The Dublin-headquartered firm confirmed to International Adviser that it has been granted a regulatory licence by the Maltese Financial Services Authority (MFSA) to operate a qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes (Qrops) alongside a pan-European workplace pension scheme.
Describing itself as one of the largest providers of self-administered pensions in Ireland, ITC said it had chosen to expand into Malta with a new office due to “its developed pensions framework, its sound fiscal policies and its financial services infrastructure”.
Aidan McLoughlin, managing director of ITC International Pensions, said: “We are delighted to be playing our part in the development of the European pension market.”
He added that the initial feedback from advisers has been “very positive”.
The firm currently acts as trustees to over €800m (£676m, $894m) of client funds in 3,000 pension structures.
“I suspect consumers and their financial advisers are aware that these opportunities could become closed off in the next couple of years."
“Our clients are self-employed individuals, professionals, company directors, corporate clients, financial advisors and high net wealth Irish and international individuals and families,” according to ITC’s website.
EU-wide workplace pension
ITC’s new flagship occupational scheme operates under the institutions for occupational retirement provision (Iorps) EU directive – the first of its kind on Malta – which means it is available to employed and self-employed individuals from anywhere in the EU.
The product is based on pooled cross-border pension funds that manage the pension schemes of employees in different member states and can only be issued by a provider based within the EU.
Designed to offer flexibility across the 28-member states and the security of complying with the Iorp regime, the funds must follow strict safeguards including having sufficient assets to cover pension commitments, transparency around risk, fees and cost as well as being managed by professionally qualified governing bodies.
However, the schemes must meet the regulatory standards including the social and labour laws of the country where the employees are based.
ITC said its scheme is structured as a master trust with the ability to accept contributions from employers, employees and self-employed. In addition, it can accept transfers from a “wide variety of pension arrangements”.
McLoughlin said the new workplace pension scheme is the first of its kind in Malta to meet the strict criteria set out by the Irish tax authorities which states that occupational pension transfers from Ireland must be to a Iorps-compliant product.
McLoughlin added both the Qrops and Iorps are seeing “significant interest from the UK market.”
“I suspect consumers and their financial advisers are aware that these opportunities could become closed off in the next couple of years as a result of Brexit and this has spurred them to action,” he explained.
He revealed that the company is awaiting HMRC approval for its Qrops product, afterwhich it will be available to the UK market.
Proving very popular with UK expatriates since their introduction in April 2006, Qrops operate in the main jurisdictions active in the third country market which are all regulated well-known offshore jurisdictions – Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and Malta.
The benefit regimes in each jurisdiction generally follow that of the UK prior to April 2015 when the UK government introduced pension freedoms giving people unrestricted access to their savings.
This means that benefits are paid as an income after age 55, although a small number of Malta providers have since adopted the flexi-access type benefits like the ones HM Revenue & Customs introduced last April for UK defined-contribution pension pots.