"While [Gretel] fully supports the Scheme and the good causes for which it provides invaluable funding, consumers need to be reunited first and foremost with what is theirs."
- Duncan Stevens, chief executive of Gretel
Since the Dormant Asserts Scheme was established in 2011, more than £1.6bn in dormant assets have been transferred to Reclaim Fund Ltd (RFL). Of which, almost £900m has been distributed amongst 2,500+ social, community, and environmental initiatives across the UK through the National Lottery Community Fund.
Joining over 40 UK banks and building societies involved with the Scheme, Aviva will now enable dormant assets from the insurance and pensions sector to be used for social and environmental initiatives, while ensuring customers are reunited with any assets in the future. Kirsty Cooper, group general counsel and company secretary at Aviva, has said that “it is great to see the culmination of a lot of hard work reaching fruition and it is such a privilege to be the first participant in our sector.”
Hannah Gurga, director general at ABI highlighted that “this expansion unleashes our sector’s potential to use the millions of pounds it has in unclaimed assets to support good causes, with customers being able to reclaim their money indefinitely.” She hopes that other insurers and pension providers will follow Aviva’s example.
Likewise, if other sectors such as investment and wealth management were to join the Scheme then millions more could be unlocked. Stuart Andrew, minister for civil society and youth, believes this would be “crucial funding to support disadvantaged young people, help those in financial difficulty and boost social investment.”
Jane Hanson, CBE, chair of Reclaim Fund Ltd & Dormant Assets Expansion Board, added that “this is a prime example of how industry and government can work together and innovate responsibly to deliver demonstrable social value.”
However, despite this “demonstrable social value,” research conducted by Gretel in March 2022 found that of those surveyed (2,000), only 10% had heard of the Scheme, and almost half (45%) were uncomfortable with their (dormant) money being used by the Scheme without their permission.
Commenting on these findings, Duncan Stevens, chief executive of Gretel, has said:
“Despite the Government reiterating that first and foremost the reunification of dormant assets to their rightful owner is key and should be the priority for financial services firms, there is still much to be done to make the process of finding and claiming dormant assets simple and centralised for consumers.
“The figures speak for themselves; we estimate that 20.8 million people in the UK have become disconnected from a total of £78billion that is currently sat languishing in lost or forgotten accounts and yet, consumer awareness is low and those that have tried to get their money back, have faced multiple barriers. The process has been too timely, costly, and complex, and financial companies are not making it easy for their customers to find money that is rightfully theirs.
“While we fully support the Scheme and the good causes for which it provides invaluable funding, consumers need to be reunited first and foremost with what is theirs. It is great to see Aviva leading the way in the pensions and insurance industry to be the first provider to join the expanded Scheme and having worked closely with the Aviva team as part of the Dormant Assets Commission, it is abundantly clear that they take customer tracing extremely seriously, ensuring that wherever possible assets are reunited with their rightful owners ahead of transfer to the Reclaim Fund.”