Pension Comms- let’s get real

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This article relates to my recent post on how to keep people engaged with their pensions. There I argued that we are failing to carry forward the interest engendered by employee communication “exercises” because we have no means of regularly updating members of the progress of their pension plans.

In this article I look at some of the practical steps pension practitioners can take to ensure that this momentum isn’t lost. The point is important. If we measure the value of a pension scheme by the improvement it brings to staff relations, productivity, recruitment and retention then an awareness from its members of the accruing benefit is critical to any measure of success. If we measure the success of a pension by it’s outcome, then the extent to which employees contribute (both financially and by good management) to these outcomes is again critical. That’s why communication matters.

The problem with current pensions communication is that it relies too heavily on posted information and on password protected websites. Post has become a problem – it’s how we get our bills – people regard the post as a source of financial misery not of useful information.

By comparison, I now receive good news digitally my private e-mail, my work e-mail, my LinkedIn mail, my Facebook mail, SMS and twitter bring me the information I need to supplement my face to face, telephone and webcam conversations.

Over the past fifteen years I have had five addresses, 3 jobs, 17 work locations but one mobile telephone number and two  e-mail accounts. I guard my telephone number preciously as I do my e-mail address. My relational database is no longer linked to my job – it’s supra job – it’s LinkedIn and I take it with me from job to job. People find me digitally not geographically.

The pension industry hasn’t cottoned on to this shift in my behaviour. My pension providers don’t use my mobile phone number, don’t connect with me on Linked in and aren’t on twitter. I suspect they regard Facebook as an irrelevance (despite 23m people in the UK using it as a communication tool).

Our company freely converses on Facebook, Linked in, Mallowstreet and FTschemeXpert. We all talk and text each other on mobiles. However, our administrative databases are sparsely populated with member telephone numbers or primary e-mails. Talking with our teams they tell us this information is simply not captured. Even if a client e-mails us, we are unlikely to retain the e-mail address and will naturally respond by post. It’s in the blood.

So though we have the means of sending encrypted data on account values and contributions received – the stuff that members actually want to see regularly- we send this information into mailboxes clogged with tax-demands and utility bills! Small wonder that pension communication is failing – we shoot ourselves in the foot.

Am I alone in having a consistent mobile number and a plethora of home addresses? I imagine confidential information about my past pensions is currently sitting in piles of unforwarded mail all over London! Deferred members of  occupational pension schemes are rarely tracked by their trustees and their administrators. I know that I can ultimately be located by my national insurance number but for most of my adult life I am an orphan client – bereft of information about my fractured pension history because no-one can find me!

I will not labour the point. We need to get smart about how to talk to members and that goes as much for insurers as trustees. We need to get HR databases talking to pension databases and get members supplying  the supra-communicators- the private mobile numbers, the private mailing addresses that allow pensions information to be delivered independently of work and consistently over time.

This is the nub of the communication issue and until we have overcome the cultural, legal and logistical barriers to sorting this, all the fancy websites, advisory sessions and associated angst will continue to be an irrelevance.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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