Appearances count

The first Corporate Adviser annual awards have highlighted the need for clear, concise and well-presented communications across the industry

Taking stock now that Corporate Adviser’s first awards ceremony is behind us, certain things have become clearer in my perception of the workplace advice space.

If you weren’t able to attend the event yourself, you can see who won the 11 awards presented at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London last month in a supplement contained within this issue.

In a nutshell, the awards process tells us that a sizeable proportion of pensions advisers like the stability of dealing with global players and prefer the low cost option of trackers for default funds over more expensive actively managed alternatives. It also tells us that group risk and healthcare advisers like dealing with trusted names in the sector that have shown their commitment to remaining in the market for the long haul.

Overseeing the adviser categories, it has also become clear to me that, however much you know about the technical side of financial products, you are as susceptible to the more subtle approaches to persuasion as the man in the street. The 12 judges, details of whom are set out in the supplement, are in many ways like a cross-section of any workforce, despite their expertise and years of experience in the financial services sector. Judging the Firm of the Year category, they would all probably admit they were swayed by the physical presentation of the submissions that firms put forward. Yes the winner, Morgans Corporate Benefits, may have gone to the trouble and expense of engaging a design agency for its submission, but in the same way that it would not use an A4 Word document to communicate benefits to employees, it did manage to engage our panel of judges in their submission so much that they all took it home. Appearances do count for a lot, and perhaps there is a lesson there for all advisers seeking to increase member communication with benefits.

The standard of entries submitted to the awards was very high, demonstrating an industry whose level of technical expertise should present few concerns to the regulatory authorities currently engaged in the Retail Distribution Review. But I also predict more initiatives to raise professional standards through the course of 2008. A new examination in group risk is just part of that raising of standards that the industry needs to put in place itself to fend off criticisms from regulators.