds of his long-lost pension.
If you think you might have funds or policies floating about unclaimed call me and we can investigate.
Tel: 086 8362633