How we research workplace pensions

The rules that drive the recommendations on Pension PlayPen have been created over a decade and the advice comes from the opinions of true experts.

Every provider is rated on 6 metrics


We look at the headline annual management charge of the default investment option. This is the percentage your staff will pay of their fund annually for the provider to manage their pension. The lower the headline cost, the higher the value we give to the provider’s proposition.


We use a specialist division of First Actuarial for investment analytics. It has developed a complex rating system of its own based on value for money which looks at the following to assess the likelihood of the fund meeting its target: the costs; the investment process; the asset allocation; the quality of the fund management team. We then assess whether the fund's target is appropriate for the job.

Integrating Payroll & HR

We continue to develop a sophisticated monitoring service that takes feedback from over 50 payroll software providers on the compatibility of each provider to its software. Provider's scores vary depending on their levels of integration with each payroll system.

At Retirement

Time was you did n’t get to choose how you got your pension pot but “Pension Freedom’s” changed all that. You can now have your pension pot as a guaranteed income, a non-guaranteed drawdown or a big wedge of cash. You can even mix and match all three! We rate providers on how many and the quality of the services they provide.

Member Communication

This metric looks at the capacity of the provider to offer meaningful information and tools necessary for members to make informed decisions on contributions, fund selection, at retirement options and any special features of the plan, which require member choice. The latter might include salary sacrifice, built on life cover or even corporate wrap.


This rating looks at the sustainability of the provider’s business model. It analyses the appetite of the provider to stay in the market, its marketing, the success of its marketing, its financial position and the stress that its business model will come under as numbers of new schemes increase. Finally we look at the quality of the Governance infrastructure that underpins the plan.

At retirement
Member comms
Payroll & HR

We assign each metric a weighting based on your circumstances

The sum of the weighted scores gives each provider a score out of 100 unique to each company. Our algorithm looks at the following data to decide how much weight each metric should be assigned.

  • Age: Employees will have their money invested for different lengths of time and require different services. This has a big impact on the weighting given for costs, at retirement and member communication.
  • Earnings: Low earners and high earners are looking for different things in a pension. Quite often a company will have a wide variety of income levels. So balancing the needs for all employees is part of what we do.
  • Turnover: If you have seasonal employees or a high employee turnover this will have an impact on what pension you should choose. This is fed into our weightings to ensure these employees are not forgotten.
  • Payroll: The software you use may restrict you from selecting certain providers or work particularly well with others.

See how providers rate for your company