A Freedom of Information request from leading online pension provider, PensionBee, reveals less than 5,989 unique referrals took place from the MoneyHelper investment pathways price comparison tool from its launch in February 2021 to January 2022, despite significant efforts dedicated to building and maintaining this tool.
PensionBee wrote to MaPS in March 2021 raising its concerns that the tool was highly misleading and not fit for purpose. It challenged the decision to display ‘a hodgepodge of incomparable products’ side by side in a way that suggests they should be compared. PensionBee warned that solely focusing on charges without sufficient consideration given to other important features such as target returns, past performance, ability to make small withdrawals, and availability of planning tools was to the detriment of transparency and consumer outcomes.
Additional concerns were also shared around the approach to the tool’s design, which left it subject to provider manipulation, where inappropriate products could be placed under the hood of each pathway simply to rank better. PensionBee called for urgent changes to be made to ensure the tool offered consumers a representative market comparison of their available options.
In its correspondence, PensionBee questioned why so many major pension providers, who were eligible to appear on the tool, were conspicuously missing. Despite assurances from MaPS that it was in the process of onboarding additional providers, on a voluntary basis, and that the tool would be kept under review in line with FCA guidance, PensionBee has not seen any changes that would enable meaningful product comparisons, and efforts to onboard other major providers appear to have been unsuccessful.
Disappointed by a lack of progress, and exceptionally low levels of consumer engagement, PensionBee again wrote to MaPS on 15 February 2022 requesting its immediate removal from the tool.
Romi Savova, CEO of PensionBee, commented: “Last year we asked MaPS how it measured consumer outcomes from the tool, and what success looks like. Today it is clear from the number of unique referrals that the tool is pointless and not fit for purpose.
The low level of consumer engagement is extremely disappointing given the huge financial investment that has gone into the tool. As a result, we have lost confidence in it and requested our immediate removal.
Only if sufficient progress is made to ensure that the tool enables meaningful product comparisons and helps consumers make better decisions about what to do with their pensions at retirement, would we consider rejoining in future.”
Table 1: Referrals from MoneyHelper investment pathways price comparison tool from 1st January 2021 to 25th January 2022
|Number of unique referrals to pension providers||Total number of referrals|
Source: Freedom of Information request submitted by PensionBee to MaPS in January 2022.
Table 2: Breakdown of number of referrals made to pension providers through MoneyHelper investment pathways price comparison tool from 1st January 2021 to 25th January 2022
|Provider referred||Total number of referrals||Number of unique referrals||% of the total refferals||% of the total number of unique referrals|
Source: Freedom of Information request submitted by PensionBee to MaPS in January 2022. Provider names have been anonymised.