Pensions  

Providers pledge services for millions without web access

Providers pledge services for millions without web access

Pension providers have move to guarantee all their services are available for clients without access to the internet, after research showed thousands of people could be missing out on state benefits and the best deals on financial products as increasingly they can only be claimed online.

FTAdviser asked Zurich, Aegon, Royal London, LV and Aviva on their customer practices and all guaranteed their services could be accessed both online and offline.

Figures published today by the Office for National Statistics showed there were more people online in later life than ever before, with more than twice as many people over 75 used the internet in 2017 as they did in 2011.

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But there were still 4.4m people over the age of 55 who were not online, making up 92 per cent of the population who have never been online (4.8 million people).

The Centre for Ageing Better has today (31 May) published a series of recommendations on supporting people in later life to get online.

It said people without internet access were likely to be poorer, less well educated and in worse health than their peers, as well as at risk of being left on the wrong side of the digital divide, as more services and information move online.

Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at Aviva, said the provider was investing heavily in digital technology, and more than 6m customers had registered with the firm’s online service, which allows them to manage their products 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But he added the provider offers a range of services to customers who want to transact directly or via an adviser.

"Our pension is mainly an online proposition but we do know that there are customers who would rather manage their products over the phone or in writing so we offer those services too, and product and fund charges are the same, whether online or offline," he said.

Philip Brown, head of policy at LV, said it was important all customers, no matter their web literacy, had access to the best products for them.

He said: "At LV, we don’t give preference to people who have access to the internet by offering web only services or cheap online products.

"We are strong advocates of advice, as evidence proves that people get the best retirement outcomes by taking financial advice. Customers can access advice, face-to-face, on the phone, as well as via our hybrid robo-advice service."

Royal London was another provider that did not have any products or services that are only available online.

A spokesperson for the company said customers were able to talk to someone on the phone from the provider’s customer services team, and all pension intermediary products were sold through advisers.

Aegon said its platform proposition was online but paper statements were available on request while Zurich was also an intermediated platform, which means customers come through a financial adviser.

Paul Gibson, managing director of Granite Financial Planning, said most providers were generally pretty flexible and offer online and offline servicing.