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Interview with Jasper Martens, CMO at PensionBee

Jasper Martens was part of a team of six people when he joined PensionBee in 2015. PensionBee is now a company of over 100 people with plush offices (albeit empty at the moment) on the eighth floor of a building in the City of London.

“PensionBee combines all of your pensions from your previous jobs and transfers them into a new pension plan,” Jasper explains to me.

“You can set up contributions in just a few clicks…so you can plan for a better retirement.” It’s an important topic; pensions in the UK have become a huge focus since the introduction of auto-enrolment which finished rolling out in 2018.

The company started in 2015. “[The founders] had pension transfer issues themselves and thought, ‘well actually, we could do a better job’, so they did.

“Up until now, we’ve had just over 100,000 invested customers; we’re managing more than £1bn in pension money and we are also very close to launching some new products that are all around making your retirement better.”

Moving jobs, moving pension

“…it’s a really big pain point…people move jobs more than ever, so you’re not with one job for life and with auto-enrolment introduced, everyone will have a pension where they work. So people end up with [many] pensions because they’ve changed jobs so many times throughout their career.

“Keeping track of those pensions is just a nightmare; for example, if you’ve moved house, you have to tell all of those providers you’ve moved house…you can easily lose track of those small pension pots.”

This is the reason, Jasper explains, that PensionBee exists. “That problem you can solve by transferring [your pensions] to one plan.”

When people move their pension pots, Jasper explains, “they are…surprised; ‘I didn’t know I had so much money in my pension pot’, but more often they also see how much they are behind and how much they need to save.”

Getting your pension back on track

Jasper talks about the ‘oh gosh’ moments new customers of PensionBee can go through when realising how far behind they are with saving for a pension.

“Our customers are then (after transferring their pension pots) setting up contributions, whether that’s regular or one off.”

It’s clear that PensionBee exists to make pensions easier, whether that’s reducing the admin required when juggling multiple schemes, or whether it’s having visibility of what your retirement is going to look like and being able to act.

Not an auto enrolment solution

PensionBee isn’t an auto-enrolment solution, “it’s is a direct-to-consumer product…and it’s around taking control of the pensions you’ve already built up, not the ones you’re still paying into through your work.”

Jasper tells me his team’s motto: “we always say, ‘move job, move your pension’.”

PensionBee is a product that exists to pick up where auto-enrolment solutions leave off; the moments where multiple pensions become too much to manage, or where it’s hard to monitor your long-term savings.

Developing a product

I asked Jasper how the company came about. “I think most ideas, most products or most companies are born from personal frustration.

“[Romi (Savova, PensionBee’s CEO and co-founder)] used to be an investment banker, so she is quite in the know and she messed up [when transferring her own pensions before PensionBee]. She thought, ‘if I don’t understand how to do it properly and I can make a mistake easily, how on earth are other consumers in the UK solving this?'”

Launching the UK’s first fossil-fuel-free pension plan

It’s clear from speaking to Jasper that the firm is on a constant cycle of collecting feedback and developing new products.

“More and more customers are concerned about how their money is invested…people want to know how we are using their money to invest for the future.

“That’s done purely through our customers giving us feedback through their beekeepers (PensionBee’s name for customer success executives), or being very vocal on Twitter.”

Jasper is keen to stress however that in order to stay relevant, a firm must open itself up to a wider audience, beyond its existing customer base. “You do need to keep opening up to the outside world and ask your target audience what they would love to see from that particular product feature.”

Collecting feedback

Despite this, collecting customer feedback is woven through the fabric of the organisation.

“Within our marketing and product team, we’ve got our user researchers, UX/UI designers and product managers and that team does absolutely collect [customer] feedback.

“When [a customer] is calling us or having a live chat with us, or sending us an email, we will tag those conversations based on a particular topic. We also run some qualitative interviews every week, so our team will interview at least five people every week.”

Making pensions interesting

Jasper describes his challenge at PensionBee clearly; pensions are “something you don’t really want to sort out because it’s paperwork you don’t really understand.

“How do I change that? That’s been the biggest challenge…the best way to do that is to actually produce some great content that really hits the audience at the right moment in time.”

Long-term savings account

One way in which Jasper and his team have attempted to do this is in repositioning pensions in the consumers’ mind.

“Once you move it away from a too-hard product into something that people see almost as a long-term saving account with massive tax advantages…then people think; ‘tell me more about that’, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with PensionBee.”

Multiple channel approach

I also asked Jasper about PensionBee’s approach to advertising, in particular how it tracks success of offline and online media.

Jasper describes a common scenario to me; “[our audience may have] been on the train, seen the Facebook ads, but then again, who has all of their pension details at hand?

“If people then use another device…and then sign up for PensionBee which we will count as direct and Facebook can’t really track…you can’t really track [digital] 100% either.”

Jasper tells me about how he is able to apply a CPA (cost-per-acquisition) to television spots, “for the first six minutes after an ad has been aired, I can see how many people are downloading the app and how many people are going to our website.”

It’s using this spike in data and the resulting tracking cookie that is placed on the user’s browser that lets his team assign an ROI to traditional advertising channels.

“I can see the impact of our billboards…because I can see how many accounts are created on top of what I’d normally see.” Measuring a ‘baseline’ figure is clearly a key part of making this work.

“The amount of brand searches vs non-brand searches is something you can measure, well guess what, the number of brand searches went up by quite a large percentage as soon as the billboards went up.

“You can attribute those brand searches through Google Ads to your out-of-home campaign.”

SEO is a great foundation for financial marketeers

Jasper, much like myself, started his career in marketing working as an SEO and he is clear that he believes the skills this has afforded him have been very helpful.

“The mixture of understanding how a website works and how you can optimise that versus understanding what your target audience needs and how you can reach and attract them is a killer combination.”

Jasper also talks about being a ‘tech-savvy marketeer’; someone who is comfortable rolling out changes directly to a website is a core part of the skillset to be a successful financial marketeer.

It’s great advice and it’s clear that his mix of technical and strategic skills have enabled Jasper to lead a very effective marketing and product team at one of the UK’s most interesting financial brands.