E-pension flop harms Net hopes

The marginal interest in online stakeholder pensions means that IT managers will have to work harder to secure future investment...

The marginal interest in online stakeholder pensions means that IT managers will have to work harder to secure future investment for Internet-based projects, industry experts have warned.

When stakeholder pensions were launched in a blaze of publicity last March they were expected to usher in a new era in which financial products were sold, delivered and administered via the Web.

With tight margins on the Government-backed pensions the Web was hailed as the cheap delivery channel, allowing companies to cut administration costs and avoid high overheads.

Under government regulations pension companies can only charge customers a maximum of 1% of the stakeholder fund's total value.

But the Web revolution has failed to materialise, according to industry experts.

As a result IT managers will have to reassess their arguments when trying to persuade their directors to release funds for Web-based projects.

"The proposition for Web-based stakeholder pensions about 18 months ago was saying, 'Let's go this route because everyone will come through this channel'," said John White, chairman of insurance industry consultancy, Winchester White. Directors would not buy this argument now, he said.

White estimated that only about 1% of life and pension company business is done over the Internet.

The bulk is still done face-to-face through independent financial advisers, in part because of the complexity of the products.

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