The following article first appeared in Pension Funds Insider from Pension Funds Online on 20 May 2019.
When considering online pension communications, there is a tendency for trustees and sponsors to make assumptions about the preferences of different membership demographics. However, recent research proves that many common assumptions about certain age groups or industries aren’t entirely accurate.
Our own study, conducted with YouGov, delves deep into peoples’ opinions on digital innovation and, specifically, digital pension communications. The results are striking. Undertaken in February 2019, the survey focused on four crucial pension access questions, in light of digital communication trends.
The survey asked a total of 2,027 respondents whether they had a pension and if so, whether they had accessed it online. To gain a broader view of the state of digital communication in the sector as a whole, the survey asked how willing respondents were to embrace digital innovation in pension communications, and how they felt about going paperless in the near future.
It is often assumed that younger generations, particularly millennials, are at the forefront of digital change. Those belonging to this demographic tend to be early adopters of a huge array of different digital tools, and show a preference for online communication services. Interestingly, our research reveals that this openness to embrace digital communication does not fully extend to pension communications. In fact, those aged under 35 are the least likely, of the different age groups surveyed, to know how to access their pension account online.
The research shows that 43% of respondents aged under 35 are unsure how to access their pension online. Compare this to the oldest demographic, and the results are more intriguing still. Those surveyed aged over 55 are far more likely to have accessed their pension account online with just 19% of those who haven’t accessed their account online saying they are ‘unsure how to’.
The growing appetite for paperless communication spans all demographics, with more and more people starting to embrace the convenience of replacing traditional letters. As you might expect, the age group most likely to be happy with a move to paperless communication is the youngest group; those aged under 35.
Given the fact that under 35s are far more used to online communication methods, this result is unsurprising. However, the interest in paperless communication extends far beyond this younger age group. The research looks in detail at the appetite for paperless communication across different age demographics, and finds only a very slight decline in the percentage of respondents willing to go paperless as age increases.
87% of respondents aged under 35 are happy to go paperless. For those aged 35-45, this figure is slightly lower at 79%, and for 45-55 year olds it is 70%. While those aged 55+ are least willing to go paperless, the majority of this age group remains open to digital communication, with 68% happy to go digital.
It is easy make assumptions about what will appeal to different demographics but without digging deeper into the attitudes and behaviour of consumers, it is not prudent to do so. Findings such as these shine a light on how pension scheme holders really feel about the changing landscape of pension communications, and give clear insight into how pension schemes could be better providing for their members. It’s now down to the industry to embrace innovation and enhance their own offerings to ensure they are able to meet the growing expectations of their increasingly digitally-aware membership.