CORONAVIRUS AND PENSIONS: Five things you should Demand from your Pension Provider

12:09 PM

MATTHEW FEARGRIEVE explains five things you should be demanding from your pension provider- and your financial adviser- during the coronavirus lockdown.

In these days of lockdown and self-isolation, pension providers and financial advisers, like all businesses, have to work harder at reaching out to their clients. Especially when your pension fund is suffering losses in the market turmoil. Now is the time for all financial services firms to be thinking of their clients and how to help them understand the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis on their investments.
Here we explain five key things that your pension provider and your financial advisers (whichever one you have the main relationship with) should be doing during the lockdown to support you; and which, if they are not doing, you should be demanding from them.
  1. Putting you First. Consider how your daily life and routine have changed during the pandemic. Your pension provider and adviser should demonstrate that they are mindful of this. They should be using distribution channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as email and the telephone, to provide you with regular updates and market commentary as the lockdown continues. There is a lot of panic and fake news circulating the internet, and one of their biggest priorities- after protecting your pension fund’s assets- is to keep you, their client, informed and provided with high quality information about what they are doing to limit losses to your pension pot.
  2. Reaching out to you. Your pension provider should understand that you will have lots of things competing for your attention, like your health and the welfare of your family, and so they should ensure that the information they provide to you is given in a convenient way, and in a format that you are comfortable using, for example an email, or a web video. If you feel that you have not heard or received anything from your pension provider or adviser, let them know. It may be that they are sending you electronic communications like email that you did not originally sign up for.
  3. Providing you with online information and tools. While many people are more comfortable using traditional methods of communication, like the post and the telephone, the fact of life today is that businesses are making increasing use of electronic forms of communication, like email and other online (internet) means. Your pension provider will have a website, and on that website will be information that is specific to the COVID19 crisis. You should visit that website and look for information that helps you understand how your pension funds are being managed in the falling markets that the pandemic has brought about. If you cannot find any information on their website, or feel that what they have provided is inadequate, telephone them to let them know, and ask for more information. Do not feel awkward or embarrassed about asking questions that you may feel are “silly”. In times like these, there is no such thing as a silly question!
  4. Enabling you to meet “virtually”. Your pension provider should be sensitive to how your daily routine has changed, through lockdowns and incapacity through illness of key personnel, friends or family. Now is the time to explore whether or not your provider is using videoconferencing and webinars, which are online tools to help you speak face-to-face with an adviser using the internet. Tools like Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangout are all being used a lot more at the moment, as businesses and individuals figure out ways of communicating remotely with customers, friends and family. Remember: your financial services providers are in the same boat as you, and they should be sympathetic to your need for support and a friendly voice, be it online or on the telephone.
  5. Providing you with more information than usual. As a financial service firm regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the United Kingdom, your pension provider and financial advisers should have established a dedicated team to handle communications with clients like you. The team’s central task will be to implement the steps that we have been discussing here, with a view to increasing the frequency and moderating the content of portfolio performance updates, reports and market commentaries, and utilising suitable distribution channels to provide this information to you. In addition to communicating with you, this team should also be talking to your fund’s professional service providers, and if appropriate relaying relevant intelligence back to you.
Whilst the pandemic presents real challenges for your pension fund’s portfolio, it also provides your provider with a golden opportunity to reach out and connect with you, and other investors, as a captive audience.
Being in touch with you during this crisis and keeping you informed will be key to retaining you as a client when we are all able to return to business-as-usual. But the lockdown will not last forever, and now is the time for your pension provider and financial advisers to be getting in touch with you.
MATTHEW FEARGRIEVE is an independent investment consultant.

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