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Saturday, 8 August 2015

Do Pensions Keep the Post Office Going?

Since the rise of email, the amount of physical mail coming through my letterbox has declined to almost nothing, but a few intrepid letters still manage to get here. They're rarely interesting, and I suspect legal requirements are responsible for them being made out of atoms rather than bits, because probably a third of them now involve pensions and insurance.

For instance, last month I got a letter from the Clerical Medical Investment Group Limited explaining over six pages that, as they are now part of the Scottish Widows group, they were going to simplify their business by changing their name to Scottish Widows Limited. Then there was a load of stuff explaining in great detail that (I hope) this isn't going to affect my pension.

This week I got a letter from Scottish Widows plc about another pension policy. They are proposing to merge Scottish Widows plc (and six other companies) into Clerical Medical Investment Group Limited, which would then change its name to Scottish Widows Limited. Then the same six pages of legal bumf.

I know keeping customers informed is very important, but I can't help speculating on how much it's costing to let me know that the holding company for my pension is changing 'plc' to 'Limited'.

These are two of several of the many company pensions that I have acquired in the course of a varied career in the private sector. At least annually I get a letter from each of them keeping me in the loop about how much money they're holding for me, how much the transfer value is, and how much it might be worth when I retire (not very much). When I moved recently I had to contact each policy holder to let them know my new address. This takes less effort than it once did, thanks to corporate takeovers that have removed names like Guardian Royal Exchange or Commercial Union (and, soon, Clerical Medical). Talking to Standard Life though required two calls for my Standard Life two policies. Their customer service rep could easily update one of them online, but the other needed a letter from me, as it was in a different system. 

When I got its most recent update report I could see why. The printout looks like the sort of thing I was producing on my Amstrad PC1512 in the 1980s. Which coincidentally is when I joined that pension scheme. I can't remember the last time anyone else sent me a letter printed in Courier font. Now I imagine a room at Standard Life HQ where an ancient daisy wheel printer sits, connected to a computer that predates the internet. I just hope they both last out to my retirement date.