When you are building a brand, you need recognition and much as we’d love to be on News at 10 every week, our brand Pension PlayPen can only become relevent if it makes lots of noise.
So I spend a lot of Sunday mornings writing submissions to various organisations who run award ceremonies. Some, like HR magazines demand a week’s wages for the privilege of entering, others like Engaged Investor, allow us to write about ourselves for free!
So here is how we see ourselves as a response to the three questions the judges are asking to assess the……..
DC Initiative of the Year!
What are the details of the DC initiative? Please include key goals and milestones.
We have set up a portal for the 1.2m employers ,the 11m new entrants and the 15m existing DC savers. You might say that a portal is not the same as a DC Scheme but as a Scheme itself is only a portal to the funds it presents, we condor this DC initiative among the most important to be seen in the UK in 2013.
The portal is accessed via www.pensionplaypen.com which offers three services
Information and links to the know-how needed to stage an auto-enrolment system for workplace pensions
“Let’s rate our pension” a service that allows employers to establish whether an existing scheme will qualify as a workplace pension, providing links to providers where no adviser is around
“Choose a pension” , a service that allows employers to find out which providers will deal with them and on what terms. It also allows employers to compare and choose their workplace pensions using our unique balanced scorecard.
The first key advantage for an employer using this service is the guarantee from Pension Play Pen that (subject to accurate data being submitted) the decision taken will be certified compliant by a regulated adviser – First Actuarial.
This compliance guarantee is only available if an output report is purchased. This report cost £499 (+VAT) and details the data submitted, the providers that engaged with the data and documents the reasoning by which a decision is taken. The report is the key output as it provides an audit trail which can be used immediately with members and other stakeholders and provides future proofing for years to come.
While immediate consideration for most employers is on compliance, we are keen to remind employers that “the pension is for life not just for staging”.
The second key advantage is the rating system that is integrated into the Choose a Pension and Rate our Pension Services. The service replicates the decision making process adopted by large consultancies breaking the decision into 6 key areas and rating each provider for the value it brings for each.
These ratings are adjusted each quarter by First Actuarial in the light of experience and product development. Employers are able to adjust the weighting of importance given to each metric but not the rating (thus preserving its integrity.
Employers can therefore feel confident that they have chosen on the basis of value – not just on price.
How successfully did the initiative meet the scheme’s objectives?
When we speak about “the scheme” we can already talk of over 200 employers who have used the service. An increasing number of employers are now downloading the output report and the feedback we are receiving is universally complimentary.
We are able to accurately track all information downloaded from the site to assess not just who is reading what but how long they are spending do it. This allows us to assess where the site is adding value and adjust the positioning of items to make sure that they are properly promoted.
It is too early to say whether we will relieve the pressure building from the enormous spikes in stagings later in 2014 , let alone the tsunami of 2015 and beyond, however we are comfortable from the stress testing we have carried out, that the functionality is scalable and capable of dealing with thousands and not just hundreds of enquiries.
External validation of our service is very evident. The Linked in Group “Pension Play Pen” which acts as a form for advisers using the service has almost doubled in size over the past 12 months while external sites such as the Incisive Financial Library, HenryTapper.com, the Adviser Lounge and even Facebook, report high levels of interest in Pension PlayPen content.
The feedback we receive on the core “choose a pension” service suggests five key “likes”
Ease of use- the site is fast and easily navigable
Clarity of message- the sit avoids jargon and wherever possible illustrates through info graphics
Integrity of ratings- the First Actuarial rating system is regarded as “truly independent”
Value for Money- the vast majority of the site is free, where money is required – the sum involved is considered “value for money”.
It works- an obvious one, but many employers are genuinely surprised that in under two hours they can assess their workforce, determine their contribution structure, receive multiple quotes, decide on a provider and future-proof that decision!
There are of course areas we are still working on; the “let’s rate our pension” service is incomplete because we are yet to receive full details from the DWP on what makes for a qualifying pension. We expect to hear more from the DWP in the next three months but at present, we are not receiving the traffic through this service we had expected and much needs to be done before we can properly promote it.
How was this success assessed and measured?
Because Pension PlayPen is entirely digital, we are able to record everything, site visits, page visits right down to those parts of each page which get most hits.
But the most important information we record is the interest of employers in key areas of functionality. For instance we house a great number of documents from the Pension Regulator’s website which help employers understand and project manage staging. We share this information with key stockholders (such as the FCA and tPR) to add to the general understanding of what employers are “up to”
Information viewed is an important metric but the metric that has the most commercial value relates to the types of employer using the site and the decisions they take when using the “choose a pension” service. We are subject to important data disclosure standards that prevent us sharing anything but fully anonymised data, but the data set we are building is already one of our most commercially valuable assets.
Ultimately we see the commercial value of the site as the value of the brand to employers and providers plus the data it has generated.
In the short term, the quantity and quality of the visitors to the site is of great interest to those wishing to advertise on the site and we are pleased that those advertisers we have chosen have stayed with us and new advertisers are queuing for the limited space we allow for promotions upon the site.
Advertising and usage are key metrics but we are also monitoring closely the reaction of third party sites to what we are doing. We are currently under a number of Non Disclosure Agreements with third party sites that we hope will lead to important strategic relationships.
Our key third party distributors – the accountancy,payroll, IFA and HR bodies and publications are increasingly promoting Pension PlayPen. We are also in conversations with a number of large consultancies who currently have no means to provide a suitably costed solution for smaller employers
Our long term targets in terms of usage are to help in the stagings of 10% of all employers. While we are running at about 10% of that rate at present, we see the future as increasingly self-service of “guided”. With little competition for the specific services we provide, we look forward to the 2015 awards when we can answer this question more fully.
This article first appeared in http://www.pensionplaypen.com