Firing line  

PensionBee's CEO on why she is floating the business

PensionBee's CEO on why she is floating the business

Many in the pensions industry may be looking at new start-ups in the sector with varying degrees of scepticism and wariness, given the unpredictability and novelty of fintech companies.

But PensionBee, set up by Romi Savova seven years ago, has established itself to the extent that Savova is now on the steering group of the Pensions Dashboard Programme, and has industry heavyweights on her board – Michelle Cracknell, to name one.

But perhaps more significantly, the company is coming to market next week, floating on the London Stock Exchange with a valuation of £365m, generating £55m of capital to spend on the business.

Savova dismisses comparisons to Deliveroo – another tech-based business, albeit with a different business model and shareholder structure – which bombed spectacularly when it floated three weeks ago.

"Deliveroo's problems are very specific. Generally speaking, markets are at all-time highs and that's reflective of positive economic sentiment and lots of companies doing very well and transitioning to a post-Covid world."

PensionBee is fundamentally a pension consolidator, appealing to people who have several small pension pots who would not normally feature on advisers' radars, but still have several thousands they do not know what to do with.

She says: "We are appealing to people who perceive their pension is a problem; we are there to solve the problem of having lots of paperwork in the drawer.

"The average age is 39, someone who has had a couple of jobs, and the average pension pot size is £20,000. 

"[People come to us because they] have a few pension pots and they want to bring them together. People are frustrated; they receive 20 or 30 pages in the post and are a bit baffled about what it's invested in."

There are nine different options for people to invest in at PensionBee, but the most popular and the default fund is the target-date product, run by BlackRock, called the 'tailored' plan.

"All of our products are used by major pension providers and are often also used in the workplace. A lot of our customers are leaving workplace defined contribution pensions and coming into a PensionBee pension."

The process of finding and combining the pensions is free, and the charge for the BlackRock fund is 0.7 per cent.

The company has developed other products such as the 'fossil-fuel-free' plan, which charges 0.75 per cent, and a pension for the self-employed, which allows people to transfer any pension from a former employer and then add to the pot as and when they are able to.

So far, the company has amassed £1.7bn of assets under administration, with 137,000 clients, and Savova says it is doubling in size each year – but the question for everyone is: is it profitable?

The answer is: not yet.

According to the offer document, the company made an operating loss of £13m last year, on revenues of £6m, and a loss the previous year of £7m.

Savova says: "If you look at our financials and strip out the marketing expenditure, you do see we are actually not very far away from profitability.