Partner Anna Copestake spoke at PMI roundtable on schemes’ engagement strategies
The decisions members make, or don’t make, can have a huge impact on their retirement outcomes, both good or bad. There can be a fine line between being empowered and having too much responsibility, and that’s assuming you can grab their attention in the first place. The Pensions Management Institute’s panel discussion – held in conjunction with Arc Pensions Law – took a look at the issue of member engagement, asking what success looks like and what, if anything, schemes need to be doing differently.
Anna Copestake said it is important to focus on what it is schemes want to get out of that engagement and what the output of such engagements look like – whether that be members increasing contributions, them being more engaged with investment strategy or something else.
She commented: “Sometimes I think we can focus on engaging members without stepping back and thinking what do we want out of it”.
Copestake added employers could play a role in using “teachable or pivotal moments” as they often have the key data needed to make engagement at such pivotal moments a success – and are also more trusted by employees too. But, despite this, there are few requirements on employers to assist.
“There are actually very few obligations on employers to help us in this area. It’s quite minimal in terms of how they have to communicate with employees on this and I have a bit of a bugbear about that”.
On the issue of how much employers and trustees can actually tell members, she further commented: “Advice is a personal recommendation, guidance is general principles but there is this massive gap in the middle and that’s where all the useful stuff for members sits. I think we’re letting members down because, at the point they need us the most, we feel our hands are tied”.
Commenting on engagement success, Copestake added the increased use of ESG in defined contribution investment strategies would also boost engagement with pensions.
“ESG is an incredibly powerful tool. There’s a lot of evidence there of it evokes quite emotional reactions, which is what we want. But it is also relatively tangible for members.”
Summing up, Copestake’s key takeaway was on the “overriding issue of trust”, which she said was something both trustees and employers could work on, adding that the industry can do more to support members. “Trustees should be and can be bolder,” she said.
Participating in this event were also Michelle Darracott, chief strategy officer at Smart Pension and Ellie McKinnon, chief executive of the Cheviot Trust.
PMI and Arc Pensions Law’s co-hosted event was chaired by Jonathan Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief at Professional Pensions.
The event, held in March, was covered in the May issue of Pensions Aspects magazine.
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