The government’s efforts to make Pension Wise ‘the norm’ have been slammed in a survey of the British public, with savers criticising these as ‘terrible’.
Pensions minister Guy Opperman recently said he wanted Pension Wise to be ‘the norm’ for savers.
However, adoption of the free, independent and impartial guidance service, is sluggish, with figures published by the FCA in September showing only 14 per cent of pension pots had been accessed following use of Pension Wise between April 2018 and March 2019.
This was despite several multi-million pound marketing campaigns, including TV adverts, to encourage more savers to use the service.
Pension Wise was launched in 2015, alongside the pension freedom reforms, to help consumers navigate their choices in retirement.
In a survey of over 2000 people in January, retirement specialist Just Group found 45 per cent of 45 to 65 year olds said the government was performing ‘quite terribly’ in its attempts to market the service.
A further 22 per cent labelled this just ‘terribly’.
Only one in 10 (11 per cent) said the government was doing well.
The same survey found the public considered the ‘norm’ to be an uptake of around seven in 10 people across the population. To reach this level, FCA-reported usage would have to increase by five-fold.
According to the DWP, there was a 29 per cent increase in the number of attended Pension Wise appointments between 2018/19 and 2019/20, from 102,000 to 132,000 appointments.
A DWP spokesperson said: "These statistics only provide a partial picture of take-up. Only those who haven’t received regulated advice are asked whether they received Pension Wise guidance – some people will have received both.
"The take-up of Pension Wise is increasing, with Pension Wise appointments up 29 per cent over the last financial year.”
In November 2020, the regulator’s newly appointed CEO Nikhil Rathi admitted to MPs that there was no target uptake in mind for the service. The government later gave the FCA the option to set a target.
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just Group, said: “Most people think current usage is a long way short of the government’s ambition and making guidance ‘the norm’ will require an ambitious and targeted shift in policy."
To encourage greater adoption, Lowe said the government would be better off pursuing the same approach it did for auto-enrolment.
“Automatically booking people onto appointments would help to transform Pension Wise usage,” he said.
“The highly successful policy of automatic enrolment into workplace pensions shows that inertia can be a force for good – applying this to guidance would be a great first step towards increasing take-up and achieving better retirement outcomes for millions.”
A marketing campaign is just one way the government has pursued to improve uptake of the service.
Last year proposals surfaced about expanding Pension Wise to operate a low cost form of advice, however this received backlash from advisers who said it would cause confusion and undermine the profession.