Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Chase de Vere sends its sincere condolences to the Royal Family following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Her 70-year rule witnessed significant changes in all areas of our commercial world – from a switch from a manufacturing-based to service-based economy to a more flexible, prosperous and gender-diverse workforce.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) 2012 report Britain at Work in the Reign of Elizabeth II, when she came to the throne in 1952 only 4% of the workforce worked part-time, one in 10 households had a telephone and one in 20 had a fridge.
Changes in our own specialist field of employee benefits have been no less dramatic. At the beginning of Elizabeth II’s reign, the only benefit most employees received was a basic wage but, by the time of her death, the employee benefits package had become a key consideration for most people thinking of joining a new employer.
Furthermore, the telephone – that most households originally didn’t have – has evolved into a hand-held device that people commonly now depend on heavily in most areas of their lives – even using it to access details of their employee benefits 24/7.
Changing pension landscape
Ironically, despite this huge transformation, Elizabeth II’s reign began with something of a pension crisis. Sound familiar?
A Labour government, led by Clement Attlee, had introduced a basic State Pension in 1948, which was funded by National Insurance (NI) contributions. But it wasn’t long before people had worked out that the figures didn’t stack up in the light of demographic change and the impact of inflation.
Consequently, the Conservatives focused heavily on promoting occupational pensions during the 1950s, and the trend towards defined benefit (DB) schemes was born.
Ironically, by the late 1960s the costings underpinning DB schemes were themselves being found not to be sustainable, and a switch towards defined contribution (DC) schemes became one of the big pension stories of subsequent decades – along with the introduction of auto-enrolment in 2012 and the pension simplification rules in 2015.
It was not until the 1970s and 1980s that other forms of employee benefits really took off, as employers sought to find ways around high marginal taxes and attempts to stifle the growth of pay. Rising NHS waiting lists also helped create interest in health-related benefits.
Although group income protection – original known as ‘permanent health insurance’ – is understood to have its origins in the 1950s in the UK, it did not gain any real momentum until the 1970s.
Similarly, whilst some private medical insurance (PMI) providers like WPA and BUPA date back to within a couple of years of the launch of the NHS itself in 1948, it was not until the 1980s that the modern PMI marketplace began to take shape with the entrance of a range of new players.
Choice also became widened by the emergence of flexible benefit schemes in the 1980s, although these were largely based on straightforward spreadsheets and in-house IT.
The subsequent technological revolution has massively boosted the appeal of flex, especially to small employers, and accelerated the usage of online portals and of added-value features on group health products.
In the final years of Elizabeth II’s reign the pace of change was particularly rapid, with advances like virtual GP and online physio services enjoying major popularity hikes as a result of widespread homeworking during lockdown.
We will overcome
Despite being one of the oldest and most experienced independent financial advisers in the UK, even Chase de Vere cannot claim to have been operating for 70 years.
But, since being founded in 1969, the one constant in our marketplace has been change, and we are not anticipating any let-up during the next 70 years.
During this time the employee benefits market will continue to face no shortage of new challenges. But, just as it has managed to stand the strain of measure like the introduction of the minimum wage in 1999 and the phasing out of the default retirement age from 2011, we have no doubt that it will overcome them.
Content correct at the time of writing and is intended for general information only and should not be construed as advice.