Questions of Cash: With Aviva at risk, should I be worried about my pension?


Paul Gosling
Friday 01 May 2015 18:58

Q. The Independent reported the story of a Frenchman with a legal claim against Aviva over a fixed-price arbitrage life contract that could potentially send the insurer to the wall. I have more than £50,000 with Aviva. Should I consider moving my pension fund to another provider? NK, by email.

A. A spokeswoman for the insurer responds: "Aviva France remains appropriately provisioned and its reserves are reviewed annually with the French regulator."

We also asked a financial adviser at Hargreaves Lansdown for its opinion on Aviva. Danny Cox said: "Will Aviva go bust? That is highly unlikely and, if it did, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme limit for a long-term insurance product such as a personal pension is 90 per cent of the value, with no upper limit. Will the charges on the pension plan go up? Again very unlikely. Contracts taken out since 2000 are generally much better value than prior to that date, and the weight of competition in the market is driving charges down, not up. If Aviva increases the charges, you would have the option to transfer to another provider.

"Will the investment performance of the funds deteriorate? Possibly, but they could also improve… a move, perhaps to a self-invested personal pension, could provide more investment choice of funds, shares, trackers, exchange- traded funds etc."

Q. My husband and I would like to give our son in Australia a substantial sum – £50,000. Is there a safe, less costly route than bank transfer? SS, by email.

A. A good currency exchange specialist is likely to offer you a better exchange rate and lower charges than the banks. If you log on to and enter the details of your transfer, you can obtain a quote and compare rates, charges and terms.

Q. I logged on to my online Santander bank account to pay a bill. Moments after I logged off, I received a call from the bank's security department. A very aggressive woman interrogated me for 15 minutes, asking so many questions that I wondered if this was a fraudster. In the end I hung up. She then locked me out of my account when I tried to make an official complaint. VB, London.

A. Your account has now been unlocked and credited with £40 as a gesture of goodwill.

A spokeswoman for Santander says that as you were setting up "a new online payment for over £1,000", and "at a time when fraudulent activity is on the increase, further procedures have been put in place to protect our customers. Our main concern is the security of our customers' accounts … We have reviewed the calls the customer had with our fraud contact centre, but cannot agree that any advisers were aggressive… However, it is evident from one of the calls that the customers was provided with the incorrect information regarding the option to opt out from our automated calls."

Q. I bought some trousers from H&M for £18 and had shortened at a dry cleaners. When I got them home, I washed them as per the label instructions. When I wore them for the first time, I noticed that they had shrunk. I took the trousers back and got a refund, but H&M has refused to refund the cost of the alteration. MS, London.

A. A spokeswoman for H&M says: "The customer received a full refund… H&M cannot reimburse customers for any alteration costs … As a gesture of goodwill we have offered the customer a £20 gift card." You have accepted this offer.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But we'll do our best to help if you have a financial dilemma. Email us at:

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