- Provide general information and support as long as there’s no commercial benefit to the trustees or sponsor
- Provide transfer values (TVs) on request
- Provide factual information for comparative purposes where a pension saver might be considering a transfer. For example, where they’ve reached the scheme minimum retirement age you can show what an immediate annuity might provide.
- Promote a solution, product, or set of options. That tips into advice and is a regulated activity
- Provide unsolicited TVs without ‘context’. For this purpose, context could include signposting to information and guidance and providing even-handed educational content. It also extends to information on life expectancy so that pension savers can view their TV in the context of how long it might need to last
- Provide ‘modellers’ that make assumptions about the future, such as comparisons between defined benefits and defined contributions where future investment returns and inflation assumptions are used You also can’t take account of specific areas such as attitude to risk. Gathering such information and presenting back a potential outcome is most definitely advice.
How can you best help pension savers engage with and understand their choices?
Well, with a clean sheet of paper there’s probably a model solution. But we’re not starting with a clean sheet of paper. It’s a bit like the old joke, immortalised in The Quiet Man, where a tourist asks how to get somewhere and a local responds: “well, I wouldn’t have started from here”.
With that sage advice in mind, if you were able to start from somewhere else where would that be? In the modern digital age it wouldn’t be by trying to get everything across in writing. Nor would you remove that as an option. It’s just that most people nowadays consume information online.
The pensions industry has, historically, been slow at embracing online as a way to engage and communicate. I won’t bore you with all the stats on the trend to online. I’m sure through lockdowns you’ll have increasingly moved to online and in many cases will stay there. Recent research on mobile banking shows that around 60% of customers who moved online plan to stay.
So, if you were starting fresh, you would certainly do so with an eye to online.
Looking at the recent guidance from The Pensions Regulator (TPR), how can you use online technology to help pension savers with their benefits and options?
If you haven’t already enrolled a pension saver onto a website then your first job is to make it as easy as possible for them to get online. It doesn’t matter how good your material is if it’s too hard to access.
This is where our friend the QR code can help. QR codes have become a fundamental part of everyone’s retail and hospitality experience over the last twelve months. They’re a great way to quickly and easily direct people to content, be that animations, educational websites or tools. Just point the camera at the code and you’re on your way. You can even personalise the QR code, turning it into a password to access specific content, such as a transfer value (TV).
Compare that with having to transcribe a web URL into a browser then enter a username and password. That’s a real barrier to getting people to act. Let’s stay on the TV theme for now. Lots of schemes regularly send out TVs on benefit statements or at retirement. The TPR requirement is that if you do that, you’ll have to provide ‘context’. That extends to information on life expectancy, and even-handed educational content.
How about this as an alternative? Add a personalised QR code to the benefit statement. That takes the pension saver to a personalised micro site. Once they’ve accepted some T&Cs, they get to see their TV, alongside some useful tools, such as a longevity calculator so they can understand how long they might live, and why the TV looks like a lot of money but might not be in the context of how long it needs to last.
Supplement this with a batch of educational content and animations and that’s a fully compliant and engaging journey.
Both TPR and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have also talked about signposting to annuity comparison sites for those pension savers in a position to retire now. But we might want to go one better and pre-populate pension savers’ details into a real time annuity tool so they can compare this with the scheme income. Again, supplemented with simple explanations and animations and you’re really able to help people see the bigger picture.
Moving pension savers to online engagement also allows you to track what actions they have taken so you can better measure what they’re actually doing. That helps trustees to evidence that they’ve taken a rigorous approach and to make changes where necessary that will further improve the offering.
None of this is rocket science and the tools are currently available to transform the experience for pension savers. Now you just need to get started!
This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine June 2021 edition.
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