Penfold Review

For too long pensions have been complicated and outdated.

Nick's verdict

For too long pensions have been stuffy, complicated and difficult to access. Penfold is a breath of fresh air. Its web and app based service is modern and sleek which makes it a breeze to contribute, view and, eventually, withdraw from your pension. Penfold will also help you consolidate your pensions from previous employers via a (quite) simple process. They offer a limited selection of pension plans which will appeal to those looking for simplicity over control. Fees are on the low side and we’ve included past performance of the funds below. However, we do wish there was a way to speak to someone on the phone.

💻 Great app and website.

👵 Can consolidate your previous pensions for you.

🚪 Easy account opening.

🛠️ Nice selection of tools to help you forecast and plan your retirement.

💷 Flexible contributions.

😐 Small selection of funds won’t appeal to those who want to actively manage their pension pot.

☎️ Do not offer customer support over the phone (only web chat or email).


[.custom-color]Penfold is a modern, digital pension provider.[.custom-color]

It was founded in 2018 by Pete Hykin, Chris Eastwood, and Stuart Robinson with the aim of taking on the older outdated and often hard-to-understand pension companies. They initially focussed on making it easier for freelancers and the self-employed to save for retirement. So, they created an app that simplifies the whole pension process.

By 2021, Penfold expanded to offer their services to all kinds of savers, not just the self-employed and even started providing pensions for workplaces. They keep things straightforward with their fees, charging just an annual percentage on your pension balance and avoiding hidden charges.

What makes Penfold stand out is how user-friendly and transparent it is. They’ve built their own tech from the ground up, avoiding the clunky systems older pension providers use.

How It Works

It works pretty much the same way any private pension provider does – you set it up, transfer in any pensions you want to, pay in and claim tax relief then watch your investments grow over time. The type of pension that Penfold provides is called a SIPP.

What’s a SIPP?

SIPP stands for Self-Invested Pension Plan.

Contributions typically benefit from tax relief, meaning that the government adds to your contributions based on your income tax rate. This is currently set at 25% on anything you contribute up to 100% of your salary of £60,000 (whichever is less). So if you put in £100, the government will contribute £25 making the total amount invested into your account £125.

If you’re a higher-rate taxpayer, you can also claim additional relief through self-assessment.

The value of the pension fund can then grow tax-free, although taxes may be due when you withdraw money in retirement.

Setting Up An Account

[.custom-color]We opened an account and it was a simple process.[.custom-color]

You will be asked the standard details like name, date of birth and address. You will also be asked for your National Insurance number so it’s best to have this to hand. They will then run a check to authorize your account. This part of the process only took 30 seconds.

We were then given the option to pay in money or to transfer an existing pension.

Penfold sign up process

Paying In Money

We were given two options – make a one-off payment or make a regular payment. If you pick the regular payment option, you will be able to choose the day of the month it to comes out.

We liked with fact that with both options Penfold tells you upfront how much extra the government will contribute into your pension.

Adding money to Penfold

Penfold contributions are flexible – meaning you can amend, pause or cancel them at any time. The minimum contribution is set at just £10. We think this makes it ideal for freelancers, contractors or people with less certain employment.

They also have an excellent pension calculator.

Transferring A Pension

To add an existing pension you will need to know your provider and policy number. If you don’t have this then you can call your provider, give them your details and they will provide it for you. If you don’t know the name of your provider, you can contact Penfold via live chat and they can help you to find it.

Transferring a pension screenshots

Note: Not all pensions can be transferred to Penfold. If you have previously had a defined benefit pension – sometimes called a final salary penion and most common in the public sector – you may not be able to move it over.

The Plans

[.custom-color]Penfold has a stripped-back selection of pension plans.[.custom-color]

It’s good for those looking for simplicity and to largely forget about their pensions. It’s less good for those who want to actively manage their funds.

Each plan is designed to cater to different investment preferences and goals:

The Standard Lifetime Plan: This is Penfold’s default fund, which automatically adjusts asset allocation as savers approach retirement. Essentially, it mostly invests in stocks and shares up to the time you reach 60. This offers a higher level of risk and potential reward. Once you reach 60, it will switch to investing more in bonds and government gilts, which are often viewed as safer investments than stocks. Lastly, after you retire, it will enter protection mode and switch to the most stable assets which offer a lower level of return. It is managed by Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, overseeing trillions of dollars in assets for institutional and retail investors.

Standard Plan: Also managed by BlackRock, this plan is for individuals who want more control over their investments. It offers four risk levels to suit different life stages and investment preferences.

Sustainable Plan: This plan focuses on investing in companies with high Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings, aiming to positively impact the world without sacrificing growth. It is also managed by Blackrock.

Sharia Plan: Managed by HSBC and approved by an independent Sharia committee, this plan invests entirely in shares compliant with Sharia law.

Sustainable Lifetime Plan: Managed by BlackRock, this plan is similar to the Sustainable Plan but is designed as a lifetime plan, aligning with an ESG strategy throughout the saver’s pension journey.

The Platform

[.custom-color]This is where Penfold really stands out.[.custom-color]

Pensions have traditionally been paper-based and decidedly not customer-first. How many of us have bits of paper stuffed in drawers and a nagging sense that we should be doing something about our retirement? Penfold’s digital platform lets you log in at any time to see where you stand. It’s a world away from the more traditional pension providers (but PensionBee is doing a similar thing and, as Penfold’s most direct competitor, is worth checking out).

