Experts are calling for a mass awareness campaign for pensions guidance next year after Legal & General saw just 2.5 per cent take-up in its initial pilot earlier this year.
The pilot scheme wrote to 9,000 customers between April and May but just 225 retirees accepted the offer of guidance. Experts say the unwillingness of savers to engage with the guidance presents a significant policy challenge to the Treasury.
JLT Employee Benefits Trustee Solutions executive Margaret Snowden says: “We need a major pensions publicity and advertising campaign to encourage people to go for guidance. If there is then I would expect take-up to be closer to 30 per cent, which is probably not high enough. It depends on how it is promoted and how accessible it is. If it is low key, take-up will be poor as people are reluctant to put themselves forward.”
Labour shadow pensions minister Gregg Mclymont says the L&G pilot should act as a “warning” to policymakers.
Fidelity retirement director Alan Higham adds: “Without any changes to provider communication it simply leaves all the same problems the FCA found in its annuities review on engagement.”
Chartered Insurance Institute research into guidance, conducted in August, found 92 per cent of those surveyed said they would probably or definitely use guidance.
The study surveyed 1,000 “target users” who are within five years of retirement with a DC pot and other assets each of less than £100,000 and who did not have a financial adviser.
CII head of policy and research Lawrence Baxter says: “Many [consumers] came round to the concept that an impartial guidance service could provide meaningful help.
“Not surprisingly, they need to be satisfied that the guidance really is impartial and is delivered by people who can demonstrate expertise in the issues.
“Get those right – as well as the communication and promotion of this between the Government and the sector – and you might well see the sort of optimistic take-up that our respondents suggested.”
This could be the start of a new industry of retirement guides, rather than advice. It will be more like an education, conversation or seminar, or it could be one-on-one. The guides could help you identify the right questions to ask and consider.
There needs to be a qualification. People want to know the person they are talking to is properly equipped and knows what they are doing. It could be basic guidance but at an approved standard with an approved qualification.
The retirement guides could come from private firms. Is this going to be a Government contract or a Government approved service? I think the latter. I don’t see the Government hiring the guides.
Ros Altmann is an independent pensions expert