Only a quarter of savers found switching pension providers easy

Laura Dunn-Sims

by , Senior PR Manager

27 Sept 2021 /  

Sept 2021

Women reaching into row of filing cabinets

New research from leading online pension provider, PensionBee, finds that difficult processes deter pension savers from switching, more than any other essential service.

PensionBee discovered that only 26% of consumers found switching their pension provider easy, compared to 73% when it comes to home or contents insurance and 69% for energy providers. Difficulty transferring drives lower engagement with consumers, as more than a third of respondents (35%) report never having tried to change pension providers. This is compared to only 10% when it comes to both home or contents insurance, and energy providers.

Although pensions can be transferred electronically using a system called Origo Options, many providers still use paper-based transfer processes. The average switching time for electronic pension transfers is 12.5 days, in comparison to 34.4 days for paper-based transfer providers.

A 34.4 day average transfer time for paper-based providers is higher than the average transfer times of other essential services. Regulation requires that mobile phone contract switches must be completed in one day and bank account transfers require a saver’s current account and direct debits to be fully transferred within seven days of the request. While OFCOM rules and the Current Account Switch Guarantee have removed barriers to switching in these industries, outdated pensions legislation from 1993 currently permits pension providers to take up to six months to transfer a pension.

Only about 1 in 5 respondents (21%) feel very satisfied with the service from their pension provider, compared to 36% for current account and mobile phone providers, two essential services which guarantee switching in a week or less.

Clare Reilly, Chief Engagement Officer at PensionBee, comments: “While Auto-Enrolment has successfully brought millions of people into the pensions system, archaic pensions legislation keeps them stuck in 1993. Pensions urgently need basic consumer switching rights, like we see in other essential services and utilities. These switching rights will raise consumer power, effective competition, and help drive better engagement with pension saving. We call upon the government to legislate a 10-day pension switch guarantee.

At PensionBee, we’ve seen firsthand that customers appreciate simplicity and responsive customer service, qualities enabled by digital technology. In this day and age, no consumer should be put off switching providers due to lengthy transfer processes, paper and post. The technology to simplify pensions exists, and all providers must use it, giving consumers the ability to select the best plan for them so that everyone can look forward to a happy retirement.”


Table 1: Transfer Times

Provider Transfer times (days)
Mercer* 43.4
Hargreaves Lansdown 42.0
Capita* 37.0
LV= 27.2
B&CE 24.4
Towers Watson* 23.8
Now Pensions* 21.9
Quilter 21.2
NEST 17.2
MoneyBox 14.6
Prudential 15.0
Smart Pension* 13.8
Novia 13.7
True Potenial* 13.6
Hornbuckle (Embark Group) 13.0
Royal London 12.7
Aviva 11.0
Scottish Widows* 10.6
Standard Life 10.5
Aegon 9.8
Legal & General 9.8
PensionBee 0.5
Fidelity 8.5
Phoenix Group 9.4
ReAssure 9.3
Canada Life 7.5
MetLife 7.8
Zurich Group 7.9

Sources: Origo Transfer Index 1 July 2020 - 30 June 2021. All data is from Origo unless a provider does not use Origo or has chosen not to disclose its transfer times in the Origo transfer index. In those instances, PensionBee data has been used for the following providers marked with and sample sizes are indicated in brackets: Capita (>100), Mercer (>100), MoneyBox (>100), Now Pensions (>1,000), Scottish Widows (>1,000), Smart Pension (>1,000), Towers Watson (>100), True Potential (>100)*

Table 2: Average transfer times

Pension transfer type Average transfer times (days)
Paper-based 34.4 days
Electronic 12.5 days

Source: Origo Transfer Index 1 July 2020 - 30 June 2021 and 554 paper-based pension transfers to PensionBee from Mercer, Capita, and Towers Watson.

Table 3: Average switch time by industry

Pensions (paper-based transfers) Pensions (electronic transfers) Energy Current bank account Mobile phone Home insurance
34.4 days 12.5 days 17 days (1) 7 days (2) 2 days (3) -

Source: Origo, PensionBee. Insurance is purchased annually and will auto-renew or expire, so switching times are not comparable.

Table 4: Levels of satisfaction

Levels of satisfaction Current(bank) account provider Home / contents insurance provider Mobile phone contract provider Energy provider Pension provider
Very dissatisfied 1% 0% 0% 4% 1%
Dissatisfied 2% 2% 1% 7% 2%
Satisfied 48% 54% 48% 45% 47%
Very satisfied 36% 22% 36% 21% 21%
Indifferent 13% 22% 15% 24% 30%

Source: PensionBee, September 2021. Total respondents: 248. Numbers have been rounded

Table 5: Ease of switching

Ease of switching Current(bank) account provider Home / contents insurance provider Mobile phone contract provider Energy provider Pension provider
Very difficult 2% 0% 1% 1% 6%
Difficult 6% 3% 6% 7% 13%
Very easy 21% 33% 27% 27% 12%
Easy 36% 40% 38% 42% 14%
Neither 14% 14% 14% 14% 20%
Don’t know / never tried 21% 10% 15% 10% 35%

Source: PensionBee, September 2021. Total respondents: 249. Numbers have been rounded.


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  3. Uswitch

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