Engagement in a DC world


Sharon Bellingham

Sharon Bellingham

Master Trust and IGC Lead.

Sharon Bellingham, Master Trust Lead at Scottish Widows, discusses how communication strategies need to evolve to meet the needs of DC savers.

This article was first published in August 2023 in the Pensions Management Institute (PMI) Aspects Magazine.

Living in a household of three young digital native “Zoomers” (or “Gen Z”), I have hands-on experience of the challenges around engaging with an audience who see more of their phone screens than they do their family. My three Zoomers are already very different when it comes to attitudes to money and savings, with the spectrum ranging from frivolous spending all the way through to frugality.

The influence of personality type is already apparent, as is the preferred method for receiving information – some of us prefer to use our mobile phones whilst others might prefer speaking to someone. This tells us that hyper-personalisation is key and inclusive design is at the heart of engagement and ensures diverse needs are met. 

Understanding Different Engagement Needs 

In our most recent Master Trust member survey, we found that 40% of our members have three or more pension pots, and 42% of our members think an online platform with all their pensions in one place would stimulate greater engagement.1 With the recent Pensions Dashboards update confirming a new connection deadline, we’re poised and ready for action and are excited by the opportunity dashboards provide through showing clear, simple and secure information about every type of pension in one place – this will rapidly transform retirement planning and overall pension engagement. 

Our survey also told us that for Gen Z and Millennial members, seeing everything in one place is the most important thing to help them better connect with their pension, and will help them feel a greater sense of pension ownership.[1] Being part of Lloyds Banking Group means that Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland customers can see their Scottish Widows pension alongside their bank account, and our data tells us that most of us look at our bank accounts twenty-six times a month (which is almost every day).

So, this provides a significant opportunity to reimagine retirement savings as a ‘current account for your future’, alongside other financial products. 

As a natural progression from Open Banking and the development of Dashboards, Open Finance will further revolutionise how people engage with their finances. AI will play a significant role in enhancing engagement by anticipating members’ needs and providing personalised communication and behavioral nudges, helping members make informed decisions and encourage thinking about long term savings. And as people’s needs evolve throughout their lifetime, these solutions will naturally flex and adapt around their changing priorities.   

Consumer Duty, with its mandate for driving better understanding and outcomes for consumers, will also be a catalyst for positive change. There is, however, also a risk that it creates an engagement disparity in the industry and a two-tier pension communication landscape; not all pension products and schemes are in scope and even just considering the Master Trust market, some providers (such as Scottish Widows) are implementing the higher and clearer standards that Consumer Duty requires, whilst others are not doing so.

The Engagement Journey 

It’s important that employers, trustees and pension providers adapt to Generation DC’s needs in order to ensure the right balance when engaging with members about their retirement savings. Sensitively educating to enable savers to manage finances using new technology, is key to helping members make informed decisions on what matters now, as well as future financial resilience. There remains, however, a significant place for in-person support, often delivered in the workplace; in our experience this continues to be incredibly popular and highly valued by members.  

We also have a fantastic opportunity to support younger generations, to help them to learn about finances – embedding a positive savings culture at an early age is an important early intervention and will help influence financial outcomes. My youngest Zoomer once posed a question to me, asking, “At school, why don’t they teach you how to pay for life?”, and it’s certainly a key point and something that’s even obvious to a much younger generation.

The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) have funded financial education in schools programmes. This, and other industry initiatives, including our own Lloyds Bank Academy, are examples of how we can empower young people with financial skills. But it’s clear that more is needed to integrate and firmly embed financial education across national curriculums. Helping people grasp the basic building blocks of pensions and investing is key – and to achieve this, we need a system that leaves nobody behind and supports people to be money-confident and prepare sufficiently for retirement. 

It’s clear that we have a considerable pensions engagement gap, where fear and detachment is the sentiment that many people have towards their retirement savings. But we have a huge opportunity, through data science and personalisation, to bring the ‘current account for your future’ to where people already are. We can connect using simple and inclusive language, that reflects where people are in their retirement journey.

Engagement, however, is only step one. Once we have people’s attention, we need a laser focus on providing the seamless help members need to make informed decisions and to make the changes now that will be life-altering to their financial future.


Notes to Editor

[1] According to research from Scottish Widows, Scottish Widows Master Trust Member Survey 2023.



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