You have chosen a new workplace pension provider and started to think about getting your new scheme up and running, but how do you navigate the implementation minefield? Our latest insight looks at provider system implementation processes and who provides what help and how at different stages in this process.

The implementation process for a new workplace pension scheme can take anywhere from a matter of days to months, with many stages required to setup a new scheme and plenty of opportunities for issues to arise along the way.

Our data shows that only two workplace pension providers (Aviva Designer and Royal London) claim that their implementation process takes less than a month from start to finish. Scottish Widows also boast a fairly short timeline with the process taking one to two months.

Over a third of providers (38%) say their implementation process takes two to three months from start to finish. Aegon Master Trust, Fidelity, Fidelity Master Trust, Legal & General, Legal & General Master Trust, Standard Life and Standard Life DC Master Trust say their implementation process takes over three months.

Only half of providers have a service level agreement (SLA) which covers implementation timescales. A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contract between the provider and its employer client. It details the obligations of both the provider and the client and reduces the potential for disagreements and problems that might negatively affect the implementation process.

Our data shows that all workplace pension providers implementation teams make contact with the key contacts for the new scheme being setup, including the adviser and the employer. Most will also make contract with any other key professionals involved, such as accountants, only Scottish Widows, Scottish Widows GSIPP and Scottish Widows Master Trust do not.

As part of this initial contact, all providers validate and confirm any data or details currently held on the scheme.

When it comes to the approach towards data, it is standardised across providers. Our data shows that all providers transfer employee data onto their platform via pre-formatted CSV file and will conduct an exercise to ensure that all the data is accurate and correct.

All providers have dedicated staff who continue to have the ongoing and day to day relationships with set clients throughout the implementation process. They also all provide personal contact details for these individual contacts such as direct telephone numbers and email addresses. These individuals can be allocated to between one and six clients going though implementation, depending on the scale and complexity of the scheme requirements.

Following initial implementation, our data shows all workplace pension providers offer continual ongoing support from these teams available during the transitions phase without any additional cost. Most providers do not limit how long after implementation the support continues. Standard Life and Standard Life DC Master Trust continue support until the end of the contract, whereas all other providers have no limit in place.

As part of the implementation process, our data shows that all workplace pension providers also include the transfer of any existing schemes if applicable.

Our data shows that over half (56%) of workplace pension providers now offer an implementation hub or portal to assist with the implementation process. Portals are offered by Aegon Master Trust, Aegon Workplace ARC, Aviva Designer, Aviva My Money, Aviva My Money Master Trust, Legal & General, Legal & General Master Trust, Royal London and Scottish Widows.

Most providers with portals offer training on how to access and use them. Of those who offer portals, only Aegon Master Trust and Aegon Workplace ARC do not offer training for third party users on how to access and use the portal as part of their initial implementation process. This includes online literature and guides. Other than for Scottish Widows, this training on offer also includes online videos/demos and personal online training via a call and/or screenshare.

Other than Aegon Master Trust, all the portals on offer allow access for both the adviser and employer. Other than Scottish Widows and Aegon Master Trust, these hubs also offer access to other professional such as an accountant involved in the setup process.

Some providers also offer scheme members access to this portal. However, Aegon Master Trust, Aegon Workplace ARC, Legal & General, Legal & General Master Trust and Scottish Widows do not.

When it comes to tracking, the picture is a little varied. Our data shows that other than for Aegon Master Trust, Legal & General, and Legal & General Master Trust, all the implementation portals on offer track all the steps required in order to set the scheme up. However, only the portals for Aviva Designer, Aviva My Money, Aviva My Money Master Trust, Royal London and Scottish Widows will give alerts or messages for the user when actions are required.

Overall, workplace pension providers offer a lot more support through the implementation process than in the past. The development of system implementation portals has helped significantly with the process as employers and advisers can now access updates through the process at any time without having to contact the provider.

However, it is worth noting that implementation periods still vary by months. Aegon Master Trust, Fidelity, Fidelity Master Trust, Legal & General, Legal & General Master Trust, Standard Life and Standard Life DC Master Trust have the longest implementation processes with the process taking over three months from start to finish.

It is also worth noting that not all providers who offer shorter timescales do so with a service level agreement. Without a service level agreement in place, employers and advisers have less to turn to if implementation takes longer than expected. Therefore, whilst Hargreaves Lansdown, Scottish Widows GSIPP, Scottish Widows, and Scottish Widows Master Trust offer implementation timescales of under three months, without a service level agreement being offered it could be argued that these timescales are just estimates.

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