Just a quick op on Scottish Life and the service they provide to pension schemes. I am going to try and provide a balanced view of my experiences and would be grateful of other members opinions and comments about their experiences. Scottish Life offer 44 different investment funds for group schemes to invest within. These range from secure deposit funds to highly volatile equity funds. Actual investments for group arrangements can be paid either direct to Scottish Life's Edinburgh office by cheque and schedule or via their new Retirement Solutions system on the internet. This involves typing in the amount you wish to pay for each employee and then transferring the funds to Scottish Life's bank account. Their computer software, should then match up payments and automatically allocate payments. Although Scottish Life have a large selection of funds, over the past 1, 2 and 3 years, their UK Equity fund has been near the worst in its sector, and now in comparison to other providers only provides a positive return on investments over 5 years. The fund is extremely volatile with the unit price fluctuating wildly on a daily basis. Over the past two years, the unit price has decreased by nearly £4.00, from £9.50 to £5.80. Not a pleasant surprise if you're an investor who hasn't yet begun to phase their investments into more secure holdings when approaching retirement. My experiences with the other funds available are also as bleak. Only their With-Profits and Deposit funds have provided positive returns over the past 2 years. From a personal point of view, we have experienced nothing but trouble when placing pension scheme accounts with Scottish Life. The administration is poor to say the least. Staff do not return calls, do not provide timescales when requested, lack the basic knowledge of occupational pensions and avoid admitting their mistakes at all costs. As an example. I left my employers
pension scheme in August 2001 (Pre September 11 and the subsequent market falls) and requested a refund of my own contributions having less than two years service. After months of chasing and a £3.00 drop in the value of each unit I held, the refund cheque arrived on 20 December 2001. The refund was not adjusted to take account of the loss incurred due to their poor administration as Scottish Life make payments on the date the benefits are actually settled. So if you have investments within an equity based fund and request payment of your benefits on retirement, you have to pray the unit price doesn't plunge! The Retirement Solutions system that is sold with the promise of quick administration and easy to use member access is nothing more than a joke. The payment system mentioned above does not function properly and instead of the computer matching payments made, an administrator trawls through statements looking for payments made. This results in payments not being shown as received and subsequent leads to contributions not being allocated. This means that when projections, quotes and payments are made, they are incorrect. The system also cannot cope with requirements to record Protected Rights separately, so it is actually of no use to a pension scheme that Contracts out of the Second State Pension S2P (formerly the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme) as the company that produces statements for the membership have to mirror the data held by Scottish Life and record the data themselves, making it far easier to simply hold pooled investments and notionally unitise from the company HR department. All occupational pension schemes have an annual renewal date when fund values/benefit statements are issued to each member individually. This tends more often than not to be on 5 April to tie in with the end of the tax year. To obtain fund values on 6 April, you have to actually request them on 6 April. If you don't, they all ha
ve to be calculated manually. We are still waiting for fund values for all our clients 5 months later!!! With regulatory deadlines to meet, it appears that a vast majority of our clients will not be in a position to file signed pension fund accounts by the deadline set by the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority, for which, in certain circumstances, the Trustees of the Scheme can be fined. Even with this in mind, Scottish Life still will not provide a timescale for production or advise us of correct fund values. With all their good intentions, I would not recommend Scottish Life as a pension provider. I do not have any experience of their level of service for personal pension holders, but from an occupational pensions prospective they are shocking to say the least with customer satisfaction a very long way down on their list of priorities.