Offerings from Aegon, Aviva, and Scottish Widows have taken the crown in the Financial Technology Research Centre’s (FTRC) annual workplace pensions and auto-enrolment (AE) ratings.
The financial research consultancy's ratings are provided through its newly launched data and information insights site, Benefits Guru, and are designed to assist providers, employers, and advisers in identifying strengths and weaknesses within pension propositions.
FTRC said it saw a 54% surge in entrants for rating this year which sees solutions graded as ‘gold', ‘silver' or ‘bronze' for their overall score along with a series of sub-categories reflecting the most frequently selected features chosen by financial advisers in the preceding 12 months.
New considerations around IT resilience and continuity were examined in sub categories this year on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, with workplace pensions sub-categories looking specifically at disaster recovery, resilience and continuity strategies providers have in place to deal with the pandemic as well as potential future disasters.
AE functionality is also a key consideration in the ratings, with Benefits Guru considering process and functionality, and ratings and quality of provider offering. Financial wellness was the lowest scorer across the board for 2020.
Both the Aegon Master Trust and the Aegon Retirement Choices retained gold ratings for FTRC's 2020 workplace pensions overall award and its 2020 AE overall award.
The Aviva Designer solution, Aviva My Money, and the Aviva My Money Master Trust also received two gold ratings for the pensions overall award and AE overall award, the same as in 2019.
The Standard Life Group Flexible Retirement Plan and Standard Life Master Trust - new entries for the ratings for 2020 - also received two gold ratings across both categories.
Scottish Widows, Scottish Widows Group Self-Invested Personal Pension and Scottish Widows Master Trust all took gold ratings in both categories, with the master trust having upgraded from silver last year in AE overall.
Fidelity and the Fidelity Master Trust also received two gold ratings, followed by Hargreaves Lansdown which received gold for AE overall and silver for pensions overall.
Legal & General WorkSave Pension Plan and the Legal & General Master Trust took a gold rating for pensions overall, while both recorded a bronze for AE overall.
Mercer Master Trust, where administered by Aviva or Scottish Widows, took a gold rating across both awards.
Royal London dropped to silver from gold this year in the overall award but retained its 2019 gold rating for AE overall.
Meanwhile, Salvus Master Trust - acquired earlier this year by Cushon - retained a silver for pensions overall and a gold for AE overall as per its 2019 ratings.
FTRC director and founder Ian McKenna said the ratings were needed following the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) review of workplace and personal pension schemes and investment governance committee processes.
"The FCA recently expressed concerns that some scheme members may not be getting good value from their workplace pension," he said. "Our objective benchmarking process ensures that all providers are held accountable for their products and services, and our quick comparison tool enables employers and advisers to assess if their scheme is fit for purpose.
"By providing this service, our aim is to ensure that providers deliver the quality and value for money that employers, advisers and scheme members require."
Head of workplace research Jason Green added: "This year, the majority of providers scored very highly overall which is great to see. There are a handful of providers that are currently doing very well in the area of financial wellness, and we hope to see others follow suit.
"We want to provide advisers, providers, and employers with the full picture so that they can make better, more informed decisions on the best operational capabilities and product features for customers."
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