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Thursday, 15 October 2009

A statement about my pension .... or my provider?

This week I got my pension statement, detailing my family's projected quality of life post-work. The standard low, medium and high projections were there as always, alerting me as to whether I can look forward to a cup, bowl or full plate (ooo!) of flavoursome gruel in my dotage.

Given the past year and the stock-market's nose-dive, expectations were not high. My level of interests were high, however, as my pension is the primary mainstay of my standard of living from retirement to pearly gates.

So what information does the provider I have entrusted with this important task give me? A standard letter telling me this is my bi-annual statement (I knew that) and a lovely statement with standard projections, confirming the decline in my pension (I guessed that). Nothing else. Nada. Zip. Same letter (apart from the date) as I got during boom time in fact.

I had a hundred questions. How much of the drop in my pension was down to poor provider performance (say, in relation to benchmarks) and how much down to markets? Were there elements of the underlying funds that were performing fourth quartile and I should ditch?

Frankly, a little added value from my learned provider would have been appreciated. What was my learned provider's view on the next six months? Their view on fund classes? Of changes in legislation and taxation that could benefit me. What about an outbound phone call asking me if I have any questions. I just feel they are taking the money sometimes. They are charging me after all. I've had to change providers over the years and, unfortunately, I can report that the same experience is meted out by all the household name providers I've been with.

Research (and common sense) shows that the receipt of statements has a direct impact on perceptions of the provider's brand (and from there my likelihood to recommend them or buy other products from them). Unhappy experiences we also relate to friends and relatives, passing on our perceptions. Wouldn't even cost much, if that's the barrier that's put up.

Pension statements are often the only direct communication brands have with their pension customers, so isn't it an opportunity to give a little thought to?

Oh yes, I'm changing providers in the next two months, did I tell you?.

Mark Hollander
Client Services Director

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mark, Many of the questions you rightly asked could be answered as a matter of course during your annual review with your independent financial adviser. The product providers are not geared to address such personal matters, despite the lip service they often pay to providing 'advice'. Pensions legislation and planning is a complex minefield, even for the skilled financial adviser. Unless you feel competent you should not adopt a DIY approach. Your pension fund is too important.

Mike S.