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The growing importance of SIPP and SSAS. Dentons Pensions’ Steve McPhillips talks to us about how they are helping advisers to make the most of opportunities in this important pensions arena

Steve McPhillips, Technical Sales Director at Dentons Pensions

Steve McPhillips, Technical Sales Director at Dentons Pensions, tells Rebecca Tomes everything there is to know about the world of SIPP and SSAS as he reflects on his experience working in the industry for over three decades.  

RT: Can you tell us about Dentons Pensions and your role in the company?

SM: We’re a provider of bespoke SIPPs and SSASs. SIPPs are personal pensions and SSASs are occupational pension schemes however, the types of investment that clients can make into them are similar.

There are, of course, some differences between SIPPs and SSASs – which we often explain to advisers and paraplanners when they ask us which of the two might be the more appropriate option for their clients.

We also provide a wide range of possible investments that you can have within a SIPP but subject to strong due diligence processes. We allow the likes of commercial property, unquoted company shares, hedge funds, etc. – but we don’t just wave things through. If an adviser comes to us with a client enquiry and it’s not something we’ve looked at before, we carry out robust due diligence. Although we try to be as flexible as possible, we will always try to avoid a situation in which a client ends up incurring unauthorised payment tax charges in their SIPP or SSAS with us. It’s our job as a provider to ensure that doesn’t happen.

We are based in Godalming and have 100 staff working in the office. We are purely an administrator of SIPP and SSAS, which means we don’t offer our own investment platform of funds or manufacture our own funds. So, my colleagues spend their days administering SIPPs and SSASs and work to do everything that the client or adviser wants them to do, whilst keeping in line with regulatory requirements which change frequently.

Our business predominantly comes from regulated financial advisers in the UK. Most of the work I do, as Dentons Technical Sales Director, involves providing educational material to advisers and paraplanners. The pandemic has had a massive impact on face-to-face events and in response to this, we changed our model as quickly as possible. In the first lockdown, we actually started to deliver a lot of our educational material through webinars, so we quickly got to know the likes of Zoom and Teams quite well.

Our educational material aims to help advisers, paraplanners, and adviser support staff with the types of things that clients might ask them about – and how you go about facilitating it – for example, commercial property; there are so many aspects to that. Ultimately, we are trying to provide as much support to the adviser community as we possibly can. It’s quite a crowded marketplace, so we try to differentiate ourselves from our competitors by providing industry-leading levels of service and help and support – and that’s largely what my role at Dentons entails. I also provide journalists with technical articles on SIPP and SSAS and on legislative matters, such as changes to the normal minimum pension age for example.

RT: Can you give us a summary of how the last year has been – in particular, touching on the growth of your SIPP business?

SM: For the 33 years that I’ve been in the industry the one constant is that year on year, things have continued to change in the pensions world. 2021 was no exception. One of the big things to happen was the Court of Appeal hearing in the Adams v Carey pensions case, back in March/April time, which has had wider ramifications not just for SIPP providers but for the financial services industry. The case revolved around unregulated introducers for business to providers and had a significant impact, in that we now have to be extremely careful in terms of how we go about accepting introduced business. For regulated advisers, it’s not an issue, but if there are introductions from advisers who are not regulated in any way, the industry has to sit up and take note.

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