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Pension Scheme Websites

September 2 2006 - Awareness of pension scheme websites is considerably higher among employees than the self-employed, according to a report funded by the Economic and Social Research Council e-Society programme.

In a survey of 1337 individuals, Dr Tina Harrison and Kathryn Waite found that less than a quarter of self-employed knew that their pension scheme had a website, and around half of these had actually used it. Findings show that pension scheme members who had used their website were benefiting from an increased understanding of pensions and, in some cases, an enhanced decision-making capacity.

Many large occupational pension schemes now provide a website. The authors found that about three-quarters of occupational scheme members surveyed were aware of their pension website and similarly high proportions had used it. Facilities and features range from purely informational sites, such as web-based scheme booklets, to fully functional integrated sites that allow scheme members to switch funds, change contribution levels and update personal details online. The most popular features are those that allow members to obtain projections of their benefits and to model 'what if' scenarios.

The survey found that the vast majority of pension website users reported increased access to pension information, and half of these said they are better informed as a result. Similar proportions experienced greater confidence when making pension enquiries and decisions as a result of using the website. More than half of website users said they are taking more interest in their pension as a result, and around a third said they have saved more towards their retirement.

Tina Harrison said:

"The need for better communication and information provision via the web is important within the broader context of the general move from DB (defined benefit/final salary) to DC (defined contribution) pensions. DC pensions transfer the investment risk from the employer to the individual. This means there is a greater need for communication, education and ideally consumer involvement in the progress of an individual's pension pot. If the individual can become more engaged in the process, through using a pension website, they will have more heightened awareness of financial issues."

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