The sky’s the limit for Bigblue

Lorica has set a new benchmark in workplace benefits portals says F&TRC director Ian McKenna

One of the great things about specialising in industry technology is that from time to time you get to see some things that are really special.

Most of the technology offered to clients by UK corporate advisers is years behind leading edge solutions in other parts of the world. This makes it really exciting to come across a solution, live in the UK today that is genuinely capable of delivering such a transformation.

The proposition I am talking about is called Bigblue and comes from Lorica Employee Benefits. The company has recognised that the workplace in general and particularly auto enrolment offers a huge opportunity to deliver low cost financial advice and guidance to consumers.  Commercial director Tobin Murphy-Coles points out “People are unlikely to take rational decisions about their pension without being able to look at their whole financial world”. To address this Lorica offer an option called My Future Me.

Building on technology from Sammedia and aggregation specialist Yodlee, they have created a system that helps employees to budget more effectively and actually helps them achieve their financial goals. The software addresses not just their long-term financial objectives but helps users in managing their day to day income and expenditure and by using behavioural finance techniques helps them take better financial decisions.

Similar systems in the US have resulted in situations where employees are actually able to stretch the value of their salary and significantly increase the extent of the personal savings. Few employers realise that financial stress has a hugely corrosive effect on productivity. One survey last year identified that 75 per cent of UK employees have found themselves distracted by financial matters at work at some time. I have been waiting for some time to see such services appear in the UK and believe they represent the most important development for decades in the evolution of employee benefits.

In addition to the My Future Me option, Bigblue also includes all the usual functionality you would expect to see in a world class employee benefits proposition. The service is platform agnostic and the employer can choose to plug in services from other organisations such as Equiniti for shares and Northgate for HR based on their own preference. Detailed integrations have been built with a range of payroll suppliers including Capita, Northgate, Oracle, PeopleSoft and Workday. These have been built using detailed XML based interfaces, not just such data mapping exercises using CSV files as is the case with many such solutions.

Bigblue is far more advanced than any other employee benefits proposition I have come across in the UK. No other corporate system I have seen offers the same capability to enable employees to take more control of their personal finances and actually stretch the value of their pay cheque. One of the things that really impresses me is the way in which Lorica have taken the standard functionality provided by Sammedia and Yodlee and added their own unique additional content. As a result they have delivered the only system I have seen to date in the UK capable of competing with the leading edge propositions now being offered to employees in America.

Understandably Bigblue has already been very popular with Lorica clients with organisations as diverse as EasyJet, delivery service Geopost, Bank of China and technology supplier SAS embracing the service.

For smaller firms, 5 to 250 employees, Lorica have a cut-down offering, Littleblue which includes their auto-enrolment hub and pension portal, including streamlined onboarding, using the benefits platform technology, from Bigblue. This provides compliant auto-enrolment employee communications, launch communications and education tools with opt in/out functionality.

Users of Littleblue have the option of a qualifying pension scheme from Scottish Widows or Now: Pensions. This service starts at £6,000 per employer per year. It does not offer the My Future Me capability but if Scottish Widows is taken as a pension provider their My Money Works proposition is offered as an alternative. It is some time since I saw My Money Works but I would struggle to see this as anything like a suitable alternative to My Future Me and I would really like to see Lorica add My Future Me to Littleblue.

The delivery of My Future Me represents a step change in the quality of financial support guidance and education that can be provided to British workers. Lorica have set a new and considerably higher benchmark to judge workplace benefits propositions by. I will be fascinated to see how other players in this area respond.