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In September, The Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada launched a revamped Plan for lifeTM program, a communication  offering that makes it easy for group retirement plan members to make the decisions needed to  prepare adequately for retirement.  We spoke to Matthew Rotenberg, senior consultant, marketing and communications at Standard Life about the program.

What is Plan for life?

Plan for life is the entire suite of materials and tools we provide group retirement plan members.  We want members to understand the value of their workplace retirement program and how it integrates with their individual savings.  It’s really about a whole plan for the rest of their life.

How is this new program different than the previous one?

We simplified the material. Starting with enrolment we have made the process less reliant on investment knowledge.  Where possible, we embed guidance right in the process. For instance the new investor profile questionnaire uses simplified languages and uses images to illustrate concepts because we realize that people respond differently to information. At enrolment, members receive two short guides, one specific to enrolment and one focused on the basics of  planning (contributions, getting time on their side, diversifying investments and making regular reality checks).  We also built a website at www.planforlife.ca, which makes comprehensive financial planning information available, not just to our members, but to all Canadians.

What are you trying to accomplish with this program?

When a plan sponsor comes to a service provider such as Standard Life, they want to know that their employees will be taken care of and will have the tools and information they need to make the right choices. Regardless of the size of the program, Plan for life is designed to provide members with the confidence they need to make these important decisions. For instance members learn about  the advantages of a group plan, payroll deductions, investment selection and more. We help them understand that information and then they have the decision-making tools to make appropriate investment and contribution choices. Plan sponsors like it because members end up making appropriate choices and appreciate the value of their program.

What investment choices are available to members?

The plan sponsor is responsible for choosing the investment roster in their program, this is usually done with the assistance of their advisor. One of the most popular options is our Avenue Portfolios, which is a 15-box matrix, based on five time horizons and three investor profiles. The individual portfolios are comprised of the funds that have been pre-selected for the plan, so communication is simplified. Once members determine their investor profile, which they get from completing the questionnaire, and they know their retirement age, it’s just a matter of ticking the right box.  From a member perspective they like the Avenue Portfolios because the whole process is transparent, they see what the underlying funds are and can easily associate a cost with the investments.   Plan members who prefer to choose their own funds, can build their own diversified portfolios from a selection of “à la carte” funds.

How are you using technology to get your message across?

Technology is a great driver in motivating members, but it must not be seen as the only solution. We believe in a high tech/high touch approach that marries technology to personal contact. A good example is our iPad enrolment seminars where plan members are guided through the enrolment process with one of our Member Education representatives. The technology allows for instantaneous enrolment and the presence of a licensed representative means that members are guided through the whole process. There are lots of people though who prefer to self serve, as long as they know there is support when needed, for this group we have developed www.planforlife.ca and our VIP Room. Planforlife.ca provides members the opportunity to learn more about financial planning and facing the future with confidence. It’s a valuable tool that helps people understand the impacts of their decisions and to plan for various life events. The cornerstone of our technological offering is the VIP Room which allows members to view and manage their group retirement program and use a suite of innovative retirement and income projection calculators.

How can someone view their entire financial makeup, including outside saving and workplace investments?

From the planning tools. We have a retirement calculator in our VIP room where people can add outside RRSPs, other registered and non-registered assets and even projected income from a defined benefit plan from a previous employer. All of that is added to the calculator and it gives members a more thorough financial outlook.

The main takeaway is that retirement programs, especially for small business, don’t need to be complicated and member education doesn’t need to be something you have to be afraid of. You can make the member decision making process very simple and can put members on the right path to making the right decision.