Sara Benwell identifies three themes from the Pensions Communications Forum that will get savers engaged with their pensions


This week, Pensions Insight held its annual Pensions Communications Forum in Birmingham.

Attended by scheme managers and staff, HR and Reward directors, trustees, and advisors, the event showcased case studies from organisations that have transformed their pensions comms, debates on technology and gender and insights into everything from behavioural psychology to virtual reality.

The day was packed with fascinating insights and practical steps that we can all take to foster better engagement. Here’s my top three themes from the day.

1) Be personal

Personalisation was one of the dominant themes of the day. This is something that schemes and businesses of any size can adopt, to help better engage savers.

One example given was the personalisation of scheme statements. We saw examples of work that AHC has undertaken with a client, where each employee gets a personalised video showing not just how much they have saved in a year, but also how much free money they’ve got in tax relief and from their employer. Simple messages like this not only highlight the benefits of staying enroled, but also of maximising matching contributions.

Another approach can be to reframe website information including case studies from ‘people like me’. This simple approach helps humanise pensions information, making it relateable.

This can help with pensions gender gaps too. Both SSGA’s Sophie Ballard and The People’s Pension’s trustee director Sue Lewis highlighted that women respond better to messages that are delivered with a narrative, rather than plain information.

Segmentation can help here too. Whether that’s providing bespoke pensions advice and information to those going on or returning from maternity leave (something none of the audience had tried yet) or breaking down employees according to personas - showcased with excellent results from the Environment Agency Pension Fund - segmentation can help audiences feel like your information is relevant for them and even get people to change behaviours or make better decisions.

2) Get the most out of providers and employers

For a lot of our audience, concerns were raised about either not having the budget to carry out huge comms initiatives or not having the expertise to employ new technologies or approaches.

One thing the speakeers touched on time and time again was the importance of getting the most out of providers and employers.

For instance, when it comes to technology, both Pension Bee’s Romi Savova and Jason Green of the Finance & Technology Research Centre stressed that trustees and schemes must remember that they are the clients. Already, providers are building whizzy, innovative solutions for large clients, but once that technology exists it can be redeployed to smaller schemes at low costs.

They suggested that questions about technology and communications must play a larger part in reviews and tender processes, sitting alongside issues such as investment approach and charges.

Employers can be very useful when it comes too communications and engagement, too. For instance, if you want to try to segment audiences, don’t forget all the data that an employer has at its fingertips, whether that’s salary level, maternity leave, age, address or length of service. Use this to make sure that communications are right for each member.

Employers are also crucial for diversifying the way in which members are communicated with. Whether it’s information on intranets, posters in kitchens, talks from senior managers or even creating pensions ambassadors, they are a trusted source of information for many employees and can help promote core pensions messages.

3) The importance of holistic financial wellness

A final key theme was that pensions communications can no longer stand alone. As contribution rates increase, we need to think carefully about affordability and a saver’s holistic financial position. 

With more and more Brits falling into debt, we need to find ways to make sure that pensions saving doesn’t fall by the wayside. 

For employers that have the will, generous matching can help. We heard from Nationwide, which not only offers an extremely generous matching contribution (it will pay up to 16%) but also defaulted employees’ contributions to 7% allowing them to reduce this to 4% if they wanted. The result has been that most employees total contributions sit at a whopping 23%.

However, not all employers will be willing to be this generous, but there are other things we can do. Financial education can not only help people understand the value of a pension, but if done holistically it can also help employees deal with debts and reduce financial stress.

Here HR and Reward managers can play a vital role. The FTRC’s Green asked the question: why can’t we show employees all the money we’re saving them through other rewards, such as gym subscriptions or childcare vouchers, and see if they want to transfer some of those savings into a pension?

It’s an excellent point, and shows how helping employees manage their financial situations more generally can have an immediate knock on effect on pensions saving.