Penfold app image

Here are some things you can do on the app that we found useful:

See total value at a glance: You can view your total pension pot, current plan and plan performance over time. You can also see how much you’ve saved this year.

Find out where your money is invested: You can deep dive into your selected fund to see the sectors and geographical areas it represents. We loved the fact that you can also see a breakdown of the companies the fund invests in.

Account activity: You get a running list of how much you have contributed, pension top-ups and fees.

Create a pension forecast: Displays a headline figure for how much you might hope to have at retirement on your current trajectory (there are never any guarantees though).

Set goals: You can set a yearly goal and monitor how you are tracking against it (displayed as a pie chart).

Overall, the app is just a joy to use. Clearly, it was built by a team that understands user experience and they have worked hard to give the app a friendly but professional feel. It’s also hard to overstate how much anxiety and worry are avoided by being able to view your retirement plans at a glance.

Withdrawing Money

[.custom-color]Penfold has a wide range of options for withdrawing your money.[.custom-color]

You typically can’t withdraw money from your account until you are 55. At this point, you have a few options:

Lump Sum: You can usually take up to 25% of your pension pot tax-free. The rest is taxed as income.

Annuity: You can buy an annuity that provides a regular, guaranteed income for life or a set period.

Flexi-Access Drawdown: This allows you to take money from your pension as and when you need it, leaving the rest invested.

Combination: You can combine different options, like taking a lump sum and buying an annuity with the remainder.

We like that Penfold gives you the option to do any of these.

What Has Past Performance Been Like?

[.custom-color]Performance has been very variable depending on the plan.[.custom-color]

We’ve researched the performance since each fund began up to the end of September 2023:

  • Standard Plan, Level 1: Even (launched July ’19)
  • Standard Plan, Level 2: Up 8% (launched July ’19)
  • Standard Plan, Level 3: Up 16% (launched July ’19)
  • Standard Plan, Level 4: Up 21% (launched July ’19)
  • Sharia Plan: Up 41% (launched in summer ’20)
  • Sustainable Plan, Level 1: Down 8% (launched March ’22)
  • Sustainable Plan, Level 3: Up 10% (launched in summer ’20)
  • Sustainable Plan, Level 5: Down 1% (launched March ’22)

The funds have typically had a more difficult time post-Covid, with peak value happening in 2021, a retraction in 2022 and a partial recovery in 2023. Many other funds on the market have followed a similar Covid rollercoaster.


[.custom-color]Penfold charges much less than the average annual charge for pension providers in the UK (currently 1.09%).[.custom-color]

However, we know The Grade users want to do much better than the average, so here’s how Penfold compares to some others:

Penfold PensionBee Nest Moneybox Hargreaves Lansdown
Annual fees 0.75% to 100k, 0.4% over. (Sharia is more) Between 0.5% and 0.95% up to £100k (depending on the plan), between 0.25% and 0.475% over 0.3% (plus 1.8% at the point you pay money in) 0.45% up to £100K, 0.15% over (plus you have to pay provider charges ranging between 0.12% and 0.3%) 0.45% on first £250k, 0.25% on £250k-£1 million, 0.1% on £1-2 million, no charge above (plus £11.95 when you buy a fund)

So it’s complicated to say who is the cheapest as it depends on your fund value and how long you will be investing. However, broadly Penfold stacks up against the new digital pension providers in terms of costs. However, the big provider compared above, Hargreaves Lansdown, could be a cheaper option – and it’s not often we say that. However, what you’re getting with Penfold compared to HL is convenience and a great digital experience so you need to weigh up what is most important to you.

How Good Is Customer Service?

[.custom-color]It could be better.[.custom-color]

You can contact Penfold via live chat between 9 am and 6 pm but there is no way to speak to someone on the phone. We think this is a big miss given it’s perfectly reasonable to want to talk to someone when dealing with the biggest financial decision of your life. We would like to see Penfold add this service.

We tested customer service by sending a general message via live chat. We got a reply an hour later that solved our query

Who Is It Good For?

Good for: Freelancers and the self-employed who want a simple pension solution. Those with pension fear who want to finally sort out their retirement with as little hassle as possible.

Not good for: Those who want control over their SIPPs by picking individual stocks and ETFs. Those with defined benefit contributions that can’t be switched.

Is Penfold Safe & Legit?

[.custom-color]It’s highly regulated.[.custom-color]

Penfold is regulated by the FCA, with registration number 826097. This means it must abide by strict rules and guidelines set out by the FCA, which helps ensure the security and proper management of your pension. Being regulated by the FCA subjects Penfold to a wide range of controls and procedures. These measures are approved by the UK’s financial regulator to keep pensions safe and secure, providing an added layer of trust and reliability for customers.

If something were to happen to Penfold, the pensions managed by it would still exist as they are managed by Blackrock and HSBC. In the unlikely event that Blackrock or HSBC went bankrupt the the Financial Services Compensation Scheme would protect your money up to £85,000.

So in conclusion, is it a good platform?

Yes – for too long pensions have been complicated and outdated which has put a lot of people off from saving for their future. Penfold solves this problem.

More reviews from us...
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.