It’s been a funny week; my firm, First Actuarial, has “won” a number of awards but we don’t feel particularly elated. As one of my colleagues asked me “do we know what we did right?”.
Rewarding people for doing outstanding things is fine but there has to be a means to that end and with the awards we received we neither knew the process by which we were recognised nor the nature of our achievement. The awards were unsolicited and the recognition misunderstood.
I was one of the people who got a gong and the person who gave it me is someone who I feel should get recognition in his own right – Robert Burgon.
This is something Robert has published that I needs a wider view, not just for it’s call to action but for the lasting impression it has left of a man and an organisation totally focussed on improving people’s retirements.
A soon-to-be pensioner visited our offices this week to hand in the paperwork confirming the lump sum he wanted to take and his bank account details. When speaking to our Benefits Manager, he said that he thought we had made a mistake in our calculations. No- he wasn’t about to do an Oliver Twist and ask for more. He actually thought that we were offering him too much.
This member had contributed to our DB career average scheme for 15 years but had left service and been a deferred member since 1990. He simply couldn’t believe that he was entitled to a lump sum of £25,000 and an annual pension of £3,700 for what he saw as such a short period of service. I believe that he was also comparing our benefits with those which he had accrued since leaving the scheme and we came out well.
Although it brought smiles to the faces of our team when we heard this tale (and of course, our calculations were spot on), the reality is that we had failed to communicate the value of this member’s benefits to him properly throughout the years in which he had been deferred. Our practice has always been to issue annual benefit statements to all members (including deferred members). We do try to explain the meaning of these but given the nature of the scheme and all of the revaluation changes which have occurred over the years, this is not that simple.
This pensioner has prompted an urgent review of the way in which we keep our members up to date as our goal really must be to ensure that members are more aware of the value of their pension entitlement.
Robert is Secretary to a pensions master trust called the Plumbing & Mechanical Services (UK) Industry Pension Scheme (they operate as POCHIN). Guess what? – if you are an employer with plumbers , you can pay a contribution of 7.5% which together with the plumber’s contribution of 3.75% buys a very tidy benefit indeed.
This multi-employer pension scheme doesn’t make a lot of noise but is quietly going about providing a service to its members , more ambitious in its scope and more focussed in its intent than any other in the UK.
Alan Pickering, Chairman, talked to me about it earlier in the week. The aim of the Trustees of the Scheme is to provide, at or around the 8% auto-enrolment contribution scale, a meaningful defined benefit at and throughout a member’s retirement.
Because the focus is so practical, they do not advertise widely nor need they, the results of their good work are being experienced by the families of those retiring from this excellent scheme and its current active membership. They make sure the scheme works by managing its investments sensibly, keeping costs to a minimum and employing efficient structures that avoid some of the wastage we see elsewhere in the pension system.
If you want to read about the Scheme with the help of Penny Plumb, click here.
I hope that those who scoff at Ambitious Pensions take some time to see how a group of pension people are influencing employers to comit to more than the bare minimum for their staff and accept an amount of risk onto their balance sheets in exchange for a degree of certainty that their staff will be properly provided for in retirement.
I suspect the recognition I can give to Penny Plum, Robert Burgon, Alan Pickering, Stuart McDonald, Angela Smith , Fiona Hodgson and all the other people at POCHIN is a lot more needed than the gongs we won and I hope that this blog goes a little way in addressing the balance between the recognition we got and the recognition they deserve.
- “Ambitious” pensions can save you from staging a disaster (henrytapper.com)
- Auto-enrolment: join a pension and get a big tax bill (telegraph.co.uk)
- Auto-enrol pensions – do the figures add up for you? (itv.com)
- Biggest pension change in 100 years – but how much do you know? (itv.com)
- Auto-enrolment;- the story so far (henrytapper.com)
- TESCO extra pensions (henrytapper.com)
- Auto-enrolment: 11 million workers to join company pension schemes (guardian.co.uk)