What Vivaldi can teach us about pension statements

Written by Vincent Franklin

The four seasons were invented by Vivaldi in 1723. Before then, we just had one big season, and no one knew whether it was supposed to snow at Easter or whether children trick-or-treating should wear sunblock. To help us remember his new seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, Antonino gave each of them a theme tune.

Now, three centuries later, we’re grappling with seasons again. In this case, ‘Statement Season’. Which is not one that Antonio felt the urge to set to music.

The idea behind this new season is a simple and obvious one. Lots of people have more than one DC pension. To help them get a picture of their total pension savings and maybe make some changes if they need to, we should give them all the information about all their DC pension pots at the same time. This would not only make planning easier, but getting all those statements at the same time, might stimulate some interest in them too.

This principle was also the idea behind the Simpler Annual Statement – if people’s various statements all look the same, it’s easier to make connections, see totals and get a full picture.

The pensions industry has pushed back at the idea of introducing a ‘statement season’. It thinks it should be legal to hunt statements all year round. And this is understandable. The burden on administrators and call centres of everyone having to get their statements in the same few weeks, would be intense, and would, no doubt, be followed by a ridiculous fallow period of nine months in which bored administrators sit around eery and un-phoned offices, twiddling their thumbs and scrolling through WhatsApp.

But maybe Vivaldi’s original model can help us. He knew that there should be four seasons, not one. If the reason for having a statement season is to make sure each person gets all their statements at roughly the same time, could we have four statement seasons? One season, let’s call it spring, at the start of which, everyone with a surname beginning with A-H gets their statement. Then, in Summer, the people with surnames H-M get theirs. You get the idea.

While some couples don’t share a surname, many more do. So, this approach would also help them get together and plan their joint futures. It’s a compromise, it doesn’t create the same opportunity for campaigning that a single season would offer us. And there may well be reasons why it wouldn’t work (I’d love to hear them). But it would mean that the sending of statements was organised around members, rather than around schemes. And that would be a good thing, wouldn’t it? It might be the sort of compromise that works for both the industry and those it’s trying to serve.