“Dare to be bold” was the rallying cry from Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion as the ABI’s Savings Tech Sprint got underway last week. The two-day industry event hosted by the Association of British Insurers, the Department for Work & Pensions, HM Treasury and involving close to one hundred delegates from technology firms, pensions, banking, regulation and the Government, gathered together at Aviva’s trendy ‘digital garage’ in Hoxton Square. The aim? To formulate ideas and develop solutions to help the self-employed save for retirement.
Nine teams (including delegates from Bravura) had just 24 hours in order to make a real impact and positive change to the c.5m people who are currently self-employed – up nearly 50% since 2000. Savings levels amongst this population has not kept pace, with many self-employed people strugglingto maintain a ‘rainy day’ fund, let alone setting money aside for a pension.
Alistair McQueen, Head of Savings & Retirement at Aviva and compere for the Sprint brought home the enormity of the task at hand, when he revealed that over 45% of self-employed workers aged 35-55 have £0 in pensions savings.
Collaboration and not competition was the order of the day as the morning brainstorming began on how technology and new services or apps could be used to deliver a service to the self-employed that replicated the success of auto-enrolment and give a level of parity to employees. Fast-forward a few hours and it became clear looking around the room, the huge strides that teams had made in such a short time. When walking the room, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the diagrams, post-its, colourful whiteboards and presentations coming to life and most of all, the determination that teams had to produce workable ideas.
At the end of Day 1 (which for some was a very late finish), most teams had put themselves at 70% ready to pitch their ideas, prompting a closing remark from our hosts: “most businesses’ might take close to a year to achieve what you have done today.”
As Day 2 dawned, teams had only a few hours to finalise their pitches, before presenting to judges Michelle Cracknell of the Pensions Advisory Service, Will Lovegrove of PensionSync and Chris Curry of the Pensions Policy Institute. It was deeply impressive to hear the diverse and innovative visions presented for the Government to consider.
Many of the best ideas came down to ‘simplicity’ and the ability not to disturb the ordinary day-to-day – replicating some of the success that auto-enrolment has had with employees. Ideas included:
- using open banking to smooth out irregularities in self-employment income, while ear-marking funds for both a rainy-day savings fund and for long-term savings;
- plugging in to existing ‘gig’ platforms such as Uber and using simple “nudges” for drivers to save certain fares or certain amounts per day into a retirement fund;
- and using the power of the Pensions Dashboard to give the self-employed more insight into the savings options available to them.
It was a great privilege for Bravura to be involved in this project. It shows what is truly possible when you bring together enthusiastic and clever people from the worlds of financial services, the Government and the financial technology space. It seems that customer engagement and exciting technology propositions are set to be a key part of the solution to deliver a savings culture to the self-employed. Whilst the reality of rolling out these services to the people that need them can’t be done as quickly as the ideas were created, it is encouraging to see that there is real willingness from all parties to make this happen.
“Dare to be bold” said Mr Opperman – challenge accepted. Now for HMRC and the Department for Work & Pensions, the real work starts. Well done to all involved.