A new award scheme has been launched, to tackle the issue of the amount of time it takes to transfer savings, investments and pensions electronically from one company to another. The industry has faced criticism for its inability to transfer in a timely manner. Consumers have become used to transfers taking many weeks, often months, to complete, which is unacceptable compared with other sectors within financial services. The STAR initiative, backed by the regulators and the government, is the only cross-industry solution bringing together platforms, providers, life companies, service providers and transfer agents / asset managers. It is the largest piece of industry collaboration for decades and firms volunteer to participate. The STAR delivery team is made up of members of Criterion and TeX, two not-for-profit organisations.

The initiative has galvanised the industry to improve the customer experience of transferring pensions, savings, and investments between companies, by setting and measuring against a good practice framework. To date 76 firms have signed up to STAR, which officially launched in January 2019, and its membership is committed to shaping recognised, industry-wide standards to promote good practice in transfers. Of these 76 firms, 18 have now been accredited.

Each participating organisation has been reporting on their Management Information (MI) to allow for the accreditation of STAR members to reflect their performance within the transfer journey. Each service level (SLA) product group has been given detailed and individual consideration through robust governance, via the STAR Implementation Group. The STAR SLA Groups are:

  • ISA and GIA
  • Personal Pensions, SIPP and SSAS
  • Occupational Pensions
  • Asset Managers

STAR accreditation is designed to measure and accredit transfer performance across the industry. There are three STAR accreditation levels, which are based on performance: gold, silver, and bronze, which are designed to both reward good performance and encourage improved performance. The accreditation thresholds are set through industry collaboration by the STAR Accreditation Steering Group and monitored by the STAR Steering Group. Organisations have been accredited in 2022 for submitting at least nine consecutive months’ transfers data.

STAR accreditations are based on several factors. One area of good performance can’t outweigh the poor performance in another. It is a balanced approach and awards are thoroughly checked before they are given to an organisation. STAR accreditations are measured on a range of Key Performance Indicators not only on the overall transfer time, as there are also a lot of mitigating factors to consider when reviewing the overall performance of an organisation.

STAR concluded that the best way to fairly judge an organisation was to set up a points based metric system with an organisation being scored on several key areas such as :-

  • The average number of days to transfer a customer’s assets  
  • How they communicate with their customers on that journey  
  • What percentage of their electronic transfers were reported for this accreditation

The average Ceding Party times for bronze, silver and gold accredited transfers across each SLA group are:

  •  ISA  = 12.7 days
  • GIA = 14.8 days
  • Personal Pension, SIPP, SSAS = 12.7 days
  • Occupational Pensions = 21.9 days

(Asset management firms provided full MI, so there is no average but 99.4% of reported Asset re-registrations were completed within the 2 Fund Calendar days SLA).

Accreditations were initially going to take place earlier this year, but instead, a considered approach has been taken as three months of data was too short a timeframe and only provided a snapshot of performance. The preference of nine months data is more representative, more robust and makes the initiative more credible.

Andrew Marker, STAR Steering Group Chair:

We believe that this has been the biggest piece of industry collaboration for decades and it has been both complicated and challenging to reach this stage, and participating organisations have put in some hard yards to getting to where we are now. It has been testing to reach a consensus and make progress and if it was easy, it would have been tackled years ago. I am delighted that after an intense and sustained period of work, the industry has galvanised to drive forward a scheme whose goal is to improve customer outcomes. STAR measures the performance of companies when executing transfers, which provides regulators, customers, and their financial advisers with clear evidence of how firms are behaving and shows a clear commitment to focus on improving their performance. This creates a competitive advantage for organisations involved in STAR, who are leading and driving industry change when it comes to switching. As well as having happier clients, participating firms will also benefit from greater certainty in dealing with counterparties, leading to fewer queries and lower administration costs. All STAR participants should be applauded for their efforts, and of course, special credit should go to the organisations who have reached bronze, silver, or gold accreditations. This initiative fits with the FCA’s Consumer Duty outcomes – namely firms provide consumers the support they need throughout the lifecycle of their products and services, and a key area of focus for this is timely investment transfers. We encourage all firms who are not involved with STAR to join – it shows that you care about good customer outcomes, remain focused on timely investment transfers, and can evidence it with an accreditation.

Rob Yuille, Assistant Director, Head of Long‑Term Savings Policy, Association of British Insurers (ABI):

“Transfers are a key part of good customer service and healthy competition. People will only transfer pensions and investments a few times in their lives, so it is really important to get it right, for each customer’s experience, for each firm’s reputation and that of the whole industry. Smoother transfers can only be achieved through collaboration, so STAR’s accreditation framework, spanning different types of pensions and investments, is a big step forward and builds on the improvements to transfers delivered by the industry over the years. To continue to improve, we encourage more firms to participate in STAR, to measure performance transparently, based on evidence of outcomes and a common understanding of good practice across the whole industry.”

Details of the accreditations are available on STAR’s website: https://www.joinstar.co.uk/accreditation-awards/