Under 6,000 unique referrals made through MoneyHelper tool since launch

Less than 6,000 (5,989) unique referrals took place from the MoneyHelper Investment Pathways price comparison tool from its launch in February 2021 to January 2022, a Freedom of Information request from PensionBee has revealed.

The total number of referrals coming as a result of the tool during this period was 6,722.

PensionBee previously expressed concerns with the use of tool, writing to the Money and Pensions Service (Maps) in March 2021 to suggest that the tool was “not fit for purpose” and challenging the way products were displayed.

The provider warned that solely focusing on charges without sufficient consideration given to other features, such as target returns, past performance, ability to make small withdrawals and availability of planning tools, was to the detriment of transparency and customer outcomes.

The tool’s design was also a concern for the pension provider, which stated that inappropriate products could be placed under the hood of each pathway to achieve a better rank.

PensionBee called for urgent changes to be made to ensure the tool offered consumers a representative market comparison of their available options.

The provider’s correspondence also questioned why so many major pension providers, who were eligible to appear on the tool, were missing.

Despite assurances from Maps that it was in the process of onboarding additional providers on a voluntary basis, and that the tool would be kept under review in line with FCA guidance, PensionBee said it had not seen any changes that would enable meaningful product comparisons, and that efforts to onboard other major providers appeared to have been unsuccessful.

Disappointed by a lack of progress and “exceptionally low levels of consumer engagement”, PensionBee wrote to Maps on 15 February 2022 requesting its immediate removal from the tool.

PensionBee CEO, Romi Savova, commented: “Last year we asked Maps how it measured consumer outcomes from the tool, and what success looks like. Today it is clear from the number of unique referrals that the tool is pointless and not fit for purpose.

“The low level of consumer engagement is extremely disappointing given the huge financial investment that has gone into the tool. As a result, we have lost confidence in it and requested our immediate removal.

“Only if sufficient progress is made to ensure that the tool enables meaningful product comparisons and helps consumers make better decisions about what to do with their pensions at retirement, would we consider re-joining in future.”

Responding, a Maps spokesperson said: “Our role is to help people make the most of their money and pensions. A significant part of this is to empower people to make informed decisions to understand the options available to them and we do this through our MoneyHelper service.

“Since its launch, nearly 11,000 people have completed the Investment Pathways Comparison Tool, and informed themselves of their options. The tool was never designed to be whole of market and only shows products that are available on the open market and direct to consumers so that users of the tool know that what is shown is available to them.

"We make it clear in the tool that users should check with their current scheme/provider whether they offer investment pathways so that they can include them in their comparison. Participation in the Investment Pathways tool is not mandated by the FCA.

“We are also open to making improvements and we will shortly be engaging the market to gauge interest in providing the back-end technology for the tool going forward. To inform this exercise Maps will be setting up a forum to engage with investment pathway providers to see how we might make further improvements to the tool, whilst ensuring it remains aligned to FCA policy. PensionBee would be welcome to contribute to this discussion.”

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