Your simple 54-step guide to switching pension provider

Clare Reilly

by , Chief Engagement Officer

at PensionBee

03 June 2017 /  

Your simple 54-step guide to switching pension provider

I’ve been writing up some of our most incredible customer case studies from the past year. It’s been really powerful to intertwine customer voices with our transfer data, the small details and quotes really tell the human story behind the numbers and bring the transfer nightmares alive.

Some of the stories still shocked me the second time round.

There’s the tale of Tom who battled for 347 days to move a £5k pot away from his old employer’s scheme. Tom had a few small old workplace pots he wanted to combine, to get a better understanding of this retirement income and in his words ‘not be a burden to anyone in old age’. But after nearly a year of mind numbingly frustrating hold music, he was convinced they didn’t want him to transfer his pension at all.

Then there’s the tale of Anna who battled for 142 days to move her pot of just under £10k. What should have been a routine transfer became an epic struggle between her and her old workplace scheme. The interesting thing for Anna was ‘that the various parts of this provider go to varying degrees of difficulty with this’ as she was asked to send in MORE random documentation.

Oh and of course there’s Samuel whose battle lasted a modest 104 days. Samuel was furious that the ‘assumption or suspicion seems to be that everyone who switches pension provider is engaged in some sort of nefarious conduct. It’s like some kind of cartel among the big providers as they deliberately make it as difficult as they possibly can‘.

Far too often we see completely routine transfers of old defined contribution workplace pension pots taking between 100 to 200 days. What’s really frustrating is that all of our case studies of huge delays usually involve the same four providers. These paper providers think it’s acceptable to make a customer wait six months to leave, and some think it’s ok to make customers wait up to a year!

It’s also not fair that those four providers give the whole industry a bad name. We think it’s time to call them out.

So whilst it will take you under 12 days and no hassle to switch out of electronic providers, the typical journey we see for a customer trying to leave a paper provider like Willis Towers Watson, Aon Hewitt, Mercer or Capita is very different. If you have ever worked for a bank before then you will have likely been placed (ahem, trapped) in one of these paper schemes.

Around 65% of people don’t know their provider name or policy number. Most people have also moved house a few times. So if you are going to try and transfer your pension without the help of a PensionBee BeeKeeper, don’t know your policy number and are also with a paper provider, then this going to be a your typical 54-step escape route.

You decide to leave your provider. What happens next:

  1. Rummage around in drawers for old pension paperwork
  2. Realise it stopped following you when you moved house six years ago
  3. Call your old employer to try and find name of pension provider
  4. Get name of pension provider
  5. Call old provider to locate pension pot
  6. Try one of 5 telephone numbers they have on their website
  7. Sit on hold for 20 minutes
  8. They tell you go and find old paperwork with a policy number on
  9. Rummage unsuccessfully again to find old paperwork
  10. Call back, sit on hold again for 20 minutes
  11. Tell them you have no paperwork, no policy number and you moved house
  12. Get sent to 10 different departments with 10 different legacy IT systems
  13. Waste 2 hours of your day on the phone
  14. No one will give you policy number until you send new proof of address
  15. Send new proof of address in post
  16. Call back pension provider a week later
  17. They have not processed change of address
  18. Call pension provide another week later
  19. They have new proof of address and give you your policy number
  20. Ask to leave to a new provider
  21. They will send you paper transfer forms
  22. Paper transfer forms take 3 weeks to arrive
  23. 20 page transfer form arrives with lots of terms you do not understand
  24. You sigh loudly
  25. Show form to your colleagues/family/friends to see if they understand it
  26. No one does
  27. Put form on shelf to deal with later
  28. Come back to form a week later
  29. Google all of the complicated jargon and spend hours filling out form
  30. Find witnesses to sign form
  31. Send off form by post
  32. Wait 1 month
  33. Get letter from provider requesting an original copy of your birth certificate
  34. Call provider to tell them you do not want to send this
  35. Sit on hold for 20 minutes
  36. Find out they will not process your transfer without it
  37. Look for birth certificate for 1 hour
  38. Take a morning off work
  39. Travel to post office
  40. Queue at post office
  41. Pay for recorded delivery for the original birth certificate to be sent to provider
  42. Wait 1 month
  43. Get a letter in post from provider that they will process your transfer now
  44. Wait another 2 weeks
  45. Call your new provider and ask if they received the money yet
  46. They tell you no
  47. Call old provider and ask what is going on and where is your money
  48. Provider says they have written to HMRC by post about your new scheme
  49. Call back old provider three weeks later
  50. Still no news
  51. Lose will to live
  52. Call new provider
  53. Still no news
  54. Finally a letter arrives in post from your new provider


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