All of the major providers have now invested considerable resources in developing their own internet capability
Lastminute.com is offering stakeholder purchase online for those looking to beat the forthcoming 8 October deadline for employers to have a scheme in place.
It has teamed up with The Independent Stakeholder Company (Tisco), a provider of comparative information on pensions. It in turn has linked up with stakeholder.com which allows users to purchase a pension online.
Chris Dixon, managing director of Stakeholder.com, argues that while providers have put huge resources into creating websites, they often missed important details.
He said: 'With our site you can designate a provider within four minutes. Many provider sites are long and laborious to work your way through.'
Responding to interest from intermediaries, Skandia is seeking to put its existing pension fund links online in a similar way to the fund supermarket it already has in place for Oeics.
Peter Jordan, head of pension marketing, said: 'What we are looking at is a hypermarket where people can organise all their finances through a single portal and switch between funds, for life, pensions and other investment products.'
Jordan does not see this as a threat to the role of intermediaries when it comes to the provision of pensions. He believes people will always need advice for such a complex product.
He said: 'Despite some of the changes made to the pensions landscape, the fundamental difficulties for the consumer remain. People will still need advice on tax issues and whether they should be contracting out, for example.'
Many of the larger providers are seeing the internet as a way of improving the service to intermediaries rather than as a pure marketing tool.
Michael Craig, pensions marketing manager at Standard Life, said: 'We have developed a capability for supporting advisers, not for selling individual products online.
'It's really about streamlining our distribution to allow our staff and advisers to concentrate on adding value.'
Jordan also stressed that the main benefit from new technology will be seen by the intermediary rather than the consumer, but only if people are willing and able to make use of it.
He said: 'There is a sizeable minority of intermediaries who will probably never make the transition but there is another bigger group who are charging ahead.'
According to Jordan, rather than seeing technology as a threat, intermediaries should be making use of the internet's capability for gathering information.
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