With workplace pension providers offering their services to advisers, members and employers online, it is inevitable that at some point there will be either planned or unplanned downtime when the service will not be available.
Our latest insight looks at the processes workplace pension providers have in place to make sure disruption is kept to a minimum.
With increasing numbers of people managing their finances online, from all age groups, workplace pension members are increasingly expecting all online services from their provider to be always available. The Coronavirus pandemic has served to speed up this move towards online financial management.
Our data shows that other than Hargreaves Lansdown, all workplace pension providers have Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place for their online services so their members, employers and advisers all know what the bare minimum is they can expect.
Other than for Fidelity, these SLAs also include details of the extranet service availability.
Workplace pension providers are also transparent when it comes to downtime for their extranet services. Our data shows that other than Hargreaves Lansdown and Royal London, all workplace pension providers make the percentage of time the service was down available with their SLAs.
Prevention and minimisation of any downtime for extranet services is, of course, the ultimate goal when it comes to extranet service availability. Our data shows that other than Legal & General, Legal & General Master Trust and Scottish Widows, all workplace pension providers operate a twin server, or similar process, to avoid the service having to go offline.
Some downtime is inevitable, and our data shows that all workplace pension providers do take their extranet service down from time to time, mainly due to major system upgrades which are primarily done on weekends or between the hours of midnight and 5am to minimise disruption.
All providers also automatically update their mainframe records immediately with any web transactions to avoid any instructions going missing should they be requested just as the extranet service goes down.
In the event of planned, or unplanned, extranet service downtime, other than Hargreaves Lansdown, all workplace pension providers will notify scheme members by a message on the website. Members are typically notified in advance for any planned downtime.
Aviva Designer gives the shortest notice with members typically notified the day before any planned downtime. Aegon Master Trust, Aegon Workplace ARC, Fidelity, Fidelity Master Trust, Legal & General, Legal & General Master Trust, Royal London, Scottish Widows, Standard Life and Standard Life DC Master Trust typically give their members a weeks’ notice. Aviva My Money, Aviva My Money Master Trust, Mercer Master Trust Aviva, Mercer Master Trust Scottish Widows, Scottish Widows GSIPP, Scottish Widows Master Trust and True Potential typically give their members a month or more of notice before any planned system downtime.
For advisers and employers, notice of planned downtime is a little more of a patchy picture.
Hargreaves Lansdown, Legal & General and Legal & General do not give any notice of downtime.
For the adviser, Aegon Master Trust, Aegon Workplace ARC, Fidelity, Fidelity Master Trust, Royal London, Standard Life and Standard Life DC Master Trust typically give the adviser a week of notice before downtime. Aviva Designer, Aviva My Money, Aviva My Money Master Trust, Mercer Master Trust Aviva, Mercer Master Trust Scottish Widows, Scottish Widows, Scottish Widows GSIPP, Scottish Widows Master Trust and True Potential give a month or more of notice.
For the employer, most workplace pension providers (other than Hargreaves Lansdown, Legal & General and Legal & General who give no notice) offer a week of notice for any planned downtime. Mercer Master Trust Scottish Widows, Scottish Widows GSIPP, Scottish Widows Master Trust and True Potential typically give employers a month or more of notice before any planned downtime.
When it comes to testing system performance levels, this is a continual process for all workplace pension providers. Most measure this internally but Aviva Designer use a third party with a script running through site confidence.
Our data shows all workplace pension providers have safeguards in place to address back ups and recovery. Typically, this process involves a disaster recovery plan in place as part of a wider business continuity plan. For example, Fidelity and Fidelity Master Trust have Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Management programmes that are tested on a regular basis. This includes back-ups (warm sites ready within 24 hours), additional sites and staff and working from home.
However, should there be a service outage, planned or unplanned, our data shows that less than half of workplace pension providers have a system in place to ensure members can make changes they want during the outage such as fund switches.
The providers whose members have the ability to make changes during downtime are Aviva Designer, Aviva My Money, Aviva My Money Master Trust, Fidelity, Fidelity Master Trust, Mercer Master Trust Aviva, Standard Life and Standard Life DC Master Trust.
Overall, our data shows that most workplace pension providers have an extensive plan in place to deal with any planned or unplanned downtime for their extranet services. It is, however, worth noting that Hargreaves Lansdown is the only provider without SLAs in place for their extranet service availability and is also the only provider that does not typically notify scheme members of any planned downtime.