Five trends that will transform the way pension schemes communicate

Pensions Aspects is the Pensions Management Institute monthly magazine that provides technical advice from professionals working in pensions, as well as expert insight from a wide variety of specialists in the industry to over 6,500 members in 32 countries. This month, it was our Creative Director, Ryan Sales, that provided some keen advice to pensions schemes and the top five trends to transform their member communications. This is a copy of the article that featured in September’s issue:

Pensions communications have never been as important as they are now. The decline of final salary schemes and low auto-enrolment contribution rates has created a huge cohort of people who may not have enough money to retire. The pressure is now on to get people saving, against a backdrop of stagnant wages and increases in the cost of living. And that’s without even mentioning the thorny issue of how to help people navigate the baffling at-retirement landscape.

To put it bluntly, the pensions industry has an enormous challenge ahead. Fortunately, there is some good news. Whilst the challenge may be immense, the evolution of communications through new technologies, behavioural economics and financial wellness means it can be overcome. Here are five trends that will transform the way you communicate with members.

1 – Segmentation and personalisation

Segmentation has been around for a while now, but the pensions industry lags when it comes to using it to better engage members.

In a nutshell, segmentation is when you divide your audience up to deliver key messages that resonate with a specific set of people.

At its most basic, this could mean dividing members up by age, or how far they are from retirement. That way, you can deliver different messages to someone just starting their career than you would to someone nearing retirement.

However, other data can allow you to target people more specifically. For instance, you could use contributions data to target those people still saving the minimum, or get HR to deliver specific pensions messages for women about to go on maternity leave.

2 – Multi-channel approachesruleof7

Far too often we hear about pensions communications being delivered primarily through snail mail. Letters have their place and shouldn’t be abandoned entirely, but for a lot of people they just end up in the dustbin.

Back in the day, movie moguls used to have a ‘law of seven’, which posited a potential punter would have to see a poster seven times before they’d go to the cinema.

A similar approach works well for pensions communications.

3 – Gamification and animation


Sometime pensions professionals can be wary
of things like animation and gamification, viewing them
as far too frivolous for the serious business that is pensions. But to most of your audience, the way we discuss pensions is utterly baffling. The jargon is impenetrable and the issues are complex. So many people think visually, and animations can make complex concepts simple and easy to understand. Gamification is another great way for pension schemes to help members overcome the savings paralysis.

You could consider adding game-like elements to otherwise tedious tasks to encourage participation, or allowing savers to learn about saving through fun game-like processes. Understanding how employees engage with online tools and getting feedback from members about what they like and don’t like will become an integral part of the process of making sure people have a positive savings journey.

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4 – Behavioural psychology

One of the problems with getting people to save for retirement is that there are several behavioural biases getting in the way.

For instance, behavioural psychology shows that it is very hard for people to save for the longterm, because they find it very difficult choosing gratification in the future over gratification now.

Similarly, we really struggle
to compare two things that
are not alike. So it’s very easy for me to choose between buying a coffee and buying a magazine, but really hard for me to equate giving up a coffee every week, with putting those savings towards a comfortable retirement. The lessons
learned in this emerging field can help us find new ways to communicate with people. For instance, illustrating retirement with pictures of grey-haired smiling people simply won’t resonate with Generation Y or Z.

Tricks such as nudging (as demonstrated by auto- enrolment), offer an obvious solution to driving up contributions, whilst better marketing techniques, such as showing how an employee is doing compared to their peers, can all make pensions savings more real and more relevant.

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5 – Financial wellbeing

Once a relatively uncommon term, financial wellbeing 
has grown in importance as companies look to help their employees better manage their money. And it’s a concept the pensions industry would do well to take on board. After all, it’s all well and good telling someone they should save more, but if they’re struggling to pay the rent you’re just going to seem out of touch and unrealistic.

HR can play a role here. For instance, imagine if you could add up how much someone has saved through other voluntary benefits and offer to put that into their pension?

The retail world has made great strides in this area. There are easy to use apps that allow
you to round up your day-to- day spending (on coffees for instance), and put the change into a stocks and shares ISA. Initiatives like this which make it easy to save without even noticing, overcome lots of the behavioural barriers faced by pensions. At Landscape, we put much of this into action when we helped the Bank of England with their pension communication strategy.