Dee McGrath, CEO of Retirement Solutions at Link Group, discusses how her company is transforming the UK pension space following digital-driven success in Australia

“Some people might say, ‘wow, a pension. That sounds a little boring.’ But at the end of the day, what we do is help people retire in the best way possible and that’s a pretty good place to be.”

Those are the words of Dee McGrath, CEO of Link Group’s Retirement Solutions since May 2019. The company is a global, digitally-enabled business connecting millions of people with their pension assets – safely, securely and responsibly. 

Link Group was founded in Australia, a country with a compulsory superannuation pension system which has proven successful. Indeed, it is the fourth largest asset pool globally with around 26 million people. But in recent times, global black swan events have caused significant market volatility leading to disruption in the space. “Instability and macroeconomic challenges meant performance in the pension space has been a little volatile,” notes McGrath. 

Today in the UK, millions of workers have multiple legacy employer-led schemes – but limited say on how their money is invested. Pension schemes feel more like a tax, with money disappearing from payslips for some unknown purpose. As people move jobs, money is left behind in multiple pots instead of travelling with them throughout their career. The industry itself is fragmented, with no single authority setting the strategic long-term direction of pensions. It’s a different story in Australia, where Link Group has supported a progressive, member-led model to help people plan for better retirement outcomes. 

“We’re bringing the best of Australia and combining it with our UK expertise to transform the pension market,” discusses McGrath. “We believe the UK has a real opportunity to simplify the pension experience and tackle the multiple pots issue.”

Competitive advantage

Link Group’s investment in UK pensions over the past three years is already proving successful. Its recent acquisition of HS Pensions, a long-term investment in Smart Pension and the onboarding of a major new client has seen Link Group expand its brand and footprint quickly. “The UK has obviously had some structural challenges around its pension assets,” adds McGrath. “There are a few issues globally, whether they be performance related or the ESG agenda, as well as a customer base that is more discerning and certainly looking for more digital engagement and capability.”

McGrath believes it is her organisation’s worldwide scale which sets Link Group apart from others in the industry. “It is our ability to bring market leading solutions to our clients to help them transform, provide a better experience to their members, and help them think about some of the solutions that will help guide members as they plan for transition and head into retirement,” she explains. “We have an outstanding set of people that have such incredible experience. If I added up the experience in our team, there would be thousands of years of experience in global pensions. Few can rival that.”

Dee McGrath, CEO of Link Group’s Retirement Solutions

Unleashing digital capabilities

Link Group has made a significant investment into the development of its digital capabilities. The company is considering how it provides the front door and digital assets for members, employees and funds, while also delivering the data needed to incorporate experience, performance and compliance. Earlier this year in Australia, Link Group launched the PathFinder retirement platform which provides a curated experience, powered and delivered with data that helps inform and nudge people along the journey towards retirement and helps with some of the complexities around the transition. “Once people retire, we’re product agnostic,” says McGrath. “PathFinder can include any product, an annuity, a lifetime product, to provide that reassuring concept of a salary in retirement. We want to replicate these types of solutions in the UK.”

As a technology-led services business, being ahead of the curve is the key to strategic and profitable growth. For the past 10 to 15 years, the UK market has underinvested in pension services so leveraging new solutions from the Australian market makes us unique. How we do this can often be the difference between winning and losing so it’s critical they are utilised in the right way.

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