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Why do insurers struggle to reunite lost assets with their owners?


With discussions on the Dormant Asset Bill having taken place in the House of Lords prior to the summer recess, Duncan Stevens, CEO of fintech specialist, Gretel, discusses the Bill’s impact on the industry and asks, why do insurers struggle to reunite lost assets with their owners?


Fintech specialist, Gretel, estimates 19.6 million people in the UK have become disconnected from financial services products. Based on Gretel’s calculations1, there are approximately 10 million bank accounts, 2.5 million life insurance policies and 1.6 million pensions, with a collective value of over £50 billion that are unclaimed.

As the latest Dormant Asset Bill entered the Lords with the objective of expanding the amount of unclaimed money managed by the scheme, Duncan Stevens, CEO of Gretel, looks at the implications of the new legislation for insurers.

The Dormant Asset Bill was first introduced in 2008 and has been an overwhelming success, achieving 250% higher contributions than first envisaged and providing £800m for good causes. The planned expansion of the Scheme means a broader range of dormant assets, including some insurance policies, will be eligible for transfer, securing a second windfall distribution to a wider range of good causes.

As Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said:

“Funds raised through the existing Dormant Assets Scheme have already made a huge difference to vulnerable people and communities across the UK, especially during the pandemic. Expanding the scheme will mean hundreds of millions more for good causes, helping us to build back stronger in the years to come.” 

The question then remains, what more can insurance companies do to reunite assets with their owners?

However, the new Bill places the onus on participating companies to ensure they have done the appropriate preparation. The Government’s own website quotes “Expanding the Scheme will also shine a spotlight on reuniting owners with their dormant money in a wider range of asset classes, and will continue to protect their right to reclaim their asset at any time.” 

The question then remains, what more can insurance companies do to reunite assets with their owners?

The insurance and long-term savings sector holds a large volume of incorrect customer data and it is often the case that identified gone-aways are just the tip of the iceberg, with a far greater volume going unrecorded. Inaccurate or incomplete customer data leads organisations to waste time, money and internal resources and may, in certain circumstances, result in regulatory breaches or instances of fraud.

Whereas compliance and regulation have historically been the key drivers to reactive customer re-engagement, businesses are increasingly taking a more proactive stance. 

Many organisations engage periodically in tracing activity to reconnect with customers where they believe the data held is inaccurate or out of date. While this is effective to a point, it does little to address the unrecorded cases. In any event, the activities leave organisations facing the often greater challenge of reconnecting with the customer.

The ability to re-engage should not be taken for granted; from first hand experience based on programmes run by the founders of Gretel across the financial services industry, reconnection rates using traditional tracing methods can vary from as low as 20 per cent to 50 per cent.

So how can industry and technology come together to break down the barriers mentioned above and seek to address the root cause of the problem?

To achieve the best outcomes for the industry there are two key elements that technology can transform– digitisation and centralisation.

Firstly, by adopting a technology-led approach, customers will be able to quickly and easily self-serve, giving firms a chance to reconnect with lost customers who have historically been reluctant to respond to traditional outreach methods, such as “unsolicited” letters and phone calls. A digital first approach also ensures firms remain connected by providing up to date and secure contact channels.

Secondly, giving customers a single, centralised, place for them to seek out lost money represents the ultimate evolution for customer reconnection, rather than each firm individually providing this self-service functionality. It will empower customers to resolve multiple problems through a single channel, saving them time, inconvenience and stress - factors which often contribute to customers putting off the act of reconnecting.

For the industry, the natural advantages procured through the deployment of technology solutions can only serve to increase reconnection rates and reduce the operational overhead through process digitisation and cost optimisation.

Providing customers transparency and access to their investments is important. We believe this is particularly the case for the 24.1 million adults in the UK the FCA has identified as vulnerable. With customer vulnerability on the rise according to the FCA (15% increase between February and October 2020) any solution which supports improved customer outcomes will almost certainly be well received by the regulator. The FCA Guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers is very clear that “They should ensure that firms embed the fair treatment of vulnerable customers in their policies and processes throughout the whole customer journey. We have seen some good examples where commitment comes from the top and where there is a culture of feedback and learning from the frontline.”  As an industry we now need to lead from the front.

Collaborative working will get us there faster

Working together and seeking to answer the following questions, the industry can endeavour to come up with one blueprint, working across all organisations to the benefit of the customer:

  • How can the industry ensure it delivers a truly centralised solution that complements existing efforts undertaken by firms?
  • How can it be delivered in a cost-effective manner?
  • How can we raise awareness of the service so customers all know where to look?
  • How do we make sure vulnerable customers are not disadvantaged?

If industry can answer these questions, then a cohesive framework will almost certainly be forthcoming and it will be for technology and fintech to rise to the challenge.

1 Based on Gretel’s calculations:

Financial Product

Total lost/unclaimed

Number of people effected

Average value









Wealth & Investments




Bank & Building Society Accounts




Life Insurance




Child Trust Funds









*The figure is calculated from the ABI’s estimation that 1.6 million pension pots in the DC market are potentially lost; and Profile Pension’s estimation that the average size of lost pots is £23,125.

Last updated 05/08/2021