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Online Tools: Is Technology Helping Defined Benefit Members Make Better Decisions on Their Retirement Options?

It is no secret that technology plays a huge part in our daily life. This includes using technology to access financial services — for example, many of us now use mobile banking apps as part of managing our finances. But how do pensions feature in this increasingly digital world?

Georgina Rutter Photograph

Georgina Rutter
Senior Consultant


Andy Fryer
Associate Partner

Helping Members Make Informed Decisions

After ‘Freedom and Choice’ was announced in 2015, there was a flurry of activity as the industry developed online tools to help members better understand their options and consider that tricky question — how should I take my pension benefits?

But how are members engaging with these tools and technology? And, what can we learn to further improve member engagement and help each individual make better decisions for their retirement?

To address this, we have evaluated six years of engagement data from c.40,000 members who have access to use The Aon Retirement Options Model (AROM).

Members with access to AROM are provided with a simple side-by-side comparison of their retirement options and are able to interactively explore which option may best suit their personal circumstances.

The data gives us valuable insights into member behaviour and attitude to technology. Our findings are discussed below.

  1. Members engage in pensions during working hours. The heat map reveals that more members use the tool on weekday mornings; the darkest blue segments representing over four times the number of users compared with the lightest blue segments.

    Users By Time Of Day
    Heatmap showing Aon Retirement Option Modal average user behaviour

    Most members are not sitting down to consider their pension provision in their free time, but instead doing it ‘on the clock’ after that mid-morning cup of tea. Yes, some get back into financial planning mode on Sunday, but many prefer to consider their options during the working day

    For sponsors, embracing the need for financial wellbeing and pension education sessions would appear a benefit that employees would appreciate.

  2. Members value round the clock access — lots of members might consider pensions during their workday, but this is certainly not true for all. The absence of any grey sections in the heat map means that someone has accessed the tool during every hour, of every day (2-3am on Sunday morning was last to go, if you are interested).

    Online tools allow schemes to offer continuous support, and our experience is that members will make use of this, letting them think about their options at the time which is best for them.

  3. PCs / laptops are currently preferred over tablets / smartphones. Using your mobile device for managing your finances might be increasingly popular, but when it comes to DB pensions, the data suggests members like to be at their desk.

    Sessions by Devices
    Pie chart showing Aon Retirement Option Model device usage: Desktop - 84.4%, Tablet - 8.2%, Mobile - 7.4%

    The apparent seriousness with which individuals approach their pension choices is encouraging, and modelling tools allow them to deepen their understanding of their options. The use of wrappers/folders to house retirement documents has also proved popular, providing extra signposting to drive engagement with the online support available.

  4. Multiple logins are common. Members using AROM log in, on average, four times. Ensuring the user journey is easy — for instance by having the member’s pension data pre-loaded — supports this ‘little and often’ engagement with online tools.

  5. The wider communications strategy is really important. Engagement rates across over 60 of our clients who use AROM range from approximately 20 percent to over 80 percent of members using the tool.

    Making an online tool available is great but it needs to be accessible and repeatedly promoted across the membership to add maximum value. ‘Embed and forget’ approaches have performed poorly compared with schemes that have embraced the need to regularly review their member engagement strategy and continually ‘nudging’ members to remind them of the support available.

The Future

Statistics on internet usage support the argument for more online products. The 2022 Ofcom Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes report shows that 96 percent of 55–64 year olds and 73 percent of over 65s use the internet at home. For younger members, technology presents a huge opportunity to boost engagement and make pensions more accessible.

If you are interested in exploring this further, please contact one of our Member Options experts.

Discover more in our Member Options Insight Hub
Get in touch with our Member Options Specialists

Explore Further

Bearded man reviews his pension options using the Aon Retirement Option Model tool on his tablet

Aon Retirement Option Model (AROM)

An easy-to-use, web-based tool helping members understand and identify the best pension choices for them.

Black Female views data regarding pension option using Pension Increase Exchange (PIE) Modeller

Pension Increase Exchange (PIE) Modeller

Supporting pensioner members of defined benefit pension schemes with decisions to exchange their future pension increases for a higher pension.

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