Romi Savova is chief executive officer of PensionBee, the online pension manager she founded to simplify pension savings in the UK, following a harrowing pension transfer experience of her own. Romi began her career at Goldman Sachs and then joined Morgan Stanley’s Investment Banking Division to advise major banks, insurance companies and pension providers. In 2017, she was named Entrepreneur of the Year at Computing magazine’s Women in IT Excellence awards.
“There are myths that women are less confident or sometimes even less capable than men of taking up senior roles and starting their own businesses, but this is simply untrue.”
Before setting up my own company
Most of my professional experience pre-business school was in finance at Goldman Sachs. I worked in the risk management division at the time of the 2008 financial crisis. Then, my first job out of business school was at Morgan Stanley, where I covered large banks, insurance companies, and asset managers from a strategic capital standpoint, working on IPOs, mergers, acquisitions, and capital raisings.
And then there was PensionBee…
PensionBee is a leading online pension provider, that helps customers interact with their savings through a unique combination of smart technology and dedicated customer service.
We’ve helped thousands of customers be Pension Confident, enabling them to transfer their old pensions into one simple online plan. Savers can manage their pension from the palm of their hand: checking their balance, viewing their projected retirement income, and setting up contributions and withdrawals effortlessly online.
The idea behind PensionBee came from my own negative experience, trying to move my pension after changing jobs. Despite working as a financial services professional for years and feeling confident that I knew the system, I found the whole process really difficult. I realised that if I could get tripped up by complex processes, attempting to transfer a pension could cause real problems for consumers.
I thought that there must be a way to make pensions simple, and was confident that technology could be used to solve the problem. After a short period of market research, speaking to potential customers, business partners and investors, I took the plunge and founded PensionBee in 2014.
Constant change equals constant learning
The exciting thing about my role as CEO is that it’s constantly changing. Some months I’m working on our product strategy, other months I’m sourcing new partnerships or simply chatting with our team and customers to get their feedback on what we could be doing better as a business. Nothing beats hearing how our product has changed the lives of people saving for retirement!
Constant change means constant learning and being on the right side of change, particularly in financial services, is very motivating. I’m immensely proud of my team who are forever fighting for financial inclusion and the rights of all pension savers.
Adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has certainly made consumers think about their pensions more. At PensionBee, we’ve seen a huge cultural shift to online, as increasing numbers of customers have turned to us to help them manage their pensions digitally. In fact, we experienced a >80% increase in the number of customers who are invested in a PensionBee pension plan in 2020, compared to the previous year.
Although the majority of our team is working from home in line with Government advice, we’ve maintained a critical team in the office to provide resilience and take care of the tasks that just can’t be done from home (such as processing post). This team is still in place today and is doing an amazing job to ensure our customers don’t encounter any delays when it comes to the practical aspects of consolidating their old pensions.
The importance of sharing the latest gender pay gap figures
We made the decision to start reporting our pay gap voluntarily because we believe it’s important for companies to start tracking these metrics as early as possible and, if necessary, while changes are easier to make.
This is of particular importance this year as the female workforce has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, so transparency in the form of regular public reporting is crucial to driving forward progress.
We were proud to reveal a median hourly pay gap of just 4%, and a median bonus pay gap of 0% among PensionBee staff (as of December 2020). The gap is in line with our internal target of 0%, with a variance of +/- 5% owing to the overall size of the employee base, which is currently below the 250 employee reporting threshold.
What more needs to be done
Promoting diversity and inclusion within our team culture and hiring processes is a key focus of PensionBee, and echoes our commitment to achieving wider representation and equality in financial services. We want our team to be reflective of our customer base, and for our team to be the rule, rather than the exception in the industry.
As a consequence of this, we’re proud signatories of the FinTech for All Charter and Women in Finance Charter. We’ve achieved gender parity at all levels of the company, and I have no doubt there’s a direct correlation between our low gender pay gap and the impressive level of diversity within the business.
I believe that the biggest obstacle to working women is access to affordable childcare. We know this is one of the main reasons women take a career gap after having a child. So, the most useful thing a business can do to increase its support is to have the right policies in place to encourage and facilitate a woman’s return to the workplace in full capacity.
There are myths that women are less confident or sometimes even less capable than men of taking up senior roles and starting their own businesses, but this is simply untrue. Having experienced the childcare dilemma first-hand, I’m convinced that employers must do more to enable women to focus on their careers after having children.
The correlation between gender pay gap and gender pension gap
The gender pension gap measures the difference in pension pot size between men and women. Our own analysis based on PensionBee customer data shows that women have, on average, over £9,000 less in their pension pots than men. Just like the gender pay gap, the gender pension gap widens with age meaning it’s at its worst by retirement. In fact, by the time-savers reach their 50s, men have a pot that’s almost twice the size as an average woman’s.
Understanding the reasons behind both the gender pay gap and the gender pension gap is complex, however, there are some obvious elements at play. In particular, the impact of women taking breaks from paid employment or working reduced hours to look after their family, and the cumulative impact of women earning less on average than men (the gender pay gap).
At PensionBee, we know that where a pay gap exists for women, a pension gap will follow, so we’re passionate about campaigning for wage equality. With the gap not expected to close until 2050, this is something that all employers need to advocate for.
PensionBee has grown rapidly in recent years and 2020 was our biggest year yet. I’m looking forward to seeing that growth continue in 2021 and helping many more savers plan for a happy retirement.