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Royal Mail contests ranking that names it slowest to respond to information requests

19 Jan 2019, 14:43 ... quests.php

The Royal Mail Pension Scheme has contested a ranking that names it as the slowest defined benefit pension scheme to respond to requests for information from pension advice firm, Portafina, on behalf of members.

Portafina’s 2018 league table of pension provider service times, benchmarks the time taken by different pension schemes to provide the basic information necessary to advise clients on areas like the pension freedoms.

The analysis covers 11,431 requests for information made by Portafina on behalf of 5,523 new clients to over 650 different defined contribution (DC) and defined benefit (DB) pension scheme providers and scheme administrators.

The slowest DB scheme, according to Portafina, was the Royal Mail Pension Scheme, which it revealed took 22 weeks to respond to its request for information, up from 10.2 weeks in 2017. However, the figures have been contested by Royal Mail.

“We don’t recognise these figures. Our own records show that all cases in 2017-18 and 2018-19 (year to date) have been completed within the statutory 13-week timescale. The typical response times is actually much shorter,” a spokesperson said.

However, Portafina noted that in its experience with Royal Mail, whilst it sends a response in good time, it doesn't answer Portafina's questions but "simply sends us their own forms for the client to complete personally".

"The delays then come when Royal Mail drag their heels on receipt of their own forms from the client. It is totally unnecessary and we would love to engage with them directly to improve things. Our measurement of response time is from our initial request of information to when Royal Mail have provided us with all of the information needed to complete a pension review. Not from when they first respond to us," Portafina stated.

The other four slowest schemes ranked by Portafina were Staffordshire County Council (17.2 weeks), Peninsula Pensions (14 weeks), Kent County Council (13.7 weeks) and Mersey Pension Fund (11.5 weeks).

The fastest ranked DB schemes were Legal and General (1.5 weeks), The Pensions Trust (1.9 weeks), Lafarge UK Pension Plan (1.9 weeks), Railways Pension Scheme (2 weeks) and DHL Group Retirement Plan (2.4 weeks).

The fastest DC schemes were Hargreaves Lansdown (1.4 weeks), Canada Life (1.7 weeks), Scottish Widows (1.7 weeks), St. James Place (1.8 weeks) and Virgin Money (1.8 weeks). The slowest schemes were Equitable Life Assurance Society (7.5 weeks), The Pensions Trust (5.4 weeks), Mercer (5.1 weeks), Aon Hewitt (4.9 weeks) and Reliance Mutual (4.9 weeks).

Commenting, Portafina managing director, Jaime Smith-Thompson, said: “The pension freedoms put a strain on providers and it took a while for a number of providers to gear up to cope. The majority have things under control now and we are generally seeing an improvement in response times overall, even if the very fastest are no faster than the timescales we were seeing three or four years ago.

“The exception, of course, are the local councils who are struggling with the resource they have available to them. Nine out of the ten slowest schemes were local councils and it can be hard for clients to understand how things can take so long.

“It is a shame that the initial scope of the pensions dashboard seems to be fairly limited now to pretty basic information from a limited number of providers. It is going to be a while before we get to timescales that clients will see as acceptable in the digital age.”

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