With pensions a hugely hot topic for the UK government at the moment, we spoke to none other than PensionBee’s Romi Savova.
We asked about the current economic market and it’s impact on pensions, the journey of the company, and what public speaking tips Romi has for those in the industry.
Can you tell us a bit about PensionBee, and why you started it?
PensionBee, is a leading online pension provider, enabling customers to interact with their savings through a unique combination of smart technology and dedicated customer service. PensionBee helps people to solve the challenges they face when it comes to locating, combining and managing their pension savings.
With PensionBee, savers can manage their pension like they manage their bank account: checking their real-time balance, viewing their projected retirement income, and setting up contributions and withdrawals effortlessly online.
I founded PensionBee in 2014, following a negative experience trying to move my own pension after changing jobs. Despite working as a financial services professional for years and feeling confident that I knew the system, I found the whole process really difficult. I realised that if I could get tripped up by complex processes, attempting to transfer a pension could cause real problems for others.
I started asking my friends and family about their experiences and quickly learned that virtually everyone has a pension horror story – from a languishing pension pot at an old provider to scattered pension pots from numerous jobs.
How has the business grown and changed since you launched in 2014?
PensionBee has grown incredibly quickly, roughly doubling in size every year. Our team now stands at over 200 people – and we remain just as committed to bringing pensions into the 21st century as when we first started.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a noticeable shift as consumers wanted to manage more of their finances digitally.
This helped us to accelerate our IPO plans and become a publicly listed company. In April 2021, PensionBee listed on the High Growth Segment of the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange, making it one of only a few female founded companies to go public.
Earlier this year, we continued our growth trajectory by transitioning to the Premium Segment of London Stock Exchange’s Main Market.
And what’s it like working now as a public company, vs a start up at the beginning?
We’d always planned to list in London when the time was right for us – so the transition to a public company felt like a natural step. We’ve always prided ourselves on maintaining the highest standards of governance. This meant we actually already met many of the stringent requirements placed on public companies before we announced our intention to float.
Becoming a public company has enabled us to access the necessary capital to further develop our customer-focused proposition and extend our reach to millions of consumers across the UK, while continuing to use our voice to make positive changes in the pensions industry.
Amid the current economy, it’s quite a scary time to read about pensions. We’ve seen the BoE has had to fund a £65bn bail out for pension funds. What do you think is the most important thing the industry needs to do now? How can PensionBee help?
While the BoE interventions are aimed at defined benefit pensions and have a limited impact on defined contribution pension plans, such as PensionBee, the current economic climate is certainly worrying for everyone. At this time, it’s crucial for the pension industry to provide savers with useful, easy to understand information to help their retirement planning.
Pensions can often seem overwhelming and hard to engage with. When combined with a harsh economic climate, where many savers may already be feeling the pinch, this can lead to feelings of panic. It’s the duty of pension providers such as PensionBee to remind savers that pensions are an important method of saving for the future, and as long-term investments, they may have time to recover from a period of economic downturn, if not accessed in the near term.
At PensionBee, we strive to empower people by providing greater oversight over their pension savings, which in turn can help to make more informed financial decisions, and promote a greater sense of ownership and engagement over their pension during their life.
We also regularly run our own research into the modern day problems pension savers face, to offer valuable support when it comes to planning ahead. PensionBee’s blog – ‘The Buzz’ – provides frequent updates on the latest pension news and retirement planning tips, from a team of personal finance journalists, investment professionals and money bloggers.
What have you been most proud of at PensionBee since you launched?
Just speaking and listening to our customers. It’s incredibly fulfilling to see how PensionBee has changed the lives of people saving for retirement. The UK savings crisis is a big problem to solve but it’s what makes me want to come to work. Being on the right side of change, particularly in financial services, is also very motivating. Over the years I’ve learned that as long as you have the consumer on your side and are doing the right thing, you can take on huge battles and win.
You’ve achieved amazing success in your career, what would you recommend to other young women breaking into fintech, and wanting to change the industry?
At every opportunity we need to challenge the stereotype that you need to look a certain way to succeed in the worlds of finance and technology, whether that be a prescribed gender, age or ethnicity. I firmly believe balanced teams drive better products and services for consumers – and this is an important thing to remember for young women breaking into fintech! Don’t be put off by barriers or setbacks, as we absolutely need more women in fintech for businesses, and the industry in general, to succeed.
We’re championing the value of public speaking and publicity more broadly. Do you have an interview or an event you spoke at that was really valuable to you and PensionBee? What was it, and what did it do for you?
I’ve been lucky enough to speak at numerous panels and events since I founded PensionBee. I speak publicly to a large audience at least once a week. Every opportunity to engage with our customers and our team is an opportunity to remind those around us of PensionBee’s mission to make pensions so that everyone can look forward to a happy retirement.
Any other advice for women and non-binary people looking to do more public speaking / public opportunities?
My biggest advice would be to always speak about what you’re passionate about. When you’re passionate, you’re able to command the stage, making your presentation memorable.
It’s also important to remain authentic. Being honest and direct will allow your audience to see the real you, giving them an opportunity to connect with what you’re saying.