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The continuous challenge of contact tracing

Fay Henrick, Client Relationship Manager, considers one of the key pensions administration tasks that can never be completed.

Author: Fay Henrick
27 October 2023

The continuous challenge of contact tracing

Tracking down members is a constant endeavour for pensions administrators. It’s a key regulatory objective that, despite our best efforts and technological advancements, remains an ongoing process.

Technology’s double-edged sword

Technology has played an increasingly pivotal role in pensions administration, especially in the contact tracing and member tracking space. Sophisticated algorithms now help sift through vast pools of data, while machine learning tools can even predict likely locations for members based on historical data. Such technological leaps have contributed to more efficient processes and have made it easier to keep track of members than ever before.

However, this is only one side of the story. The advent of these technologies can sometimes create a false sense of security, leading us to believe that the problem of member tracing is almost fully resolved. This is far from the reality. Technology, as advanced as it may be, still requires human interaction. For instance, address information, even when gathered through automated means, requires validation to confirm its accuracy.

Moreover, while technology can tell us where a member might be, it can’t compel that member to respond or engage with their pension scheme. Many administrators can attest to the frustration of having accurate contact details but receiving no response from the member. This is particularly problematic when important decisions regarding their pension benefits are pending.

The fluctuating reality of TPR common data scores

Maintaining a high TPR (The Pensions Regulator) common data score is a goal that administrators and trustees take seriously. After all, this metric serves as a barometer of data quality within a pension scheme and is scrutinised by TPR and stakeholders alike. Schemes and administrators often devote considerable time and resources to data cleansing initiatives, audits, and process improvements, which are all redundant unless contact information is current and accurate.

However, the challenge lies not only in achieving a high score but in maintaining it.

Once an announcement or regulatory change comes into play, you may find that your score has unexpectedly dropped. This fluctuation can be both disconcerting and frustrating, as it can make it appear as if the prior efforts were in vain. It might even affect the trustee’s confidence in the administration process and could necessitate further audits or reviews, which demand additional resources.

This constant ebb and flow can be attributed to several factors. The ever-changing nature of member data—such as new joiners, leavers, or changes in personal information—will impact the score. Often, it’s not a reflection of the quality of the work done but rather the dynamic environment in which pension schemes operate.

It’s essential to bear in mind that common data scores are not a static measure but a moving target. They require continuous monitoring, regular data audits, and a proactive approach to data management. This is not just a box-ticking exercise but a critical element that contributes to the overall efficiency and integrity of the pension scheme.

Timing and member engagement

Interestingly, despite the ease that technology has introduced in tracing members, most engagement still occurs closer to retirement. This is a critical period when members suddenly become active, seeking to understand their pension benefits and options. It points to the broader issue of how to maintain steady member engagement throughout the lifecycle of the pension scheme.

An ongoing commitment

The fundamental point to acknowledge is that contact tracing is not a task with a clear end date. Viewing it as an ongoing aspect of scheme administration may provide some solace. It’s a continuous cycle, but it’s a necessary one.

In summary, while contact tracing in pension administration remains a significant challenge, it’s crucial for everyone involved to view it as a regular, ongoing task. Though we have technological advancements aiding us and despite the varying levels of member engagement, it’s a job that’s never truly finished.

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