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Traffic light labelling for the UK pensions industry

Start date

November 2021

End date

June 2022


In the UK, £90 billion is paid into workplace pensions and the UK pensions industry is a multi trillion-dollar industry. However, events such as the 2008 global financial crisis and the COVID pandemic have seen the erosion of people’s pension pots.

More than one million 55-to-64-year-olds plan to delay retirement as a result, and according to HM Revenue & Customs 360,000 individuals withdrew £2.4 billion from UK pensions in Q4 2020. 

At the University of Surrey we want to develop a better understanding of UK pension savings products and along with our partner, the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), we will be investigating the feasibility of designing a traffic light label system for pensions to give individuals a better understanding of their savings. We’re interested to understand whether this kind of system in a dashboard context could be used to provide an indication to a scheme member about the quality of life they could expect in retirement.

“Traffic light labelling” is a design that can be placed on product descriptions to show detailed information about the product. It is already used in the energy efficiency labelling of domestic appliances and the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) (e.g., in the sale of properties). In the food industry such traffic labels are used to show the energy, fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content of products. The colour-coded system makes it easier for consumers to see whether the contents are high or low in a particular ingredient.

Within this work we will also consider the potential impact a traffic light system may have on people’s behavioural intentions and explore opportunities to improve overall engagement with pensions and savings products.

The project builds upon previous work Bonnie Buchanan has done in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in financial services and previous work MariaLaura Di Domenico has conducted into big data. AI approaches, including textual analysis and natural language processing, can assist with labelling decisions. 

Our Partner



Pensions savings represents one of the biggest life cycle choices people make, so we believe this project is essential to creating real societal impact in this area.

Our main objective is to explore whether a traffic light labelling system might support people to plan for later life and build their confidence and understanding of pensions, aiding lifelong financial literacy.

We will identify which pension funds may have the most potential to influence people’s choices, consider the impacts on people’s behavioural intentions and highlight any barriers to achieving a lasting system that supports better pension engagement and decision making.

The traffic light labelling system is not without controversy and we also want to understand the limitations in terms of how the system communicates and influences consumers’ perceptions, attitudes and evaluations.

We’ll also investigate whether a traffic light labelling system would potentially be supported by policymakers and regulators.

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