Who remembers the forgetters?

Meet the man who reunited our customers with a billion forgotten pounds.

“The most I remember paying out to a lost customer’s estate was £300,000. The estate was worth millions, £300,000 wasn’t a lot to them.

Then there was another estate worth £11,500. We tracked down the partner of a deceased customer - an elderly, common-law wife. 

Common-law partners have no inheritance rights, legally. But there was no-one else to benefit from his estate, so we arranged for her to get the money. 

To her, that £11,500 could’ve been £300,000. She wanted to send us all chocolates and flowers. We declined the kind offer, of course.”

Tony is our customer reconnections technical support manager. 

In his own words, he remembers the people who forget about their policies, pensions, or investments. Our lost customers. 

What is a lost customer?

When you move house, which companies do you tell?  

Pension providers are around 14th down the list.

Lost customers are people who move home and forget to tell us. 

When we send out a statement for, say, their pension or insurance policy, it’s returned to us by the new occupier as ‘gone away’. 

We don’t have another way to contact them, no email or phone number. Typically, this might be the case for older policies. 

So, they’re lost to us. 

It’s surprisingly common, right across the pensions and insurance industry. 

Not as much with general insurance, like home and car, because they’re renewed regularly. But with retirement and investment products, it happens.

Tony explains: “When you move house, what do you do? You tell companies or others that give you immediate services or meet your needs. Utilities, internet provider, bank, doctor, TV Licence, the DVLA... 

But we know from ABI (Association of British Insurers) research that pension providers are around 14th down the list of companies you tell. Moving home is a frantic time – sometimes people forget about the products they hold with us.”

Tony in our London office
Tony in our London office

How to find a lost customer

Like many in our industry, we use an agency who specialise in helping companies like us find lost customers. 

Securely, we tell them what we can, like our customer’s name, date of birth, and old address. 

Then the agency matches that information against data they have permission to access, including credit reference records and the Electoral Roll. 

Birth records can help too, says Tony: “There was only one person with my name born in the fourth quarter of my birth year. So, I’m unique (many think that already!). Just from my name and date of birth, expert agencies can find me. 

They use multiple sources to confidently find people. When they’re successful, we can reconnect our lost customers with the policies they’ve forgotten about – so they don’t lose out. And we can meet our regulatory requirements by keeping them informed about their products.”  

Tony’s team oversee and track the number of Aviva customers who are lost and found. 

They have made 100,000 reconnections with lost customers in the last 12 months, with the help of our agency. Those customers had a combined value of around a billion pounds.

Two found in Australia

Tony chairs an ABI working group, which meets quarterly and was originally set up to write a framework for the management of lost customers. Or gone-away customers, as the ABI calls them.

Through this 15-member-strong group, and his work at Aviva, Tony’s pushing for positive change for the industry and its customers.

Tony in our London office reception area
Tony in our London office reception area

Tony says: “Here in Aviva, we are not afraid to try new things if we believe it will be to the benefit of our customers. We are currently working with Gretel, a free-to-the-public lost policy finder that anyone can sign up to. 

Not many companies in our industry are working with Gretel, but we believe it can become a valued part of our lost customer reconnection tool kit. 

One of our challenges is when people leave the UK because we lose a financial footprint and residency records (eg Electoral Roll information) … but we just reconnected with two customers in Australia through Gretel, which appears to have no distance barriers.”

How one man’s parking ticket could spark change 

During a hotel stay, Tony got a parking ticket, which he later successfully contested. But it got him thinking.

It’s like this, he says: “If you park illegally, a private parking company will send you a fine. 

Where did they get your address? 

They don’t know you, but they know your car registration. With that, they can get your name and address from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – a government department. 

If you park illegally, a private parking company will send you a fine. 

Where did they get your address?

If parking companies can get your address to take money off you, why can’t Aviva and the financial sector get your address to give money to you?”

With access to government data, we could change the way we reconnect with customers.  

We wouldn’t need to ask found customers to prove their identity. We could take a risk-based approach to updating our records with their new address and get in touch with them. 

Tony and his team are now working with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customers (HMRC), the Treasury and government’s Central Digital & Data Office on a data sharing pilot. 

Together, they are exploring opportunities to make it easier for our industry to reconnect with significantly more lost customers – faster and more efficiently. 

With 48 years’ service behind him at Aviva, Tony’s eyeing retirement. More time with his family, and to play golf. He’s far from done yet, but already he’s created a legacy to be proud of.  

What happens when we can't find lost customers?

After seven years, assets we’re holding for lost customers can be passed to the Dormant Assets Scheme. 

Dormant assets are products, like life insurance or money purchase pensions, that untraceable owners, executors or beneficiaries haven’t accessed for a certain period of time.

Tony explains: “Before we pass an asset to the Dormant Assets Scheme, we need to be certain we’ve done as much as we can to reconnect with our lost customer and pay them or their estate the benefits they are rightly due.  

However, one of the key principles of the scheme is that customers or their estate always retain the right to reclaim – they never lose that. If they do claim after seven years, we pay out and reclaim back from the scheme.  

I was part of the Aviva team who worked for years on the research undertaken by government and our industry (through the ABI) to extend the scheme and that allowed us to join. 

I’m proud that Aviva became the first from our sector to join the Dormant Assets Scheme. 

There are schemes elsewhere. Sweden have a scheme, Ireland have a scheme, Canada have a scheme… but in the UK the money is used to help people and society.”

The UK Dormant Assets Scheme, which Aviva joined in June 2023, has released £892m to support social and environmental initiatives across the UK. 

You might also be interested in:

Our participation in the dormant assets scheme: What happens to forgotten Assets?

What to do if we’ve contacted you about an unclaimed UK policy: find out on aviva.co.uk.

More information about how to reconnect with lost policies

More features