Your views on the companies in your pension

Priyal Kanabar

by , Customer Research Manager

at PensionBee

05 May 2021 /  

Multicoloured speech bubbles collected in the palm of a hand

In March, we ran our annual survey of customers in the Tailored Plan, our most popular plan, to learn more about the kinds of companies that they expect their money to be invested in, and what kind of action they want us to take on companies and industries with controversial business practices.

At PensionBee, we believe that sustainable business practices have a positive impact on long-term pension returns. Therefore we consider it important to regularly seek our customers’ views on how their pension, and the companies it invests in, should evolve in a changing world.

As usual, we received strong levels of engagement, with almost 1,700 respondents. We’ve published a summary of our findings on our website.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Customers believe that companies should treat their workers fairly

Respondents across all age groups and genders rank the treatment of workers in core business and supply chains as a number one priority for voting. Money managers often attend meetings with the companies they invest in and can force change by voting against management.

83% of respondents were clear that companies should pay the Living Wage, and most also want companies to publish their ethnicity and gender pay gaps. One female respondent, aged over 51, commented that companies in her pension should, “Pay people a decent and proper wage and ensure working conditions are adequate as well as their hours,” while one male respondent, aged 30 or under, commented, “Discrimination is a huge deal-breaker for me”.

We know that diversity is important to our customers: 76% of female respondents and 53% of male respondents expect diversity on boards and in senior management teams. Additionally, most customers (66%) expect companies to have a level of diversity in their workforce that is representative of UK society.

2. Pension savers are concerned about the environment

76% of respondents support action on oil companies. The survey reveals changing views on engagement with oil companies, as only 10% of savers support this approach in 2021, less than half of those in 2020 (23%).

One female customer, aged 41-50, remarked that she wants to invest in companies that are “Fair and sustainable. It’s the only way business will offer long-term returns. Not interested in short-term returns”. Additionally, a male respondent, aged 41-50 commented, “Environment is very important to me so any business that is not doing anything to protect the environment is a no from me”.

3. Respondents don’t trust fast fashion

More than half of respondents agree with the view that fast fashion has a negative impact on society, including more than 80% of women aged 30 and under.

In comparison, most savers believe that big tech makes a positive contribution to society (59%), and only 8% believe that it makes a negative contribution. Savers are mostly neutral about nuclear energy (45%) and many also believe that the sector makes a positive contribution (39%). When it comes to the meat and dairy industry, almost half of respondents (46%) believe it makes a positive impact.

4. The coronavirus pandemic has increased customers’ motivation to save

Most respondents agree that the coronavirus pandemic has made them feel apprehensive about whether they will have enough money to retire, but also that they now feel more inspired to save and build up their pension. Women are slightly more likely to express both views.

5. Most respondents support action on irresponsible business practices

Just a minority of respondents express the view that pension providers should focus only on making a profit. One man, aged over 51, commented, “Despite all participation, sharing ideas, chasing ideals, the main goal must be to ensure, as much as possible, that investors can enjoy their retirement through the funds they have worked for all their lives and the money managers are handling on our behalf”.

At PensionBee, we regularly survey customers to make sure that our pension plans continue to be aligned with the changing investment expectations of savers. In survey feedback in 2020, many of you told us that you no longer wanted to be invested in oil, resulting in the launch of our Fossil Fuel Free Plan later that year.

We regularly share these insights with the wider world through the press to inform the debate on what kind of companies pension savers expect to invest in. We also have an excellent working relationship with our money managers, who manage trillions of pounds worth of investments all over the world, as well as PensionBee’s plans. We regularly share our customer insights with them to inform their thinking on stewardship, exclusions, and the changing sentiments of pension savers in the UK.

We believe that spreading awareness of your views will help nudge company leaders to adopt fairer and more sustainable practices.

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, please email us at engagement@pensionbee.com. We’re very keen to hear from you!

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