Our resident consumer advocate Keren Bobker answers questions on bank transfers, a personal pension plan with Equitable Life in the UK and the consequences of not resigning from a job properly
Last week, I transferred US$20,000 (Dh73,460) from an account with Citibank in the United States to my HSBC account in the UAE. The monies have definitely left the Citibank account, but there is no sign of it in my local account and no one at the bank can give me an answer as to where it is. The money is needed to repay a loan and therefore is urgent. Can you get someone at HSBC to investigate as a matter of urgency? AK, Dubai
I referred the matter to HSBC and asked it to look into the matter because such a transfer should happen very quickly. A spokesperson for the bank said: "I would like to inform you that AK's case has been resolved. The delay in receiving her funds was due to the incorrect IBAN number she had provided the remitter." The IBAN was just one digit out, but shows how important it is to take great care when entering the number, which is now required for all bank transactions these days.
My wife has a personal pension plan with Equitable Life, although she stopped paying into it when it foundered. She has recently had a letter from them under the United Kingdom's Government Compensation Scheme asking her to send notarised copies of various documents to get some compensation. But, typically, they don't say how much compensation. It may well be that what she has to pay for the notary and for registered postage will exceed the compensation. On her last statement, dated December 31, 2011, it showed guaranteed benefits of £6,502.65 (Dh38,282.15) and a transfer value of £5,387.10. Of course, it doesn't say whether the transfer figure takes into account any penalty that might be applied for early withdrawal. QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme), I understand, is not appropriate in this instance. Equitable Life says that if she took her pension at age 55 (in two years), she would get just £15 per month. BA, Abu Dhabi
The UK insurance company, Equitable Life, ran into difficulties in the mid-1990s and closed to new business in 2000. Policyholders have been subjected to large penalties if they wanted to move their funds elsewhere. The transfer value is the amount that would be available to transfer, less any surrender penalties and exit charges. The amount in question is small, so I would not do much with it - certainly not move it to a QROPS as this is not suitable given the size of the fund. It is probably best to leave it to grow until she can take the benefits without penalty and this will depend on the retirement date of the plan. It is never going to grow to be a large sum, but she will have what is known as an Open Market Option, meaning she can shop around and go to other providers for the best annuity rate. A 7 per cent surrender penalty is quite high and with current market returns, BA's wife would be hard pushed to make that up after charges if she transferred it. I suggest asking Equitable Life for what the compensation might be as it should have done its calculation by now. I'd be surprised if it wasn't worth taking, even taking into account the cost of using a notary. Bear in mind that she may be able to take the full amount as cash if she has no other UK pensions, under what are known as the "triviality" rules. If a person has less than £18,000 in UK pension funds at their retirement date, it can be drawn as a cash sum.
My friend wants to take a vacation after working for more than two years in Dubai, but her employer is only allowing her to take it from April 2013 as they still have events to arrange for these four months. She then resigned by letter, but her boss said she would not accept it and that my friend should complete her job. My friend plans to take her passport from her boss and go back to her own country without informing her. If she does this, what will happen to my friend and what can her employer do to her? AY, Dubai
If the friend is on an unlimited contract, she is legally entitled to resign from the position at any time provided notice is given in accordance with the contract terms. If she leaves without properly resigning and having her visa cancelled, she will be marked as an absconder. This could cause her problems should she ever wish to return. If she is on a limited contract, she may be liable to pay the employer under Article 116 of UAE Labour Law, which states: "If the contract has been terminated on part of the employee ... the employee becomes liable for compensating the employer against losses incurred by him in consequence of contract termination, provided that the amount of compensation may not exceed half a month's pay for a period of three months or for the remaining period of contract, whichever is shorter, unless the terms of the contract provide otherwise."
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org