A new free service to reunite people with their lost assets has been launched under the slightly whimsical name of Gretel – after the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. I won’t speculate who the wicked witch is here, but Gretel (gretel.co.uk) helps people track down their lost treasure of forgotten pensions and investments.
Gretel was launched a little before the closure last month of the Unclaimed Assets Register, which had been doing a similar job for 20 years. The UAR charged £25 for a search, successful or not, but Gretel is free to customers. At the moment it has records of only £3 billion of the estimated £50 billion of lost assets on its books, though that is growing. And once a person has registered with Gretel, it keeps a permanent lookout for any matching details in data it takes on in the future. Ultimately it aims to be the one-stop shop for lost or missing assets – including cash in savings accounts. At the moment that job is done by a scheme run by the banks and building societies called mylostaccount.org.uk. That stores details of accounts untouched for 15 years or more. But many banks make accounts dormant after less time than that, and Gretel will take details of those as well.
The service makes its money from fees charged to financial firms who give it their data. A new law requires firms to try to find anyone who may be owed money from an insurance policy, pension, investment scheme, shares, or in client accounts, and Gretel helps the firms fulfil that obligation.
Ultimately, if assets cannot be reunited with their owners they pass to a Government body called Reclaim Fund Ltd. Its job is to give the money to good causes but it keeps enough back to ensure that anyone who comes to it with a valid claim at any time in the future can be repaid.
So far Gretel claims to have reunited about £2 million with its owners, in sums ranging from £40 to more than £30,000. A happy ending indeed.
Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4. QUESTIONS? Send any questions to Paul.Lewis@radiotimes.com. I cannot answer you personally, but Paul will reflect them in his column.