I love that my job gives me the opportunity to learn about our customers and their pension experience. I interview them, do quantitative analysis of data, and speak with BeeKeepers on the frontline about their insights – using a variety of tools on a day-to-day basis.
I especially like it when my incorrect assumptions are uncovered and my understanding grows. Here’s some of the biggest things I’ve discovered in my time at PensionBee.
Anyone and everyone can be digitally savvy
Earlier this year I arranged a series of focus groups where we asked groups of customers and non-customers about their thoughts on PensionBee, and retirement saving more generally. I learned that customers across age groups and across the nation prefer to manage their pensions like they would manage their online bank account - digitally and with ease. I had assumed that this would be a clear preference amongst customers under 45 who are based in London, but this was incorrect, and perhaps ageist of me!
When we look at our customer base, we can see that our customers are spread across the UK. When we look at who engages with their pension through our app, we can see similar levels of engagement across age groups. This certainly shattered some perceptions I had around specific areas and ages being more digitally savvy, and it’s very exciting to see!
We’re providing an essential service for the self-employed
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#ad Many of us have more than one career now, I’m currently on my second and having what I call a portfolio career. I left teaching four years ago to go self employed as a freelancer which I currently love. This type of working is growing in the UK and gives me the freedom to work how and when it suits me. This model of working has its drawbacks though, namely to do with pensions and ensuring that you are future proofing yourself. However the solution is @pensionbee who can easily find your old pensions for you and then help you set a realistic pension pot for your future. They can track your previous pensions with just a few details and then combine them. Signing up can all be done in your coffee break- it really is that quick! Pension Bee also have an online calculator that can simply show you how much you need to put away per month in order to have the end amount you want for your lifestyle. The website is jargon free and makes pensions simple. As a woman I know that I have a pension gap and I need to be making steps to put this right now, otherwise I will be paying the penalty later. I have a standard of living I want to maintain and if you do it’s time to act and take control of your pensions. As with all financial products capital is at risk . #pensionbee
22% of our customers are self-employed. The ONS reports that self-employment is increasing across the UK and in 2017 they estimated it was 15.1% of the labour force. It’s interesting to see that we have a higher representation of self-employed people amongst our customers than the national estimation. When I speak to self-employed customers, they say that they are attracted to PensionBee because they want a way to keep track of old pensions, and to make contributions easily.
If self-employment is indeed increasing, there’s a risk that a large proportion of people who work for themselves are not covered by Auto Enrolment and will not save enough to retire. This is a potential pitfall of self-employment that we want to support customers to avoid.
Retirement means different things to different people
When customers reach 55 they can withdraw money from their pensions. Interestingly, about half of our customers don’t take money out, choosing to keep the whole pot invested. I spoke to a customer recently who told me that she wishes to stay working, as at 53, she is just about to move into a new career direction where she will be consulting.
She told me that she feels better knowing that she is making the most of her money by investing into a pension, and getting tax top ups as well as investment growth. She can’t see herself taking money out of her pension for a long time.
Another customer took some money out to use to grow her family business, and kept the rest invested. It’s fascinating to learn that ‘retirement’ can have many different meanings for different people.
PensionBee can help challenge inequality through simplicity
We’re building PensionBee because we want people to have access to a high-quality pension service, without having to be rich. In fact, most of our customers are in the middle-income bracket.
Income inequality is close to my heart as I grew up in Newham, one of the poorest boroughs in the UK. I was fortunate to have access to an education at a prestigious university, where I got to develop myself. Sadly, it’s unusual for people from my childhood neighbourhood to have access to such educational institutions, despite their talents.
These experiences gave me a cross-class perspective, that highlighted how excluded people with lower incomes usually are from high quality services. I often think about this. We want to change this in the world of pensions, and empower everyone to feel confident about their retirement savings, regardless of financial background.
Not having adequate support with building financial capability can disadvantage people throughout their lives, and I think that feeling empowered about their pensions can help people develop confidence with saving, investing, and life in general.