While a strong default option is crucial, plan sponsors shouldn’t forget about the importance of effective member engagement when it comes to their pension plans.

That was one of the key messages from John Chilman, group reward and pensions director at FirstGroup in Britain, during his presentation at Benefits Canada‘s 2016 DC Plan Summit.

He spoke about First-Group’s bus division and its experience since the introduction of automatic enrolment in 2012.

FirstGroup launched its defined contribution pension plan on April 1, 2013. Since it was so new, the workforce didn’t necessarily understand it very well, said Chilman. But with a strong default fund, Chilman said there was a lot of interest in it. “Member engagement, for me in particular, was one of the most important parts of this whole story.” With that in mind, he looked at the reading level of the company’s workforce and set out to design a communications strategy that would be effective.

FirstGroup also looked at the media it used to communicate with plan members. “In FirstGroup, our guys are repairing buses, they’re driving buses or trains. They’re not sitting at a desk,” he said. For that reason, the company moved from a paper-based approach to an online portal that allows people to see information in real time.

Besides the automatic-enrolment changes, the British government also introduced legislation in 2014 that gave plan members more flexibility over how they take their pensions. “What the U.K. has seen in the last year is only one-third of people have now annuitized, compared with 95 per cent a year before,” said Chilman.

The change caused FirstGroup to consider the issue of member engagement around decumulation. It also highlighted the importance of engaging with plan members throughout their careers, said Chilman. “Otherwise, people are going to end up with the wrong-shaped pot at retirement.”

Read more from Benefits Canada’s 2016 DC Summit

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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