Updated: December 12, 2019

How Long Should a Pension Transfer Take?

How long does it take to complete a pension transfer? Find out what the timeline looks like in this article

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Richard Angliss

Author: Richard Angliss - Finance Expert

Updated: December 12, 2019

There are many reasons why you might want to transfer your retirement savings, but one of the questions that concerns people before they go through with a pension transfer is the process and how long it is likely to take.

Whether you’re transferring between pension schemes in the UK, are combining your pensions into one pot, or are transferring to a pension overseas, the pension transfer timeline can vary.

So there isn’t an exact answer, but it is possible to get an indication of how long it might take.

How long should a pension transfer take?

The timescales vary but, according to research carried out by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the average time it takes to complete a pension transfer is 16 days.

Consider that a guide, as there have been cases where transfers have taken over six months (indeed, this is about average for a defined benefit transfer). It’s also thought that final salary pension transfers can take the longest of all to transfer.

If you have any concerns about pension transfer timescales we advise speaking to one of the pension transfer advisors that we work with. They can give you an estimation of how long it might take, though keep in mind the length is usually determined by the provider, their process and the type of pension scheme in question.

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What factors can affect the timescale?

The process for transferring a pension varies between schemes and providers, so being aware of the following protocols is beneficial:

Type of transfer
Paperwork
Fees and exit charges

There are different types of transfer which may impact on how long it takes to transfer a pension. This includes transferring to a SIPP, an occupational pension transfer or transferring all your pensions into one pot.

For a transfer to happen you’ll need to present a number of documents so to save time, it’s useful to have them to hand when your pensions advisor asks for them. This includes your ID and details of existing and previous pensions.

Again, this will vary between providers but if your transfer involves paying a fee, factor in that you may need some time to get that money together. For example, if the transfer fee costs £1,000 you may need time to save that up.

How long should a defined benefit pension transfer take?

Defined benefit (DB) transfers can take longer than defined contribution transfers – around six months is average for these schemes.

They can take longer because your pensions advisor is legally obliged to ensure that you fully understand the implications of leaving a defined benefit scheme. Most experts would not recommend exiting a DB plan, except in exceptional circumstances.

Expect your advisor to be thorough during the fact find and present you with in-depth information about the pros and cons of the transfer.

How long does an expat pension transfer take?

If you’re moving overseas and want to transfer your pension to a scheme that’s based in the country you’re moving to, then there are processes in place which need to be completed before you transfer into a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) that may impact on the pension transfer time.

For example, depending on where you move to, you may have to pay a tax. If you’re moving between the European Economic Area (EEA countries) there isn’t a tax, and there are other exclusions too, like if your UK expat pension transfer is to a pension that’s run by your employer – these are aspects that can add on time to how long the transfer takes.

Is it possible to speed things up?

The average time to transfer a pension can vary. If there’s a delay it can have an effect on what you can spend while you’re waiting.

If you’re worried you might be affected by waiting, it’s best to speak to one of the expert pensions advisors we work with first. Make them aware of your concerns about the pension transfer timeline before it happens as they may be able to ensure a quicker transfer.

Generally speaking every provider should operate a timescale that they deem to be ‘reasonable’.

If you can do the transfer online, it’s generally quicker than completing a paper application, so bear that in mind too and ask your provider if an online transfer is possible.

How to find out more about pensions transfers

If you have further queries and are keen to speak to an expert, give us a call today on 0808 189 0463 or arrange a free, no obligation chat with one of the expert advisors we work with who really understand the pensions market.

So sit back and let us do all the hard work in finding the pension advisor with the right expertise for your circumstances. Remember, we don’t charge a fee and there’s absolutely no obligation.

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We can help! We know everyone's circumstances are different, that's why we work with brokers who are experts in pensions. Ask us a question and we'll get the best expert to help.

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Richard Angliss

Richard Angliss

Finance Expert

About the author

Richard Angliss has made a career in financial services which stretches over 40 years.

His early career was spent learning about the various financial products and applying them to prudent advice, working for one of the largest life assurance and investment firms. After that he joined the financial services arm of a very well-known firm providing independent advice to their 8 million customers.

For the last 20 years he has been involved in building software solutions that help Advisers and clients work together to achieve good financial outcomes and helping to set up three independent advisory firms. He also has written many articles for financial services publications and provided commentary for newspaper journalists.

At an early stage in his career he realised the great satisfaction that comes with being able to help people achieve their goals and protect their families. “Regulation of financial services has hugely impacted on ensuring people get appropriate advice. The issue these days is access to that advice and just as importantly regular reviews to make sure that everything stays on track”.

With the growing development of online resources such as Online Money Advisor he sees a great future for people to access advice to make their pension and investment work harder for them.  Plus, of course, to ensure they have insurance products in place that will be required when unforeseen events happen.

He knows getting that balance right is crucial to prudent financial planning and the wellbeing of individuals and their families.

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*Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of the most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The information on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms that are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs.

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