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How member self-service is evolving in pensions

What technology can do to help the industry

Global Benefits Management|Pension Board and Trustee Consulting|Pensions Corporate Consulting|Pensions Risk Solutions|Pensions Technology

By Ian Nottage | January 4, 2021

Members and industry bodies are demanding more from web tools. A key focus is providing members with the ability to apply to retire their benefits online.

The pensions industry has its own unique challenges in terms of technology but now is an exciting time.

Traditionally, third-party administrators have looked to other areas within the financial services sector, especially banking, to lead the way when it comes to developing tech-based initiatives. Much can be learned from the experiences of other organisations, and this approach has provided clear direction in shaping and developing product road maps.

Given this direction, it’s little wonder that members and pension trustees are now demanding more and better self-service capabilities in the pensions market.

Online pension offerings have been similar for many years and typically included subsets of the following features for members:

  1. Viewing information about their pension plan
  2. Changing contributions or investments
  3. Viewing and updating personal details
  4. Providing nomination of beneficiaries
  5. Running quotes or projections

But the next stage in the evolution of online self-service is to enable members to start to retire their benefits online.

The real challenge is to translate something critically important to the member, which has been a lengthy, complex and heavily paper-based process, into something simple, intuitive and online.

We are already developing this functionality and have identified several key themes to help deal with the transformation:

  1. 01

    Manageable content:

    Long paper-based forms with lots of information and questions can often be overwhelming for members. Make sure you tailor the experience to the new medium – don’t present all the information in one go and break the process into steps. Allow the members’ own answers to inform further questions.

  2. 02

    Be upfront:

    Inform the member of what information and documents they need on hand in order to complete the process and of any scenarios that you can’t support online. Some members will still get partway through the process and find that they don’t have that all-important information, so allowing the member to save and return when they do have the information is important.

  3. 03


    Retiring will take time, so be upfront with your members about this fact but be sure to constantly inform them of their progress so they know how far they still have to go.

  4. 04

    Context sensitive help:

    Make the help easy to find and relevant to the step of the process that the member is at, without having to channel shift. For example, in-process point-of-need support through chat bots or web chat.

  5. 05

    Process on the web:

    Allowing members to complete their forms online provides the ability to consider changes to the way that the process traditionally works. Validating the individual as who they say they are is a key part of any retirement process Consideration should be given to using online technology with real-time responses to enhance this process and ensure that by the time it is passed into the back office, the step is complete and we wouldn’t need to go back to the member for further information.

Furthermore, it is important to link this to other digital enhancements that will help members complete their journey and have a more integrated and better-connected experience. Examples of this are:

  1. Paperless communications enabling members to receive and read their communication via their online account rather than by post
  2. Proactive nudges and updates by text message, email or app notification, enabling members to be kept up to date with progress and be reminded of what they need to do, and when.
  3. ‘What if’ modellers continuing to help members to work out the impact of various changes.
  4. Personalised context informing explanatory information for members and their advisors.

Learning from other industries that have gone through this transformation, paper communication will still be very prevalent in this industry for many years.

The change though – in conjunction with other industry initiatives – does open more opportunities to use technology to link providers and processes that will help us all drive down the elapsed time it takes these events to happen for members, which is long overdue. Some examples of other industry initiatives which will help with this are:

  1. ViaNova/TeX transfer messaging:

    Transfer processing time is a challenge across the industry. We see ViaNova/TeX transfer as an important initiative to help reduce this. Such a change will allow requests and settlements of transfers to be processed electronically. Integrating this with member online form completion will help create a slick and seamless experience for members.

  2. Pensions dashboard:

    Centralising of information will in time enable providers to communicate quicker and using much more technology.

This is not an easy change for providers to make and care must be taken to ensure that members feel comfortable with completing the process online. We understand that online retirement will not be for all members and must still respect that members have a channel preference and allow for this.

Technology though is well-placed to shake the traditional way of members engaging with this process and really make a difference. We are looking forward to seeing how this develops over 2021.


Head of Business Solutions

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