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Your lost pension pots…. As they won’t come looking for you – Duncan Stevens, CEO, Gretel finds pension worth £100k

Duncan Stevens is Chief Executive Officer at Gretel, a free platform to help people trace lost accounts, pensions and investments. He is in his 40s and recently went through the process of tracing a lost pension. He was successful and found a pension from a previous employer now worth £100K.

Duncan is a keen supporter of National Pension Tracing Day in October and wants to raise awareness of the challenges facing the pension industry at large in helping reunite people with their hard earned pension money.

He points to external research his company has done that shows that awareness is a big barrier to people reconnecting with their pension but that beyond that it is industry complexity which presents the greatest challenge – over 50% of people reported simply not knowing where or how to engage.

Duncan decided to trace a lost pension earlier this year. He points out that it wasn’t that he had forgotten about it, he had just been so busy with work in recent years it wasn’t a priority. However through his work developing Gretel it became front of mind and so the time was right for him to see if he could find it.

Duncan had no paperwork and only had the name of his previous employer to go on. He started by contacting the Government’s Pension Tracing Service. Unfortunately this wasn’t a great help. When he entered his previous company’s name who he worked for 18 years ago the service said the data had been archived but provided no advice beyond this.

Next he tried his former employer. They searched and came up with eight different pension schemes he could have been a member of but couldn’t tell him which one. It was therefore down to Duncan to contact them all, which he did.

After lots of phoning and writing to the various schemes he eventually found the pension which he says ironically was with a well-known TPA that prides itself on having incredibly proactive tracing methods. In fact Duncan had met the administrator prior to tracing his pension in a work capacity and they had told him they had a market leading tracing process.

Duncan’s experience suggests this is not the case. He has only moved house twice in 20 years, is on the electoral roll and has worked for several high profile finance / pension organisations – so is not someone who it would be difficult to find.  However it appears they never even tried to find him once.

He was delighted though to have finally found his pension, but the journey didn’t end there.  Duncan contacted the pension administrator but they wouldn’t tell him how much was in his deferred pot, insisting that they run some calculations first. It was almost three weeks later that a statement arrived and he discovered there was over £100K sitting in his pension pot.

Duncan says, “Despite this happy outcome, the tragedy is that I could perhaps have done far more with my investment had they only tried to reach out to me or made my information easy to find. To add to my frustration, the pension statement itself is full of jargon that even I can’t interpret despite my background. So it now sits in a drawer as I’m too frustrated and busy to speak to them to get the help I need.”

Duncan says that eventually he will get round to consolidating his pension pots. His experience though highlights that most pension companies don’t have the money or inclination to go looking for deferred members mainly because of the costs involved.

They may spend time looking for people nearing retirement or those already receiving their pension, but for people in their 20s, 30s and 40s it’s unlikely they will try to find them.

The onus is therefore on the individual to persevere like Duncan did and spend the time hunting down a pension if they believe they have one, but don’t have any paperwork.

Duncan adds, “My experience shows that even for someone with a financial background like myself it can be hard to locate a pension; for those that don’t even know they have a pension there is virtually no chance of them being reunited. A pension scheme is highly unlikely to come looking for you, especially if you are nowhere near retirement.

“This is why we set up Gretel, to provide a free, simple and accessible means to search for pensions and other financial products. Gretel doesn’t need a user to remember their pension provider or employer details, and because it doesn’t rely on them being able to find old paperwork it can save a huge amount of time and effort, as my own experience demonstrates.

“Therefore, I’d definitely encourage people to be proactive and search for a lost or forgotten pension. National Pension Tracing Day is doing a great job raising awareness of lost pensions and the web site has lots of tips on how to go about it. Most people won’t have a clue how to go about it, so this is a great place to start.”