Although it feels like winning, this has been a tough few weeks for me and my team as we struggle to get nearly 600 Data Requests sent to pension providers. These have been entrusted to us via Letters of Authority signed digitally.
What we’re asking for is the history of pension contributions made for and on behalf of the 300 testers in the FCA sandbox using agewage.com. We are also asking for the current pot value (AKA the net asset value).
Why we want this information is to show each of our 300 users their individual (or internal) rate of return on their savings- their IRR. We also give them a score and an idea of how they’ve fared against the average saver (paying in the same amount).
You would not think that in this age of the GDPR, getting data on what you’ve paid in would be hard , but it’s been a nightmare and these are the top ten reasons pension plan administrators have given us for not complying with our user’s legitimate request.
“AgeWage is not registered with the FCA” (we have direct authorization)
“We don’t recognise digital signatures” (this is against the Law Commission’s judgement)
“We only go back two years” (even if the contribution goes back two decades)
“We don’t have all the data in one place” (split records)
“We haven’t completed due diligence on Agewage.com”
“AgeWage hasn’t verified our client”
Some data supplied but contributions found to be missing
“We will only send you the NAV” Supplied with a wake up pack,
“We don’t provide this information to our clients”
“We are not participating in your test”.
What this means is that despite hanging on to phone lines for upwards of 30 minutes, we are simply unable to analyse an individual user’s data because of ignorance or incompetence or willful obstruction.
The result is that many of our users have faced lengthy delays getting their scores and a substantial minority (around 15%) face the prospect of not getting their data analysed.
Put more simply – savers are being denied the right to check their pension statements and stopped from getting to know their pension,
What this says about governance
Go back to the message from Jerry Schlicter at the top of this blog and then think about why investors on both sides of the Atlantic have a legal right under Erisa and GDPR to their data.
If we do not have access to our contribution histories we cannot tell if the money we have sent to the provider has been recorded and invested.
AgeWage has analysed over one million pension pots in the UK and we estimate around 2.5% of the records we’ve been sent are wrong. So for every 1000 pots – 25 look wrong.
We can tell they look wrong because the rates of return on pots looks highly unlikely.
We provide reports to trustees, IGCs , GAAs and the administrators of SIPPs , heritage pensions and occupational schemes. We show them records that look wrong and highlight our diagnosis.
We are also highlighting what look erroneous records to those in the FCA test. And we will be explaining to our testers, the FCA, the trustees, IGCs and GAAs where we are being denied the data needed to analyse whether our testers have accurate records.
We are told that we are being disruptive. We push back. We are offering people a service that tells them whether they have a regular or abnormal IRR.
But we says that this shows the governance on record keeping within non-compliant organisations is weak to very weak. Customers are being denied their data to which they have a right under GDPR, they are not being treated fairly for their legitimate data requests and they are certainly not getting any quality of service.
Fiduciaries faced with these failings from their customer service teams are under an obligation to respond. As our testers agent, AgeWage will pursue these data requests by escalating to fiduciaries – where we cannot get the data in a timely and accurate way.
So what of Jerry Schlichter?
You can read of Jerry Schlichter here. Robin Powell’s fine article explains how this man has forced plan administrators to buck their ideas up in the United States.
In the UK we do not rely on class actions to change things. Instead we rely on principle based legislation such as the FCA’s “Treat Customers Fairly”. Where customers aren’t treated fairly we have IGCs and GAAs and Trustees to escalate matters to. And there are ways to escalate beyond through the consultations put out by Government.
This message was sent to me by Jerry Schlichter yesterday
Denying people the right to see how their pension has done, denying them the right to check whether their records have been kept accurately, is a fundamental breach of any customer code. It is a breach of GDPR and it shows those organisations who fail to provide data, their readiness to participate in the pensions dashboard.
I am not naming or shaming, but I am putting those organisations who are refusing to co-operate and meet the client’s legitimate requests that we will escalate so far as we can. That is a long way.
Here is an email I received from one of the people who has been working with us (unpaid) to get the backlog of data requests sorted. I have redacted the provider but will be forwarding the mail to the life company in question.
Today was an “insurance company” day: 16 open items; eight phone calls (max wait 32mins) to 7 different departments; 7 LOAs resent. Result: 3 sets of data received (one still incomplete) and one policy not found.