Why a seasoned compliance officer asked us for help defending a complicated pension transfer complaint

Sometimes, even the most qualified and experienced compliance officer comes up against a complaint that is so complex, it can be difficult to know how best to respond.

In this particular case, a financial advice firm approached us for help after their highly qualified compliance officer admitted that, even having spent upwards of 30 hours drafting a response, he wasn’t convinced he had tackled the many complex facets of the complaint.

Recognising the complexities in the case, he called us in.

A cookie-cutter approach to handling complaints costs time and money

An IFA firm we had previously worked with received a second client complaint. Mr F filed a complaint through a complaints management company. Seeking compensation relating to a large final salary pension transfer, he claimed that the advice he’d received was negligent and that the advice firm had failed in their duty.

Some months previously, the IFA firm had worked with us when we helped them to defend a different complaint. Believing that they could manage this case themselves, their compliance officer set about dealing with this fresh complaint using the final response letter that we had drafted for the prior case as his template.

While his attempts were laudable, 30 hours later the compliance officer realised that although he’d pulled together the salient facts, his attempts to use the previous successful document as a template failed to properly address matters.

Taking the case to his MD, the compliance officer recommended they ask us for help to ensure the matter was resolved satisfactorily and as swiftly as possible.


While we werearmed with the compliance officer’s investigation file, we carried out our own investigation.

One of the reasons we’re so good at what we do is that we’re able to take a forensic approach to every complaint we defend.

In this case, our thorough investigation involved:

  • Understanding the background to the case
  • Reviewing all the available documentation and meeting notes
  • Interviewing the adviser responsible for the advice
  • Contextualising the advice within the prevailing rules
  • Reviewing published Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) decisions for similar cases.

The first and most obvious issue was the very aggressive stance the claims management company adopted, and their entirely false assertions peppered throughout the letter of claim.

Suffice to say, after an extensive investigation the claims made throughout the complaint were wholly refutable – a point that our enquiries revealed and that we were able to use in the final response, which was extensive.

Indeed, coming in at a total of 16 pages, it’s little wonder that the compliance officer had struggled in his attempts to defend the case alone.


Working closely with the compliance officer, we assisted the firm by conducting a rigorous and impartial investigation, leading to a final response letter which fairly but convincingly rebutted the complaint.

The compliance officer was happy he called us in.

Key takeaways

It’s not uncommon for compliance officers to call in expert assistance from time to time. Afterall, the role of a compliance officer is extremely demanding and covers many issues from monitoring reporting and ad hoc advice to management.

While our final response letters are the gold standard in dealing with complaints, they are not universal templates. Each final response letter is the product of an independent, in-depth, and forensic investigation. The result of the investigation informs the position the firm should take and the final response.

Attempting to fit your defence into a previously successful final response letter, treating it as a ready-made template, may be tempting, and may even work in some cases. But mounting a robust defence requires rigorous investigation, which takes time.

Once you understand all the facts of the case, the next challenge is to present your arguments in a clear and logical way. This is crucial because delivering your defence with a confident and concise narrative is essential in not only communicating with your client, but laying down the facts which may ultimately be considered by the FOS.

We work directly with large and small IFAs, compliance officers, compliance consultants, and lawyers to rigorously defend complaints. We provide intelligent, intuitive, and pragmatic advice, assuring bespoke advice to manage all your regulatory obligations, saving you valuable costs – in both time and money.

Get in touch

From evaluation of the complaint to the “final response”, and beyond, we take care of every aspect of the process. Plus, subject to your PI insurance policy, your legal defence costs may be covered.

Find out more about how we could help you resolve a complaint by talking with one of our experts.

Please email, book a short call by completing our online form, or call 029 2000 2325.