Pension Funds Insider

Pension Funds Insider brings the latest pensions news and industry insights; from investment and governance updates to new mandate appointments and pensions regulatory information.

Digital Pensions – What Future for DB?

Image for Digital Pensions – What Future for DB? pension funds

Digital advancements over recent years meant, fortunately, pensions administration (like the whole of the pensions industry) was able to carry on successfully, in the main, during lockdown. However, the same cannot be said for pension scheme members themselves, particularly those of DB schemes, and that needs to change.

Research during lockdown clearly showed most members do want to engage more online with their pension and whilst DC members are generally well served, the ‘digital footprint’ of DB pensions doesn’t seem to have changed much in the past 10 years. We really need to look at why that is. Sadly,it might appear that DB has been somewhat forgotten and unloved in the digital revolution with many DB websites making no real effort to create a beneficial and meaningful user experience. Instead, they lack up to date information and can look very much like someone has picked up like the back office administration system and plonked it in the middle of a web page.

My own personal experience has done nothing to dispel that myth, with most DB sites doing nothing to create a beneficial or meaningful user experience. Generally ihaven’t been able to find the information I’ve needed when looking at making retirement planning decisions, or the methods to implement them such as good modelling tools. Neither have I been able to clearly see how and when I can take my benefits. Infact on one site I couldn’t see my DB pension at all. Seeing what date I left however and being able to change my address seems pretty straightforward!

The lesson I’ve taken is if we’re going to engage with members we need to substantially improve their digital journey. Such as:

· Providing a a modern site which is intuitive, concise and uses language people understand

· Letting members do things for themselves – from updating basic profile data to proper transactions (why can’t I retire online?), to covering as many other activities as possible

Once we have something worth visiting, how do we engage with members? We need to push them towards a digital product whenever we can. Of course we mustn’t forget the digitally disengaged and allow for their needs in all our processes, but many do want a digital experience. This in itself will help familiarise people with their pensions benefits and overcome the first barrier to encourage them to take positive actions. Pension technology needs to help people solve their pension problems – using positive “nudging” as a force for good. Here are some thoughts on how we might nudge members, for positive outcomes.

Savings based – DB members often can’t do much to increase their pension. Equally they can’t decide how much to put into their DC pots unless they understand what they’re likely to have as a DB pension. Providing a gentle prompts to engage every year provides them with some positive reinforcement of their actions and engages them with their retirement planning.

Age based – As DB members approach Minimum Pension Age, providing a reminder to check on their pension and make sure we have all their data correctly updated keeps them in touch. On reaching Minimum Pension Age, let them know they can view a retirement quote online and complete the process in the same way. If they don’t know, they won’t look.

Contact based – If DB members haven’t been on the website for a year or more, send a reminder to come back. If nothing else, they can make sure the data we’re holding for them is still correct. You might want to link this to recording validation of the basic data you’re holding.

Event based – Drive contact with DB members by scheme or their own events. For example, reminding members to update their home addresses before a major postal mailing (for anything you feel you have deliver physically or for members who have opted out of electronic communications). Some data providers can report on member activity which suggests an upcoming house move – this would be a great nudge to get them into the site.

Of course if you’re nudging for one reason, you should be reminding the DB member about everything they can do on your site – keep them up to date with the developing digital product.

Lastly, learn from DC and don’t forget the need for data scientists to help understand online behaviour and identify next development steps. I’ll leave that for another blog!

Gary Evans, Board Director at PASA