12 days of Festive Pension gifts


Graeme Bold

Graeme Bold

Workplace Pensions Director

What did the pension elves deliver in 2023?

From apps to pension mirrors, our end of the year round-up unwrapped for you by Graeme Bold and our Workplace Pensions team.  

1. The gift of a better pensions app  
    Graeme Bold, Workplace Pensions Director

Across the year our busy and talented app team kept delivering little presents into the Scottish Widows pension app. 

At the start of 2023 we had a good app but with limited transactional capability. By the end of the year scheme members were nominating beneficiaries, transferring in old pension pots, fund switching and updating retirement details in their thousands.   

And this is only the start, with 2024 looking like an even more exciting year for app developments. 

2. Pension Mirror: the star attraction  
    Robert Cochran, Retirement Specialist 

The Scottish Widows Pension Mirror has to be the surprise gift of 2023. 

With its quirky but scarily accurate use of AI to guess your age and give you a relevant pension message, our Pension Mirror took off when it was launched during Pension Engagement Season.   

It was the must-have pension gift of 2023 being used over a quarter of a million times in the run-up to Christmas. Best of all, it blends AI, data from ONS (Office for National statistics) on average pensions saving by age, and nudges people to think about their retirement savings. 

If you’ve not given it a go – give it a try and take a selfie (‘elfie’!) and why not gift it to someone else this Christmas by sharing our QR code.  


QR code for pension mirror

3. Pension allowances thaw, at last! 
    Robert Cochran, Retirement Specialist 

The Chancellor provided some surprise pension gifts to those higher earners who had seen pension allowances frozen for years. 

In the great pension thaw of Spring 2023, the annual allowance (how much people can save into their pension tax efficiently) was raised to £60,000 and, in an even bigger surprise the Lifetime Allowance was abolished (from 6 April 2024), though there was a wee tax-free cash sting in the tale.  

For those who’ve started taking an income from their pension and continuing to save, their Money Purchase Annual Allowance was boosted to £10,000. 

Overall, these changes opened the door to better pension planning for people who had been frozen out by the big allowance freeze of previous years. 

4. Hark! Our new platform arrived 
    Alison Nicolson and Jane Clark-Hutchison, Co-Head of Client Relationships  

Moving 1.3m customers onto our new strategic platform is a good story worth unwrapping. 

The new platform has all core products in one place, and allows faster member requests, and will help us develop better features, more quickly across all our workplace products. 

It’s something we’re excited about, as we’ve been able to offer integrated drawdown to our GPP and Group Stakeholder products for the first time. We can build our proposition at scale to innovate for our members, support their outcomes better than ever, and deliver much more for our clients and the market in 2024. 

5. Sprucing up auto-enrolment 
    Alison Nicolson and Jane Clark-Hutchison, Co-Head of Client Relationships 

The government elves delivered a present in the form of auto-enrolment 2.0 bringing younger and lower paid employees into pension savings. 

While auto-enrolment has been a bit of a gift for members since it arrived over a decade ago, not everyone benefited with the low-paid and younger workers under 22 not automatically enrolled (though they could ask to join). The first £6,240 of savers’ earnings were exempt from employer contributions, too.  

We’ve been supporting this move for some time. Our festive wish for the future? That the 8% minimum is raised so that more people have the chance of a comfortable retirement. 

We wrote more on this in Are you ready for auto-enrolment reform?  

6. Pension Engagement Season presents… 
    Robert Cochran, Retirement Specialist 

This year’s Pension Engagement Season was a record breaker – bigger and better than ever and across Scottish Widows we helped more employees to better understand their scheme and how to engage with their pension. Our pension elves were inundated with 2,500 scheme member questions to answer during our webinars. 

What was the top question? – well why not listen to the podcast on Spotify to find out? 

7. Financial wellbeing isn’t just for Xmas 
    Ross Mckie, Head of Propositions

Employers and members ask us for financial wellbeing support so that their money health is better today, and they can plan better for their tomorrow.  

So, a nice bit of good news as the year draws to a close: We’re partnering with those clever Moneyhub elves to help members improve their financial wellbeing by seeing all their finances in one place, in the Scottish Widows app in early 2024. We’ll add more features and tools throughout 2024 – with personalisation high on our wish list. 

Our Be Money Well online hub has tools, bitesize learning and content to help everyone get on top of their money and improve their financial wellbeing. And better finances would be a great present for many in 2024.

8. An ‘elf’ of a busy year for pension policy 
    Pete Glancy, Head of Policy

The government kept everyone busy with a sack full of announcements starting with the Edinburgh Reforms early in the year, then the Chancellor’s Mansion House speech in July, and November’s Autumn Statement. 

The three biggest themes were productive finance, how decumulation will evolve in trust-based schemes and exploring whether there is merit in a lifetime provider model, where savers can choose their own pension scheme and take it from job to job.     

The government is keen to create a virtuous circle where pension investments play a role in growing our economy, creating higher paid jobs and more successful employers, while trying to improve investment returns for savers. 

That’s where the Mansion House reforms come in. 

We, like many in the industry, have signed an agreement to work together to determine what win-wins we can find to create an upside for our members and our economy. 

9. Gift of a comfortable retirement 
    Jill Henderson, Head of Business Development 

Really understanding our members means we can offer them support and help them engage with their pensions. 

It’s why we’ve placed so much emphasis on our three big reports this year: Scottish Widows’ Retirement Report, Women in Retirement Report and Master Trust Insights Survey. 

They all painted a worrying picture of people’s retirement, with a third of people on track for poverty in their later years, unless things change. Women and those with disabilities face the biggest challenges. 

Those auto-enrolment reforms (see 5, above) are going to make a difference, particularly to women, part-time workers and the low paid. That is a great present. 

10. Here’s a toast to better pensions 
     Sharon Bellingham, Master Trust and IGC Lead 

As the decline in defined benefit provision becomes more pronounced, and we gather greater insights about savers’ likely retirement outcomes, the pension adequacy challenge is becoming more apparent.  

That needs to change. 

We’re now a signatory to the PLSA’s Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association’s Better Pensions Charter: Building a consensus for better pensions and we’re proud to stand alongside other signatories, regulators, employers, charities, policy makers, with a shared ambition for better retirement outcomes.  

11. Pension wisdom unwrapped 
    Stuart Hopley, Relationship Director 

A 2022 Christmas wish came true and allowed us to reach larger scale audiences.  

Alongside our virtual and workplace presentation programme and Q&A sessions during Pension Engagement Season, we donned our Santa-red Scottish Widows polo shirts more than 850 times in 2023.  

That’s delivering the gift of pension wisdom to over 60,000 people! 

12. Cheers for everyone  
     Sharon Bellingham, Master Trust and IGC Lead 

Looking back on 2023, we’ve made big strides in creating an Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) framework which goes above and beyond the regulatory guidance.  

One of the ways we do this is through the Scottish Widows Master Trust annual membership survey to help us understand all members’ diverse and changing needs.  

ED&I is not just a one off for Christmas, we’re doing this every day, all year round and there’s much more to follow in 2024. 



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