Take a look in the pension mirror



image of Robert Cochran

Robert Cochran

Retirement Specialist

An ‘overnight’ pension engagement sensation built on 10 years of experience

The Scottish Widows pension mirror blends AI, innovation – and a bit of fun.

The success of Scottish Widows’ #PensionMirror has taken many people by surprise, including me. Our new AI-powered tool, which we launched during Pension Engagement Season, guesses people’s age, and shows them the average pension savings of people of the same vintage.  

All it takes is a few seconds to look into the pension mirror on a smartphone. It’s fun and easy – with the serious purpose behind it to get people more engaged with pensions. 

The mirror has really captured people’s imagination, spreading – or should that be shining – its way across social media, with lots of shares, comments, and laughter.  

Amazingly, the pension mirror travelled internationally on LinkedIn with people across Europe, the United States and as far afield as India, sharing their images and calling out the pension mirror as how pension engagement should be done in their countries. 

It got people buzzing during our employer webinar sessions, with thousands of employees getting excited about pensions in a way I hadn’t seen for years. Or ever, really. 

Colleagues, industry contacts and the wider public kept the momentum going, with people trying it almost four times, on average. More than 72,000 people have used it a quarter of a million times so far, including several MPs who were spotted using it in the House of Commons in October.  

By some margin, it’s the most successful engagement tool we’ve launched. 

I tried it a few times and my ‘best’ age came in at 44, admittedly knocking a few years off with the help of some good lighting. There is a definite knack to it that your average millennial or teenage Gen Z-er would know instantly from their TikTok and Snapchat photos.  

That level of success is not something we’d dreamed would happen, but we’re delighted that it’s made a difference to how people engage with their pension. 

It all began with a bus

Of course, calling it an overnight sensation is stretching it. The roots of the mirror go right back to another pension engagement story a decade ago – the Pension Bus, where we toured the UK with the Pension Geeks on a double-decker bus to encourage people to engage with their pensions. We realised we needed something cool for people after they got off the bus, something that they could feel part of – and which would get them talking and thinking about their pension.  

That’s where our Age Me photo booth came in. People input details about how much they were saving into their pension and how much income they wanted in retirement, and the booth would print an old school, kodak-style photo of what age they’d look like when they could retire.  

It worked really well in the workplace, with employees sharing their aged image with colleagues who would then come down to the booth to get their picture taken – while learning a bit about their pension.  

Next came a digital solution. Meet Your Future Self was a tool which took a pension illustration and turned it into a selfie on your phone. Pension engagement for the selfie generation was born. 

The Pension Mirror brings things right up to date. We began work on it six months before launch when we challenged our agency to come up with something new and exciting. We needed something fresh and new, but it looked too simple. I was initially a little underwhelmed.  

I doubted it could be as engaging as the pension bus or the giant truck we used to travel the length and breadth of the country in, meeting people face to face to help them understand their pensions better. 

But it’s not until you put stuff out there and test it that you really get a feel for how it will land. We kept tweaking the design and tested it carefully to make it as inclusive as possible. 

The pension mirror, like many innovations, is the combination of a couple of existing things to make something new. We blended the AI (where you look at your phone screen and it guesses your age) with the Office for National Statistics’ data set which gives the average pension fund for each age cohort in the UK.  

What about the practical benefits? 

Giving people a bit of pension knowledge in a friction-free way quickly moves the conversation on from how old someone looks to whether they feel good about their pension pot compared to the average.  Even in my own cycle-riding WhatsApp groups these conversations quickly and seamlessly moved from occasional indignation at the age profile, to questions about the pension figures. 

But there’s an extra dimension to this. The mirror was designed for Scottish Widows workplace customers, to get them engaged and encourage them to download the Scottish Widows Workplace pension app.   

The mirror contributed to a doubling and trebling of pension app download figures in the days after its launch alongside our online, virtual events.  But even more than that, it made those virtual events incredibly successful and much more enjoyable for the thousands who took part. 

So, for anyone who hasn’t tried it yet, why not give it a go at  www.pensionmirror.co.uk If it gets more people thinking about pension saving and planning for retirement, even better. 

As for next year, we’re already looking at ways to reach new audiences to get the pension message across in 2024.  Watch this space.  



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