Making pensions simple and fun can help employees get on board.
Following all the brouhaha surrounding the message about spending £350 million a week on the NHS after Brexit, one could be forgiven for thinking that buses may have fallen out of favour as campaigning vehicles.
But only last month Scottish Widows once again demonstrated how a double decker can have a vital role to play in boosting pension engagement. Hosting experts from Pension Geeks, Pension Wise and the Money Advice Service, in addition to leading intermediary advisers and its own in-house gurus, its bus toured major UK cities and employers as part of the Pension Awareness Day campaign.
This and previous tours conducted by the insurer on its Pension Awareness bus have proved that a little imagination can go a long way in creating interest in a subject that has traditionally been perceived as boring and complex as well as too far removed from the present to justify much attention from those currently struggling to make ends meet.
The approach involves inviting the general public to come on board and ask pension experts any questions they want. Employees are also offered the opportunity to sign up for 15-minute pension education sessions on the upper deck. Numerous success stories about breaking down barriers and engendering enthusiasm for retirement planning have resulted.
Scottish Widows reports the most successful engagement tool on its bus to have been an Age Me App. This encourages people to input their current pension fund value and contribution levels and after taking a photo of them ages them to a point at which they would be on track to receive an annual retirement income of £24,000.
Not only was this visually very powerful, but it also had a noticeable knock-on effect in terms of getting individuals to find out how much was already in their pension pot and what contributions they were making. It is surprising how many employees tend to have little or no idea about either.
Additionally, the Pension Awareness bus threw up triumphs in immediately registering people for Scottish Widow’s online digital services, enabling them to interact with their pension on the phone within minutes, and in myth busting.
Key amongst the misconceptions that needed dispelling was the idea that you lost your pension if you died or moved jobs after a relatively brief period of time. Also figuring prominently was confusion about what happened in the event of providers or employers going bust, with ignorance of the safeguards in place clearly apparent.
We are not necessarily suggesting that all employers should rush out and hire a bus if they want to start getting their pension messages across more effectively. Apart from anything else, doing so and filling it with the right personnel and tools could well prove prohibitively time consuming and expensive.
But Scottish Widows has definitely demonstrated how thinking a little outside the box and providing informal, short and punchy jargon-free face-to-face sessions can pay dividends in helping to solve the pension engagement conundrum.
Focusing on straightforward and very tangible sorts of questions is clearly more effective than attempting to provide long-winded explanations of how pensions work. The latter approach has been tried for decades and has failed lamentably.
These are messages that employers should certainly aim to take on board when formulating their own engagement strategies to suit their particular requirements and budgets. They should be asking themselves how they can keep things simple and make them fun.
At Chase de Vere we’ve found that we’ve enjoyed particular success from inviting people at benefit fairs to attend unstructured programmes involving chatting through pensions with us.
As with Scottish Widows, we’ve also achieved some great results via myth busting and by sitting down with individuals and setting up their mobiles so they can get online and access all their available pension tools. It’s surprising how defeatist people can get at the thought of having to grapple with new technology, but a little spoon feeding can go a long way.