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Beyond the "Pensions Man"

The company pension scheme is one of the most valuable yet under-appreciated of all employee benefits and there is lots that advisers can do to change that.

Each year the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD), surveys its 6,000 members across Ireland to get a snapshot of the issues that are most impacting its members. Whilst, as one would suspect, many of these issues relate to recruitment, salary etc., in the most recent survey, there were a surprising number of issues identified where advisers can play a strategic role in being part of the solution.

More than a pension scheme

Often the true value of the company pension scheme is overlooked by HR and advisers alike. For the adviser, they are proving staff access to probably the most valuable of all employee benefits. A facility that has the potential to change the shape of their retirement and that is at the cornerstone of the company's employee benefits package.

In many cases however, the role of the adviser slips into that of an employee consultant, advising members at the renewal meeting, distributing the Benefit Statements and proving opportunities for employees to discuss their own situations. The adviser's Interaction with HR often just centres on structural matters such as contribution rates, premium reconciliations, leavers and joiners etc.

HR challenges

Both HR and their pension’s adviser have the opportunity to collaborate strategically to solve many of the issues that face HR today.

The 2020 CIPD Survey highlighted many of the usual challenges of the HR professional but among them were others where, when positioned correctly, the company pension scheme can go part ways to addressing. Employee engagement, wellbeing at work and benefit appreciation were among the issues identified where the group pension scheme can help to address.

The old chestnut

When it comes to the pension scheme and its role at addressing some of HR's strategic issues the old chestnut always come to the fore....engagement. We all know about pension engagement and we all have our anecdotal stories of only a handful of staff turning up to renewal meetings.

Is it that these members don’t care about money or their financial future? Is it that they cannot understand the perceived complexities of projections, risk, future value etc.? I think if we scratched beneath the surface, we would see that most are quite financially literate; they actively use the internet to research financial topics, read articles, watch vlogs and probably have a Revolut account. Sounds like a pretty engaged bunch.

So why not engage with their pension? Well, maybe they have no real issue with their pension. They have a rough idea what has been paid in and what they will get at retirement.

They don’t have an issue with their pension but just don’t engage with the way it’s delivered.

Strategic partnership

HR need to partner with their pension adviser strategically, beyond seeing them as the “pensions-man” that comes at the renewal date but instead to facilitate the adviser in adopting new forms of employee communication to bolster and re-vitalize engagement.

Employees have digital expectations, they are connected with a vast range of service digitally every day yet with their pension we expect them to be engaged with one meeting a year.

To gain solid member engagement and convert members into clients for life, the group pension scheme needs to be experienced in a different way. Advisers need to be digitally connected with their scheme members to start creating a member experience that scheme members expect. Year-round customer touch points are paramount to building brand loyalty and engagement and only by creating a digital connection can this be achieved in a streamline and cost-effective manner.

This in turn has a significant impact on issues impacting on HR. A reduction in queries, improved appreciation for their pension and improved financial wellness are just some of the immediate benefits of having a more engaged workforce.

Financial wellness alone can be instrumental in a shift of employee behaviour and wellbeing.

For many of us financial wellness is a core pillar of our needs and wants in life but it is a concept we don’t often consider in its entirety. It is the ability to have a healthy financial life, meet ones financial obligations and have the ability to financial plan for the future to achieve our goals and aspirations in life. Research globally has shown the positive impact on a workforce when there is a comprehensive financial wellness program in place.

The scheme adviser is pivotal to planning and implementing financial wellness with the staff of a pension scheme. This can only be achieved through a strategic partnership with HR and when the adviser can augment their value proposition beyond that of being the pensions-man.

Karl O Meara


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