By Daniel Hunter

Around 2.6 million people who have not yet retired are most likely to look towards their employers for help with asset allocation decisions around their retirement planning, new research from Baring Asset Management has found.

Representing an increase of 1.2 million people from the equivalent figure in 2008, Barings believes that employers are set to play an ever-growing role as a result of auto enrolment, in which most employees are automatically placed into their company pension scheme.

Asked whose responsibility it is to ensure they fully understand the asset allocation of their pension fund, 14% of the people surveyed - equivalent to 5.2 million people - cited their employer, indicating that companies are experiencing increasing demand from employees to provide access to pension advice and retirement planning services.

In terms of where non-retired people are most likely to go to for advice on asset allocation for their retirement planning, the most popular choice is an independent financial adviser (IFA) with 21% of non-retired respondents - the equivalent of 7.9 million people. More than one in ten - 12%, or 4.4 million people - said that they rely on family and friends, while 16% said they use their bank or building society.

"It is encouraging that IFAs remain the most popular source of financial planning advice for consumers. The importance of an IFA's expert knowledge cannot be underplayed when it comes to effective, long-term financial planning," Marino Valensise, Chief Investment Officer at Barings, said.

"It is interesting to note, however, the significant and complementary role that employers and IFAs are set to have in helping people plan for their retirement. While the onus remains on employees to seek independent third party advice at the point of being auto-enrolled, the remit of employer responsibility is growing in the consumer's eyes. Whether engaged by the employer on behalf of their employees or by the consumer direct, the role of IFA can only grow."

The research from Barings also found that one in five people say they do all their financial planning themselves and that more than a fifth (21%) of respondents stated they had chosen their fund allocations themselves. However, nearly half (45%) of consumers reported that they did not know where their money was invested while a third (33%) said they were invested in a default option. Of those that chose the default option, 10% said the process was not explained at all while a significant number of people - 41% - did not describe the explanation as good.

"Many of the decisions in the lead-up to, and just before, retirement cannot be undone and it is essential that the best choices are made as soon as possible," Marino Valensise added.

"While it is important for people to have a clear understanding of the investments they own, the underlying asset allocations and their risk profile, many of the decisions around planning for our retirement are just too important and they should look to consult the advice of a professional."

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