Payroll bureaux – help ’em out the trenches!

stuck in trenches

This blog's all about helping payroll bureau get their voice heard.If you are an agent helping people with auto-enrolment - take this survey to get out of the trenches

One payroll manager told me that sitting in her office was like being in the trenches before a big push, shells flying over your head softening up targets in Q1 2016, everyone nervous , frightened and already a little exhausted !

She was of course talking about auto-enrolment and if you are like the ladies I was with this week, you may be suffering the same fatigue.

Sometimes it takes someone on the outside to tell you what’s really going on- you don’t get too good a view from the trenches. Well here’s my dispatches from the reconnaissance aircraft flying over the battlefield!

stuck in trenches

Observation one – being in charge isn’t the same as being in control

The people who are “in charge” are beginning to realise that life is not as simple as rocking down to Sage and Iris , issuing instructions and then expecting the 1.7m employers still to stage auto-enrolment to fall in line. There has been a naive view among insurers (and perhaps among software providers) that if the software house issues a release, everyone will buy it. The capacity of payroll bureau to purchase independently has been underestimated.

stuck in trenches

Observation two – insubordination in the ranks

Not all the software issued by the software suppliers does a good job and none of it does all the job. For instance, insubordinate employers and even some of their staff have a habit of wanting to choose where their money is invested. The “employer journey with a gap in the middle to “insert pension here” is not looking as smooth as it might. Without an obvious way of choosing a pension , many employers are rejecting pensions thrust upon them by trade associations, accountants .middleware and the Government. NEST- NOW -Peoples, Legal & General, Aviva, Standard Life – how to make sense of all this choice.

stuck in trenches

Observation three – “so what happens if I say no?”

The assumption that payroll bureaux will buy what they are given by their software suppliers, that employers and staff will accept the first pension that comes their way and that everyone is going to co-operate to ensure no one gets left behind is comforting.

But the assumption’s made without any real understanding of the people who run and work in payroll bureaux. The duty of care needed to pay the right people at the right time , the right amount is what drives those payroll people I’ve met.

I may spend most of my time circling the battlefield in my reconnaissance bi-plane , but when I do meet payroll agents, they appear to me fair minded meticulous people who are in the habit of saying “no”.

stuck in trenches

Observation four; “auto-enrolment needs bureaux rather more than the other way round!’

The irony is that no-one is actually asking payroll what they want. I dare say at the top of every payroll agent’s wish-list would be more money and less work, but putting the obvious aside, just what kind of support do buruax want , what are they getting and what are they short on.

stuck in trenches

Supporting the troops!

Payroll bureaux are the brave lads and lasses in the trenches, it is they who will go over the top when the balloon goes up next January and we need to make sure that when they do , they have everything they need to do the job. My good friend Alain Caplan , SME supremo at L&G has come to the same conclusion as me.

But rather brilliantly, instead of sitting at his desk pondering the inevitability of payroll falling over, he’s got off his backside and produced an excellent questionnaire to find out what people who do the work are actually thinking.

You can find a link to Alain Caplan’s survey here . If you are online you can do it in a couple of minutes, if you aren’t reading a digital copy of this article you can copy the link into your browser at another time. Either way, it will help us all if we got a little more feedback from the trenches, people find my observations from my reconnaissance plan a little high falutin!

Hopefully this survey will mean that you get a little more of what you want from next year.

About henry tapper

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