There’s been much talk recently about inclusion and diversity within the pensions market – and quite rightly so. With auto-enrolment opening the door for millions to start putting money into a pension pot for the first time, we all have a responsibility to meet the needs of this increasingly diverse mix of pension savers.
Going by the dictionary definition, the word ‘inclusion’ is described as, “…the fact or policy of providing equal opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise not get them…” 1. We’ve seen great strides being taken to build equality within the industry, especially when it comes to increasing diversity within company boards and governance committees.
However, it’s the part about access to ‘resources for people who might not otherwise get them’ that really resonates with me. For me, inclusion goes even further as it also applies to the actual pension schemes available to savers.
How can pension schemes become more inclusive and what are the challenges?
Auto-enrolment has been successful in bringing more people into workplace saving. This includes those previously under-served by the wider financial services market, who now have more opportunities to save for their future.
This has been a positive step forward, but the challenge now is for providers to be inclusive and accessible for all types of savers. To do that, we need to walk in our customers’ shoes and gain a greater understanding of what’s important to them and the support they need from us.
In our ‘New Choices, Big Decisions – 5 years on’ research, we found savers want simple, straightforward advice and options instead of the complex decisions they currently face when considering their pension.
We shouldn’t expect savers to be financial experts, and we must be careful not to bombard them with information or complicated options. We’ve seen the negative connotations of this approach from Sweden’s PPM top-up scheme in 2000, which encouraged savers to choose from a range of 456 funds. Over 66% of savers chose to self-select but were materially worse off than those in the default fund.
Offering greater choice remains a vital consideration for pension providers. We must balance this by providing targeted funds that match savers’ beliefs and views – such as Shariah and Ethical funds – and their specific needs, rather than offering 100s of options that may exclude them from reaching the best financial outcomes.
Building the inclusive pension scheme of the future
For schemes to become more inclusive going forward, the industry must also consider how workplace pensions form part of the wider landscape of retirement planning.
Initiatives such as the government’s pensions dashboard project – which we’re strongly backing – look set to make pensions more accessible. However, with other factors such as the State Pension, ISAs and inheritance impacting when members access their pension pot, the challenge for the industry is to help savers to see the bigger picture.
I believe engagement will play a major role in how we cut through this noise – but we must focus on making it easier to reach savers in a way that suits their day-to-day needs. Some may prefer to be contacted by phone or receive written documents available in different languages and formats. For others, a digital online option will be their ideal way of accessing information about their pension. This is one of the reasons why we’re investing in our own digital proposition, to make this as user-friendly as possible for our customers.
More flexible retirement options will also help schemes become more inclusive. Not everyone will want an annuity, for example, while some may want to continue working when they reach retirement age. Again, it’s up to us provide the right options that can adapt to the individual circumstances of savers.
This last point has been a key focus for us throughout our 80-year history. We’ve constantly adapted to provide products that help people build financial foundations for life – from a holiday stamp system to affordable life insurance. We now run one of the largest workplace pensions in the UK, serving over 6 million members and more than 100 thousand employers. We’ll continue to do so to ensure all our customers have the best chance to save towards a better retirement.