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Dunstan Thomas, the retirement market’s IT solutions provider, rolled out a new suite of online tools aimed at the Direct to Consumer (D2C) platform market called Imago Self Direct. This toolset, which is built on top of its mature and robust Imago Front Office platform, was built following extensive consumer research which Dunstan Thomas commissioned the Lancaster University School of Management to carry out over last summer.

The research revealed that 40 per cent of UK consumers aged over 20 years old don’t understand the concept of Tax Free Cash – one of the key benefits of saving within a pension scheme; and a third (33%) don’t understand what Projected Income is. This is despite the fact that two-thirds of the sample queried already had a pension so will have received a Key Features Illustration (KFI) when the plan started and Statutory Money Purchase Illustrations (SMPIs) at each policy’s anniversary. As these documents have become more detailed they have also become less easy to digest. Evidence suggests they are no longer informing the customer as well as the industry might have expected.

Chris Read
Chris Read

From launch, Imago Self Direct provides a highly graphical online projections tool which allows customers to alter key variables including planned age of retirement; size of monthly contributions; set up contribution levels; and then sees whether the resulting savings and projected growth rates will generate a stated target income in retirement. The key is to learn how much they need to put in – all by playing with the online tool and altering its parameters.

Dunstan Thomas also plans to add further enhancements to Imago Self Direct later this year, by enabling users to mix income drawdown with annuity purchase. This tool will enable consumers close to retirement to look at different scenarios for dividing up their pension pot. So that for example at-retirement – 25% might come out as Tax Free Cash, 50% perhaps buys an annuity and 25% comes out through drawdown; using the tool to help work out how to budget for retirement and analyse whether they are on track to retire comfortably.

All Imago Self Direct tools are built on the mature, resilient and robust calculations engines and IT infrastructure of Imago Front Office which already has more than 30 customers including some of the largest providers and platforms in the retirement market.

Dunstan Thomas’ research showed that consumers think that online visual aids will be particularly helpful in working out the difference between their projected income and target income in retirement; and age at which they can realistically hope to retire – based on current savings, contributions and target income.

Christopher Read, chief executive, Dunstan Thomas, explained: “You can do a great deal to educate and engage consumers with some easily configurable graphs based on a few key pieces of information that they need to fill in online.

“We expect to increase the Imago Self Direct toolset fairly rapidly as providers strengthen their Direct to Consumer platforms and target the retirement market more actively – all stimulated by recent Budget changes which favour investment in pensions once again.”