What makes for a “progressive” pension provider?


“Progressive” and “pensions” are not synonymous, the words fuse into an oxymoron and ribaldry ensues.

I spoke to an insurer last year who introduced me to the concept of “last mover advantage” which involves a large organisation sitting by and watching everyone else making mistakes that allow it to clean up like the corporation’s drain cleaner after the Lord Mayor’s show.

It would be fun to suggest that this insurer has captured the zeitgeist of the pension dashboard , it would be fun – but it would be stupid and wrong.

For there are insurers who take a progressive view of the world and those who don’t and by their APIs you shall know them

By their APIs you shall know them….

Insurance companies , third party administrators and in-house data managers who have the confidence to open their data to trusted third parties will be known as  progressive. And those who will not share their data will be known as regressive.

If  data is not available in real time to a saver it will (eventually) be to the shame of the provider. There will be no last mover advantage if at the final reckoning , if you fail to give your saver’s the information they want.

The way that data passes these days from a provider’s database to a saver’s phone is via a phone application (app) and an electronic gateway that ensures that what passes from provider to saver does so quickly and accurately. This gateway is known as an Application Program Interface (API) and you can read the technical stuff in a fun way via this link.


Granting savers, employers or regulators access to data via an API is not hard. We use APIs every time we set a calendar item up on Outlook , or refresh the scores on Saturday afternoon. They are so common that it’s only when we don’t have use of them that it seems odd.

It is now feeling odd that for me to get access to information about a pension by submitting a form and waiting for the information to be mailed me in a PDF so I can read it. Perhaps I don’t want to read that information in a PDF, perhaps I want to have that information in my spreadsheet so I can work out how my pension planning is doing,

I expect to have my data in machine readable format and I’m given that expectation by the GDPR and the data protection act, I now know – thanks to the Law Commission that I can request this information with an electronic signature. I know that I have command of my data and do not have to wait for a provider to choose how I get it.

This is why “last mover advantage” is no advantage at all to an insurer or any other pension provider. Regressive practices may have worked in the past , but they won’t work in the future,  there is now an advantage in being progressive.

We will know the progressive providers by their willingness to offer APIs to their customers.


By their fruits ye shall know them


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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