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Spread Options

The key aim is to boost the number of providers using Options

Nichol Weatherston Viewpoint

I am pleased to announce that it is one year since leading pension and annuity providers signed off the launch of the Options service. At that stage, five companies were involved, the focus was on the open market option transfer process and the target to beat was an average transfer time of 31 days.

One year on and 15 of the industry’s leading providers are using the service. The transfer process has been simplified, the scope has extended to pension transfers and there are over 10,000 transfers completed each quarter, with an average time of 11 days.

The Options service started as a pilot between three companies in 2007. The objective then and now is to reduce the time it takes to move a customer’s money between companies. The results of the pilot were reviewed in March 2008, which focused on a series of recommendations, including the appointment of Origo to build the service.

The key to Options’ success has been its focus on simplifying the process used to exchange information. The aim was to capture all the information on one application form requiring one signature.

We have developed and agreed a common set of words for the various discharge declarations which all participating providers are incorporating into their standard application forms. We have also rationalised the lifetime allowance declaration and agreed process changes with HM Revenue & Customs to allow providers to sign their client authorisation forms.

We review performance at a steering group each month and publish quarterly performance information, which we present to advisers. This information, along with a list of participating companies, is available on the Options website (www.origoservices.com/options). Dialogue with advisers has helped to agree priorities for the service and identify opportunities for improvement across the whole process.

Moving into its second year of operation, one of our key targets is to increase the number of participants using the service. We are also increasing the scope of the service and are currently developing a solution for the management of transfers from occupational schemes.

The aim of both of these objectives is to increase the number of transfers through the service. Integration with a company’s workflow systems is also on the agenda and we are developing potential solutions to allow advisers to link to the service to track cases.

Options has transformed the Omo and immediate vesting personal pension transfer experience and we look forward to further improvements in 2010. In particular, we expect the remaining providers to join in 2010, with the aim of ensuring that all customers benefit from the speed and efficiency delivered by the service.

Nichol Weatherston is chair of the Options steering group and head of operations at retirement at Aegon

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