Paperless pensions are nearly here!

Someone said something great about me last night. It was Kevin O’Boyle, retiring head of BT Pensions. He introduced me to a millenial as “Henry Tapper” the only person my age who thinks like a millenial”.

It’s a hell of a compliment and one of an exaggeration but I do think about younger people a lot.

One of the things I’m thinking more and more is that we must start our conversations with people who are saving and spending their pensions – digitally. If you can see an invitation to like AgeWage Ltd at the top of this page, you should also see that quite a lot of people are liking it.

My guess is that what people like is not the detail of what AgeWage does but the fact that we’re  trying to talk about difficult things using tools that people like to use.

Let’s go paperless

To my great relief, First Actuarial’s payslips went paperless last year. You had to opt in to a printed payslip , which meant being near a printer. I don’t have a printer and can’t be arsed to file paper anyway, I can see any of my payslips on a file that I have a password to – sorted.

So why is it that I get my pension statements from the people I’m saving with and the pension scheme that pays me each month – in paper?

Every time I get a statement, I sigh. If L&G sent me a mail or a message with a link, I’d be able to see what I want to see on a screen. I’d be able to click through if I wanted more detail, I’d be able to hook the information up to MoneyBox or MoneyHub or to my pension dashboard. But no – I get a piece of paper without so much as a QR-code

It’s not just statements that need to be simple

We think that digital is complex, and to those who do not understand digital it is. But to consumers, a digital pension statement can be the easiest thing in the world. it can contain a video telling you how to read it, it can contain links to apps that can explain more , every data item can be clicked through to give more information.

In short, a digital statement simplifies the way we can absorb complex information so that users get to understand things the way they want.

I am not saying that people can’t request a paper statement, but the last piece of paper should get automatically should tell them that unless they ring a certain number, everything they get going forward will be paperless.

It’s not just payslips, it’s tax returns and insurance claims and smart-phone bills. We should make it our earnest aim to make the postbox a thing of the past. Digital can simplify our lives.

So what of simple pension statements?

The work that Ruston Smith, Quietroom and others have done on simplifying pension statements is quite excellent. I hope Ruston has taken heart from the call of the FCA for charges on drawdown to be explained in pounds shilling and pence terms.

The original project was stymied by a move from certain parties not to tell us what we had paid for our pensions on pension statements, – apparently a till receipt is too complicated.

Of course a till receipt isn’t complicated though people do need to have it explained to them from time to time – it’s good that people do question till receipts – sometimes they show errors – the process is called engagement and that’s exactly what we’re supposed to be encouraging people to give us.

If a simple pension statement was delivered digitally, the till receipt could be clicked through from the “this is how much your pension cost last year” button. If people wanted to query each item, then they could click on it. If the provider of the statement was a bit advanced, it could develop a bot to answer questions, they could even provide live chat within certain time constraints. Questions could be answered by fifteen second videos, the customer could be educated in a single visit to the statement.

Moving beyond simple statements

A great deal of time is being spent on making digital experiences good ones. My phone is full of apps which I use because they make life easy – apps like MoneyHub and MoneyBox challenge me to see my finances in a new and better way. They make a difference to my day to day living. I don’t pay £2.70 for a Cappucino any more, I pay £3 – 30 p of which goes to an ETF which I will cash in a couple of years for a few hundred pounds.

Similarly, if I want to find out not just the value of my pension pots , but how they’ve done, I’ll be able to use the AgeWage app. I’ll be able to ask it how responsibly my investment managers have behaved, what my options are going forward and most importantly – how I can get my hands on my money!

Simple statements can incorporate an AgeWage score and a click-through from the score does all the rest.

Pensions needs to bootstrap themselves into the digital economy.

We talk about pension communications from the perspective of a world that is no longer there. People have moved on, pensions hasn’t.  Paper statements are not part of the world I live in.

Believing that we have done enough to simplify pension statements is to allow ourselves to be blind-sided by the past.

Believing that we can get away by posting performance charts on websites as part of statutory disclosures is to totally miss the point. The information we post about the money we manage for others must be delivered on their terms and not ours.

We need to be a lot tougher on ourselves, get out of our offices and onto our phones. We need to see things as millennials do. For where millenials lead, the rest of us follow.

This “boot-strapping” is hard, it involves people doing things differently and learning from others. I hope that  that was the compliment Kevin was paying me last night.

I wish Kevin O’Boyle a long and happy retirement – properly funded by his pension

KevinOBoyle happy retirement Kevin

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to Paperless pensions are nearly here!

  1. Adrian Furnell says:

    Henry, could not agree more and I am on a mission within my company that all communications related to pensions are digitally presented and so far have got off to a good start with all booklets, newsletters etc only available on line with benefit statements due next year and although they can be printed the member has to do this so far a 99.999% take up rate (there had to be one, just one who opted out!). Lots more to do but small steps as they say and the next step is self service through the administrators so members can look up all their own data….

  2. Adrian Furnell says:

    Oh and Happy Retirement too Kevin!

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