Niagara Casinos’ efforts pay off with pension communications award

Niagara Casinos launched an intensive communications campaign in 2015 to ensure employees were taking advantage of its defined contribution pension plan. The company’s efforts to promote both investment and financial literacy through the campaign led to its win at Benefits Canada’s 2016 Workplace Benefits Awards for pension plan communications.

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“It’s great to be recognized for the hard work that we do,” said Jenn Stassen, benefits coordinator at Niagara Casinos, upon receiving the award in Toronto last week. “It’s hard to go through this huge process and for it to be recognized … it’s a nice pat on the back for all of the hard work we’ve done.”

The company’s project was two-fold: first, it notified individual plan members who had misaligned investments to encourage them to change their investment strategies and second, it provided financial information and resources to all employees through a week-long event called Money Week.

Read: Who are the winners of the 2016 Workplace Benefits Awards?

The organization also noticed younger employees weren’t investing enough in equities even though they could afford to do so, while older employees had too much invested in equities despite the need for income stability as they approached retirement, says Stassen. As a result, Niagara Casinos proactively reached out to these employees through direct mail, outbound calls from the company’s plan provider, Sun Life Financial, and a special message on the member website.

“We communicated to them so that they knew they weren’t in the right funds for their age group and to make sure they were in the right funds,” says Stassen.

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Beyond the targeted communications to misaligned investors, Niagara Casinos promoted financial literacy to all employees through Money Week, an event held to coincide with employees’ round-the-clock work shifts. The casino’s plan provider and employee assistance plan provider, along with financial advisors and debt advisors, attended the event and provided information to employees.

“We communicate a lot on our pension plan and whether or not [employees are] contributing to the plan or are they maxing out their pension plan and really taking advantage of the matching program,” says Stassen. “If they can’t take advantage of the matching program because they don’t have the money to save, we wanted to take it a step back and start with the debt portion and financial counselling so they could really grow and save that money for retirement.”

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According to Stassen, the overall initiative was a success: about 80 employees who received targeted communications have re-aligned their investment selections and Money Week received great attendance with about 1,000 employees visiting vendor booths and more than 100 scheduling a meeting with a financial advisor to review their pension and financial statements.

“I think [the initiative] was successful because of the amount of time and effort and communication of the design that went into it,” says Stassen. “I think that’s really important to engage our members … we need to offer them things they are looking for.”

Stassen notes her team followed up on the questions raised during Money Week by providing the answers to employees through future communications. “Throughout the year, I would get phone calls saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that’ so it was the starting point to help them figure out how to get their funds in line.”

Read more about the winners of the 2016 Workplace Benefits Awards.

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