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Guest Blog: The Dormant Assets Scheme: re-uniting customers with lost money

Kirsty Cooper, Group General Counsel and Company Secretary, AvivaKirsty Cooper is Group General Counsel and Company Secretary for Aviva plc. She is also the Dormant Asset Scheme's Industry Champion for Insurance and Pensions.

Since 2011 the Dormant Assets Scheme [1] has distributed £600 million from unused bank and building society accounts to benefit the most vulnerable people in society. I was a member of the Dormant Assets Commission that explored how the Dormant Assets Scheme could be extended to assets like insurance, pensions and investments. The Government welcomed our report and in June 2017 I was appointed the Industry Champion for the Insurance and Pensions sector. Since then, I have been working with firms, regulators, trade associations and other stakeholders to develop detailed recommendations on how the scheme can be expanded to the insurance and pension sectors. The Industry Champions for the banking, securities and wealth management sectors have been doing the same

The Industry Champions’ report, ‘The Dormant Assets Scheme: a blueprint for Expansion’, makes clear that providers’ first priority must be to reunite customers with their money. People lose touch with their financial assets for many reasons – they might lose paperwork, not update their provider when they move home, or lose track of their provider following mergers and acquisitions. Put simply: life happens. Providers already work hard to trace and verify customers and our report urges firms to follow best practice to increase the level of reconnection.

Government legislation would be needed to expand the Dormant Assets Scheme to insurance and pensions. Our report sets out the principles that should apply to an expanded scheme. A crucial principle is that beneficial owners should be able to reclaim, in perpetuity, the amount that would have been due to them had a transfer into the scheme not happened. This is vital to maintaining customer trust.

The report also recommends definitions of dormancy which are specific to each product.  These definitions reflect the fact that these products are designed to be held for the long term and it is normal for owners not to contact their provider for many years.

I met with one of my colleagues that works on tracing customers recently and he told me how he was able to reunite a lady in her 70s with £11,000. That money was absolutely life changing for her and we must make more of these reconnections.  But if money truly is dormant, and customers can always get their money back, it must be better for the funds to be used for to improve the life chances of others.


[1] The Dormant Assets Scheme operates under the Dormant Bank Accounts and Buildings Societies Act 2008

Last updated 04/04/2019