By Mohamed Ali Bernat Scottish Life has put its web-based platform for defined contribution pension...
By Mohamed Ali Bernat
Scottish Life has put its web-based platform for defined contribution pensions into the public domain two months before launch.
The company plans to bring out the service by late January or early February to support its group personal pension (GPP), occupational money purchase and stakeholder pension schemes.
The platform will be used to administer all new schemes plus the vast majority of existing schemes. Scottish Life is so confident of the system's robustness that it has made a dummy of the service available to all interested parties to test out ahead of the launch date.
James Smith, assistant general manager of marketing at Scottish Life, said the dummy site had been made available so that users could get used to transacting information over the internet.
He added: "You only need a web browser on your computer and potential users will have access to both the member and trustee side of the service."
Alasdair Buchanan, Scottish Life's head of communications, said the stakeholder market was more exacting because some elements, such as the ability to adjust pricing to gain market advantage, have been taken out of the equation with a maximum annual charge.
He said: "Administration is going to be a key area, along with investment returns which we have partially addressed by outsourcing to fund managers such as Schroders, Perpetual and Phillips & Drew."
Buchanan added that for providers who believe that stakeholder is financially viable the main threat would come from an inability to manage funds efficiently.
He said: "Technology will be a factor that levels the stakeholder playing field to some extent because the use of technology is inextricably linked to the administration, especially in the 1% charging structure.
"It is not going to be much good if a provider is writing lots of business but loses lots of money because it is disorganised in its servicing of clients."
Smith said Scottish Life had the advantage of offering a system that offered end-to-end electronic administration without the need for manual intervention in all but the most unusual circumstances.
He added: "Many providers will be working on providing a highly appealing front end to their service but behind the slick web operations there will still be the need for somebody to key in data or perform some other sort of manual administration."
According to Smith, Scottish Life has been able to fully integrate its back office system and internet-based interface because of a partnership with IT specialists Unisys in the 1980s. The partnership produced a back office system that was far in advance of competitors.
The system, Unisure, has now been adopted by other providers. Smith listed Norwich Union, Scottish Equitable, Legal & General, Scottish Amicable and Friends Provident as main competitors on the technology front for stakeholder.
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