A dashed good proposition

Award-winning Thomsons Online Benefits has created a world-beating proposition says Ian McKenna, director of F&TRC

Britain has a long track history of creating world-beating technologies. How many nations can genuinely claim that their citizens invented things that have changed the world as much as the telephone, the first functioning computer and the world-wide web? Sadly, we have not always been as agile in exploiting the commercial benefits thereof.

Although not quite on par with the above, a number of UK adviser firms are now creating world-leading benefits platform technology and are having considerable success in winning customers all over the globe. Any list of the key players leading this charge has to include Thomsons Online Benefits, which won both the ’Best Use of Technology’ and ’Best Corporate Adviser’ categories at last month’s Corporate Adviser awards.

While already delivering a world class benefits solution the company is continuing to innovate and I recently had the opportunity to look at some of the new content they are developing for their service which will be rolled out in the coming months. This will include a new Reward Centre where employees would go to learn about the total benefit package being made available to them by their employer.

While an evolution of the company’s award-winning Darwin technology, it is being designed to work on the platforms of the future. It already works very impressively on an iPad and the company is already exploring how to support the emerging platforms with new development being all written in HTML 5.

The design is delightfully clear and uncluttered and should enable scheme members to easily navigate to areas of interest. Although the current service is already very attractive, product director Brenden Mielke is positively evangelical about making software so intuitive that there is no need for manuals. He is equally clear that the user experience should be dynamic and much of the work Thomsons are currently undertaking is focusing on making that first class.

From the new My Dashboard homepage the user is presented with four clear areas to explore: Total Reward Statements, My Holiday, the Knowledge Base and My Pension. This also includes an area where the system can flag up any actions that the member needs to address within a specific time frame. From within these areas employees can make benefits selections if their employer is providing a flex offering or model pension benefits to understand how to achieve the best return on the options available to them. The focus is on helping inform people to make the best decisions possible. Different benefits can be highlighted on this Dashboard page, for example voucher discount offers, if provided by the employer, can be highlighted in a prominent position.

“A number of UK adviser firms are now creating world-leading benefits platform technology and are having considerable success in winningcustomers all over the globe”

Mielke is quick to stress that Thomsons’ experience reinforces that different people want to consume information in different ways so it is important to feed it to them using a range of different approaches. This may involve using videos or webinar or for some users detailed text. The company has found that employees really like having a detailed knowledge of video and graphics so this is a core component of the expanded service.

A new company pension modeller highlights the extent to which the employer will pay more in if the employee increases their contribution. This is communicated using colour, with a red banner around key text turning green as the user adjusts on screen sliders to identify the optimum combination. This in turn dynamically adjusts the supporting graphics of the potential benefits as the various siders are adjusted.

A risk profiler asks questions of the employee and then helps them identify funds that match their attitude to risk. The underlying funds available are defined at an individual scheme level so the sponsor can select the investment range they are comfortable to offer.

Each of the benefits offered can be given equal prominence with information being delivered in a clear and transparent manner. This is a refreshing change from some instances I have seen of such systems, especially from some life companies, where the company pension is sometimes given a pre-eminent position, creating the impression that the service is more designed as a system to sell more pensions rather than as a tool to help the employee understand their finances.

Overall this offers a very individual rewards experience to each employee that they can tailor to suit the ways they personally want to consume information.