The research, conducted by the Behavioural Insights Team on behalf of the Money and Pensions Service, tested two possible routes when customers asked about access to their workplace savings.
They either offered to make a Pension Wise appointment for them or transferred them to a member of the Pension Wise booking team who could explain the offer and make an appointment.
Excluding those who had taken advice in the past 12 months, the research found 11% subsequently attended and appointment within the next six weeks. This compared to just 3% of customers who attended from the control group.
The research was done with the help of Aviva, Hargreaves Lansdown, and Legal & General Investment Management.
The research also found that people were more likely to take up the guidance when they were still exploring their choices rather than when they were requesting a specific option for accessing their money.
Carolyn Jones, head of pension policy and strategy at the Money and Pensions Service, said: “Increasing take up of the Pension Wise service at this decisive moment in people’s financial lives is clearly a good outcome but it is only a starting point. More work should be done to explore the practicalities of making these trial approaches the standard – and then we need to build on them.
“There remains a large proportion of people accessing their retirement savings without taking guidance or advice. We need to develop a greater understanding of who these people are, and whether they face significant detriment as a result, if we are to identify the best way to support everyone’s financial wellbeing as they head into later life.”
The results of the research show that the FCA must be more ambitious, according to retirement specialist Just Group.
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just Group, said: “The FCA needs to be more ambitious about implementing measures that deliver a meaningful change. A guidance session must become a routine step for those accessing pension cash, with only a small minority opting out. Adopting either of the concepts tested would be too timid.”
He said that the evidence overwhelmingly concludes that a session with the free, impartial and independent Pension Wise has a strong positive impact on the decisions made by those using the service in terms of being more knowledgeable about their options and better equipped to avoid scams.
“The FCA was handed the job of strengthening the guidance framework when legislation was passed in 2018. At the moment it is easier to opt out of guidance than to opt in. The new process should lead people towards guidance so those opting out must make an ‘active’ rather than a ‘passive’ decision.
“Critics will say this stops people getting at their money so quickly but our view is that, after perhaps forty years of saving, forty minutes of guidance are time well spent if it stops people making decisions they later regret.
“We cannot afford to move too cautiously in increasing the take-up of impartial guidance given the huge numbers of people becoming eligible to access their pension benefits.”