Finding the £50bn+ in forgotten savings


Interview with Duncan Stevens, Co-Founder of Gretel

In the UK alone, over 20 million people aren’t aware of the dormant assets they have sitting in forgotten accounts, which experts estimate to be over £50bn. To find out more about how Gretel aims to help reunite people with their money, I talked to the founders and dormant assets experts Duncan Stevens and Tom Simmonds.

Why did you want to launch Gretel? And why now?

With Gretel we have a real opportunity to address how disengaged the British public has become with its finances. We understand everyday life gets in the way, but knowing how much you might have in various forgotten accounts could be crucial for you and your family. The economic impact of Covid-19 has really highlighted the importance of financial security and the need for people to have access to their savings.

Therefore, we wanted to create a fun, easy and efficient way to get people engaging with their financial affairs. Which is why Gretel is free, making it even easier for people to get involved.

How does Gretel work?

In the most basic sense, Gretel takes bits of information from consumers and – using our systems that operate 24/7 – looks for any matches with the financial institutions we work with. If Gretel finds a match the consumer will instantly be able to find the details on their dashboard so that they can start a claim. If there isn’t a match right away Gretel will keep searching and as it finds new matches, Gretel will notify the consumer by email. It’s really that simple.

Once the assets have been found, what does Gretel do?

When Gretel finds a match it will provide all the information the consumer will need to claim their money. This will include all of the requirements of the company concerned. For example, we’ll tell people the address the dormant assets are linked to so they know which proof of address they need, the documents the company will need to see in order to release the money, a unique reference number and all of the contact details to enable to consumer to contact the company and successfully claim what is theirs.

How is Gretel able to be free for customers?

We don’t charge consumers anything as we don’t believe people should have to pay to get their own money back. Instead, we charge the financial institutions a subscription fee. It’s not an expensive sum, which means it’s more cost effective for a big bank or insurer to pay us to run this service than for them to do it themselves.

It sounds too good to be true! Are you worried people might think this is a scam?
We absolutely understand the scepticism. However, there are no fees or catches and we’ll never ask for any sensitive information. Gretel puts the consumer back in control of their own data, which is why we only need a consumer’s name, address and date of birth to get started.

We can understand that people may be wary, particularly as many aren’t even aware of what dormant assets are or how much is sitting unclaimed, but the numbers don’t lie and £50bn+ in lost savings and investments can’t be ignored.

Gretel is about helping people reconnect with what is rightfully theirs. It’s as simple as that.

Has there been any difficulty signing different financial institutions?

We’re glad to say we haven’t had any resistance from banks or insurance companies. Obviously, Covid-19 has made things trickier but thankfully we’re starting to see more firms getting in touch as normal life starts to return. The great thing is that each organisation that looks at Gretel loves what we do and wants to get involved!

So what does the law say about all this?

In terms of the current dormant asset legislation, which is currently being expanded, the law is very clear that consumers will always be able to get their money backfrom wherever it is. It’s a consumer right. While over time, money can be moved, after 15 years, banks will pass dormant assets to an organisation called the Reclaim Fund, which distributes some of it to charities. But the law is clear: whatever happens, people must always be able to get all their money back.

And, in the first instance, organisations have to make real efforts to reconnect dormant assets with their owners – this is where Gretel comes in.

Sounds great, but are there other similar services out there?

Gretel is the only fully digital service of its kind that is entirely free to the consumer and covers all financial products. Other services either charge a fee or are limited in some areas of product coverage, unlike Gretel, which covers everything in a completely digital format. This means we are constantly monitoring, 24/7 and 365 days a year.

What does success look like for Gretel?

We’d love to help everyone reclaim their dormant assets, but if we can help half of them, it would be a massive win for us and society. It would genuinely be transformational.

It’s a big challenge but an exciting one at the same time. We want Gretel to go on for years, helping people for generations, because it has the power to do a lot of good.

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