ABI: Providers are not to blame for low Pension Wise take-up

Pension Wise jenga

Providers are refuting claims by the pensions minister that they are directing customers away from Pension Wise.

In an interview with Money Marketing published today, Baroness Ros Altmann said she is concerned providers are “driving too many people to their own in house services”.

Only around one in ten people who have accessed their pensions since April took up the offer of a free Pension Wise appointment.

But Association of British Insurers director, long-term savings policy Dr Yvonne Braun says “much more promotion” is needed.

She says: “Providers remain committed to signposting customers to Pension Wise. The low initial take-up of the service reflects the fact that it needs much more promotion. It was not helped that it was launched in the run-up to the general election.

“Even though crucial details, such as how the guidance sessions would work and the telephone number had not been agreed six weeks prior to its launch, providers had already agreed a standardised communication for promoting the service. What is now important is Government and providers work together to ensure people make maximum use of the service.”

Aegon regulatory strategy director Steven Cameron says the firm issues a letter directing people to advice and Pension Wise before any mention of their guidance services.

He says: “The Government has offered pension savers the freedom to do whatever they want with their hard earned savings. Providers should signpost clearly to what support is available. But ultimately, customers have personal responsibility for their actions including when to choose to seek support other than from Pension Wise.”

Tilney Bestinvest financial planner Gary Smith adds:While we support the requirement for those who approach retirement and, who either do not wish to seek or who can’t afford financial advice, to contact Pension Wise we disagree with the inclination that pension providers aren’t doing enough to promote Pension Wise.”

But a senior source at a major provider says: “There are a number of companies, crucially those that distribute through advisers, that have made it central to their strategy to retain customers and were quite blatant about it when Pension Wise was coming together. I was quite surprised at how upfront they were.”