01 July 2021

Gareth Stears and Ian Neale, of Aries Insight, explain various ways to find lost pensions prior to dashboards coming on line

The Pensions Dashboard Programme – which will enable pension savers to see most, if not all, of their pensions in one place – recently gave an early indication that pension providers will be progressively compelled to begin delivering data to the dashboard from April 2023. Although dashboards will not be publicly available until sometime later, there is no need to wait to find a lost pension.

A pension tracing service (PTS) is already available and has reunited thousands of people with millions of pounds. Although it has some major limitations, it’s free via www.gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details.

The service uses information kept by The Pensions Regulator in the Pension Schemes Register, which covers every occupational and personal pension scheme registered with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and has more than one member. Those schemes are obliged to keep this information up to date.

The PTS uses the following:

  • the name of the scheme
  • the address of the scheme

the full names and addresses of each of the trustees or managers of the scheme, and in the case of an occupational pension scheme: the name and address of each relevant employer, and any other name by which any relevant employer has been known at any time on or after the relevant date.

One major limitation of the PTS is that a significant proportion of historic pre-A-Day (April 2006) arrangements are not on it.

You need to know the name of your scheme. Or, if you were in an occupational scheme, you could have some luck with the name of your old employer – if it is still trading and has not been taken over or merged with another. For contract-based schemes, you need the provider’s name.

Another limitation of the PTS is that it might give you contact details for the right company, but the wrong team. Some life companies and administrators handle hundreds of schemes, but they might not have one central database covering all their customers. Your record might be in an old system, a microfiche, or even written on a piece of card. The person you speak to might not know everywhere to check.

Beware if you Google ‘pension tracing service’, as you will find a lot of imitators. Some might not be above board; and, anyway, remember they do not do this for free.

That said, nowadays pension providers are often willing to help individuals find lost pensions. Their carrot is innocent enough, the hope that you will choose them as the destination if you decide to consolidate your pensions. Of course, the usual warnings about scammers apply.

Policydetective.co.uk is designed to find old life and pension policies. If for example you enter ‘Equitable Life Assurance Society (non-profit pension annuities)’ in the search box, it shows that these polices are now with Canada Life.

Experian’s Unclaimed Assets Register can be searched for a fixed fee of £25. Larger providers are most likely to have shared details of unclaimed pensions with this register. Note that providers will only include ‘assets’ meeting their own definition of ‘unclaimed’ on the register (e.g. only uncrystallised pension funds belonging to members over 75 years of age).

A previous employer which is still trading will have contact details on the Companies House website. Their human resources department might have some intelligence they can share; as might a former colleague.

If the old employer is no longer a going concern, check the Pension Protection Fund’s index of ‘Pension schemes we look after’. They might be waiting for you to get in contact, but your pension might have had a haircut in the meantime.

If you were contracted-out of the state pension when you were in the scheme (broadly, building up a private pension instead of in the second state pension scheme, and paying lower National Insurance contributions), HMRC should have a record of who holds that private pension. They’ve ceased to track this though, so its usefulness will decline in the coming years.

There is an annually updated directory of 2,000 major UK pension funds called Pension Funds and their Advisers (or often, simply ‘The Blue Book’). It is only likely to include ongoing schemes though, and at £665 it might cost more than your lost pot.

However, the Pensions Advisory Service (which is soon changing its name to ‘MoneyHelper’) were known to keep a copy in the office. Their advisers are dab hands at this sort of thing and it’s a free service from people who definitely do not have an angle.

Finally, there is The Pensions Archive Trust, which has been preserving materials on the history of occupational and personal pensions since 2001. Their comprehensive archive could be a great help solving the mystery of the vanishing pension plan. 


Featured in the July/August 2021 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.