First of all, how are you and your Family doing in these COVID-19 Times?
Romi Savova: We’re very well, thank you. I’m a mum to a little boy named Ari, who’s three and a girl named Gia, who’s two. Running a company while raising a family has always been exceptionally demanding, but even more so during the lockdown. In particular, my son was desperate to go back to the nursery and didn’t really understand why he couldn’t leave the house very much. Now that lockdown has ended, we’re making up for the lost time and spend most of our free time in the park and playground.
Tell us about you, your Career, how you Founded PensionBee?
Romi Savova: Prior to starting PensionBee, I worked at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Credit Benchmark, holding varied roles in risk management, investment banking, and financial technology. I decided to start PensionBee in 2014, after a negative experience trying to move my pension when I changed jobs. I realized that if I could get tripped up by complex processes and extortionate fees in spite of my background working in financial services, the simple act of attempting to transfer a pension could cause real problems for consumers. I set up the company to revolutionize the pensions industry with the belief that technology could be used to simplify pensions and help as many people as possible save for a happy retirement.
How does PensionBee Innovate?
Romi Savova: PensionBee is the UK’s leading online pension provider helping savers consolidate their old pensions into a new online plan in an easy way. It takes five minutes to sign up with the previous providers’ names, and we transfer and combine old pension pots within a matter of weeks. Our customer dashboard, or ‘BeeHive,’ can be accessed 24/7 via our web and mobile apps. It gives customers real-time access to their balance, contributions, plan data, and our bespoke pension calculator and retirement planning tool, designed to help savers better plan for retirement.
In 2018 we became the first pension provider to utilize Open Banking, enabling customers to see their complete financial position, with their live pension balance displayed alongside their live current account balance in some of the UK’s most popular money management apps.
Since then, we’ve continued to develop our partnerships with other fintech innovators such as Moneyhub, Starling, Emma, and Money Dashboard. We’ve recently enhanced our 2-way API integration with Yolt, enabling mutual customers to see their pension transaction history within the Yolt app, displaying their tomorrow money alongside their today money.
How has the Coronavirus Pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Romi Savova: As a digital business, we were more prepared than most, and quickly moved to ensure that as many of our team could work from home as possible. We maintained a critical team in the office throughout the crisis to provide resilience and take care of the tasks that just can’t be done from home, like processing post and scanning customer policy documents.
We’re pleased to say that our customers haven’t been impacted, as we’ve consistently answered over 90% of incoming calls and live chats and responded to emails in our normal time frames. As one of the few pension providers that’s fully digital, we were able to help anyone looking to consolidate their pensions during the lockdown. We saw that many people used the extra time they had on their hands to get on top of their life admin and organize their finances. We saw a 22% growth in new customers in March 2020 (compared to March 2019) and a 51% increase in the number of customers who completed their first pension transfer between March and May in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
Our success is down to our fantastic team, and, if anything, the pandemic has brought us closer together. We’re checking in with each other regularly to ensure everyone’s OK and has everything they need, and several members of the team are now opting to return to the office since it’s been made Covid-secure.
Did you have to make Difficult Choices, and what are the Lessons Learned?
Romi Savova: Financial services is an industry that’s been severely impacted by the pandemic, with the UK recently entering a recession for the first time in 11 years. While there will undoubtedly be challenging times ahead, history shows us that no downturn lasts forever, and eventually, markets will recover. Pensions are a long-term business. We’ve built lifelong relationships with our customers; therefore, we’re seeing our way through the crisis and will continue to operate our business as usual basis.
How do you deal with Stress and Anxiety? How do you protect yourself and PensionBee in the Future?
Romi Savova: My biggest stress reliever is playing with my children. As a business, PensionBee’s cash position is exceptionally strong. We’re cautiously optimistic about a recovery in markets in the near-term: in 2009, the year following the global financial crisis, the S&P 500 returned over 33%. Our plans for the future are the same – we remain united and focus on delivering the UK’s best pension product, serving our customers, and growing the business.
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the Game?
Romi Savova: PensionBee is constantly innovating and setting new transparency standards in an industry that hasn’t changed or adapted with advances in technology and consumer behavior in decades. We’ve found a way to connect with a generation that has long been forgotten by the legacy providers. We are proud to be the only online pension provider that helps consumers combine their old pensions into a new plan in an easy way. Customers can manage their pension online like they manage their bank account: checking their real-time balance, viewing their projected retirement income, and setting up contributions and withdrawals effortlessly.
Throughout the product life cycle, customers receive exceptional customer service levels, backed by our industry-leading technology. Our transparent fee structure and scalable cloud-based technology mean we can offer the same award-winning product and unrivaled service level no matter a customer’s age or the value of their pension, ensuring our product is accessible to all.
Each customer receives a highly personalized experience with a dedicated customer service representative or “BeeKeeper,” to guide them on their PensionBee journey from the moment they sign up to drawdown from age 55. Our customers are at the center of everything we do; therefore, our entire product roadmap is driven by customer feedback.
Due to our proprietary technology and in-house capabilities, we’re agile enough to respond to customers’ requests for new features and innovate faster than everyone else. This has resulted in an Excellent Trustpilot score of 4.7/5, the highest score within the pensions industry. Our app is rated 4.5, and our customer retention rate is over 95% – statistics unheard of in the pensions industry.
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