Quick or slow: how does your pension provider compare?

How is your pension provider doing?

“Time is money”, Benjamin Franklin once said. And when it comes to sorting out your pension, he’s certainly not wrong.

Here at Portafina, as soon as you ask us to look into your pension, the clock is ticking, and we will request the information we need from your provider to analyse your scheme straight away.

Getting basic information from your pension provider should be easy as pie, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Many things are slowing pension providers down, including a massive increase in requests from people wanting to know their options following the introduction of the pension freedoms. And yet, these delays could effectively be costing people money. Especially if it means they spend longer in a high-charging, poorly performing scheme.

You may have already experienced this kind of frustration. And please believe us when we say, we know how you feel! We chase dozens of pension providers every day, for information that should be relatively simple to share.

And while we want to give our clients the answers they are looking for as quickly as possible, we also want to set realistic expectations. That’s why we have done a little digging into which pension providers respond the quickest and which take the longest to supply essential details.

Our research for 2018 covers 11,431 requests for information made by Portafina on behalf of 5,523 new clients to over 650 different defined contribution and defined benefit pension scheme providers, and scheme administrators.

So, which provider tops our fourth annual league table, and which falls short? And more importantly, does yours feature and where?

Simply the best…or the worst?

Defined Contribution Schemes: a pension scheme where contributions are invested and the size of the pot depends on the performance of investments.


Fastest DC schemes based on average number of weeks to provide information

Hargreaves Lansdown       1.4 weeks   (3rd fastest in 2017)
Canada Life 1.7 weeks (Fastest in 2017)
Scottish Widows 1.7 weeks (6th fastest in 2017)
St. James Place 1.8 weeks (New entry)
Virgin Money 1.8 weeks (10th fastest in 2017)


Slowest DC Schemes based on average number of weeks to provide information

Equitable Life Assurance Society 7.5 weeks  (Slowest in 2017)
The Pensions Trust 5.4 weeks  
Mercer 5.1 weeks (2nd slowest in 2017)
Aon Hewitt 4.9 weeks  
Reliance Mutual 4.9 weeks  


Defined Benefit (Final Salary) Schemes: a pension scheme where the amount of pension income you receive in retirement is based on how many years you’ve worked for your employer and the salary you’ve earned. Also known as final salary schemes.


Fastest DB Schemes based on average number of weeks to provide information

Legal & General 1.5 weeks   
The Pensions Trust 1.9 weeks  
Lafarge UK Pension Plan 1.9 weeks  
Railways Pension Scheme 2.0 weeks  
DHL Group Retirement Plan   2.4 weeks  


Slowest DB Schemes based on average number of weeks to provide information

Royal Mail Pension 22.0 weeks  (10.2 weeks in 2017)
Staffordshire County Council 17.2 weeks  
Peninsula Pensions 14.0 weeks  
Kent County Council  13.7 weeks  
Merseyside Pension Fund  11.5 weeks  


And the winners are…

Drum roll please!

And it’s Hargreaves Lansdown topping the poll as the quickest provider, taking on average 1.4 weeks to provide the information necessary to advise clients on their pension. That’s an improvement from 2016 when they were 6th placed. In the last two years both Hargreaves Lansdown and Canada Life have shown great consistency in the speed of service they are providing.

For defined benefit schemes, Legal & General shot to the top having considerably improved their response time from 2.7 weeks in 2015 to 1.5 weeks in 2018.

Improvement is needed…

Whilst the top performing companies have coped very well with the additional demand brought by the pension freedoms, the gap to the worst performers has grown considerably.

Shockingly, the slowest defined benefit scheme providers’ performance is best measured in months rather than weeks, with Royal Mail Pension taking an average of 22 weeks (5 months) to provide information. That’s 14 times slower than Legal & General and 10 weeks slower than what they were achieving last year.

For defined contribution schemes, Equitable Life Assurance Society were slowest for the second year running taking 6 weeks longer than Hargreaves Lansdown.

Generally, across both defined benefit and defined contribution schemes, the slowest providers are taking 4 weeks longer on average to provide information in 2018, then they did in 2017.

Jamie Smith-Thompson, Managing Director of Portafina, said, “The pension freedoms put a strain on providers and it took a while for a number of providers to gear up to cope. The majority have things under control now and we are generally seeing an improvement in response times overall. The exception, of course, are the local councils who are struggling with the resource they have available to them.”

Better sooner rather than later…

Your pension could be the difference between just getting by and a future packed with opportunities. Which is why it makes sense to check it on a regular basis. The sooner, the better! Best of all, it shouldn’t cost you a penny to get expert, regulated advice.

For example, here at Portafina, we would review your pension with no up-front fee. A fee would only be due if you liked our recommendation and asked us to act on it. Or, you can walk away at any point fully informed with nothing to pay.

Claim your free pension information pack today and discover how Portafina can help you.

What you will get from the pack:Pension Information Guide

  • Get a deeper understanding of what your available options might be
  • Insight into how our no obligation review works and how it could benefit you
  • Details of how to get your review started


Request a free pack

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Call 0800 304 7288 for a friendly chat about your pension

Important Information

The details provided in this article are for general information only and are in no way deemed to be financial advice. All of the material is correct as of the publication date, but could be out-of-date by the time you read the article. For our latest information and news, please see our articles section here.

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