Why the E in pensions matters

Ann Flynn
Ann Flynn Head of Corporate Marketing Standard Life

Technology lies at the heart of any successful modern corporate pension proposition. This extends from the day to day running of thousands of pension schemes to implementing changes and applying new regulations to schemes and in some cases over 1million individual members.

The current challenges that we face in the UK underlines this. Changing regulations such as pension reform, the RDR, that comes into play at the end of 2012, and the harsh economic climate in the UK and Europe are all serious issues for both pension schemes and providers. What’s more, the roll out of auto-enrolment in the coming months and years will bring a new generation of savers to the pensions industry. The majority of these new pension savers will be in younger age groups – the Facebook generation where technology is a central part of their lives, where attention spans are short, and where IT has to work immediately, work well and deliver what they need immediately. This technologically impatient group needs instant access to the information they need communicated to them in a user-friendly and engaging way.

Because of these factors, the most successful corporate pension propositions will be those that are underpinned by effective technology. At Standard Life, we have both the financial strength and management commitment that allows us to invest in our IT platforms. Our significant investment in our platforms and technology in recent years means we are prepared to deliver the services that employers, their advisers, trustees and employees will need in the fast-changing pensions landscape.

34 five star ratings for online expertise

Proof of our dedication to this area has come recently from a highly regarded industry survey – the 2012 Group Pensions e-Excellence survey from F&TRC (Finance & Technology Research Centre). In the survey, which is published in the March issue of Corporate Adviser, we are delighted that our efforts have been recognised and we have been awarded a total of 34 five-star ratings across the three areas of our corporate pensions proposition. We received 10 five-star ratings for Group Pensions, 11 for our Group CIMP (Trust Based Pension) product and 13 for our Group SIPP.

These ratings reflect the breadth and quality of the e-commerce services that we make available to the financial adviser community. The F&TRC e- Excellence research is recognised as the leading ecommerce benchmarking in the financial services business to business market. The research is intended to help advisers compare the ecommerce propositions available from the key corporate pensions providers, and identify their strengths and weaknesses.

F&TRC’s research covers a range of areas including: availability of various online services for employers and employees; integration with client and third-party systems; tools and calculators; data standards; administrative functionality; enrolment; and communication effectiveness. Our large number of five-star ratings across a range of areas is evidence, we believe, of our success and commitment to this area.

How Standard Life stacks up

Our digital proposition has been key to the success of our corporate pension business for many years and continues to grow. We have recently launched a new website, (workbenefitszone), to support intermediaries, employers and trustees in terms of our proposition but also the changes happening in our market. This website will be enhanced over the next few months to include eligibility tools for autoenrolment and staging dates. This is in addition to our other tailored transactional portals designed specifically for the needs of financial advisers (adviserzone.com), administrators of group pension schemes (grouppensionzone) and also employees (employeezone).

For intermediaries, our adviserzone site contains a wide range of tools and calculators to support their activities. We operate calculators for income drawdown, pension allowance, salary sacrifice, salary vs dividend and university fees. We also provide advisers with a range of financial planning tools.

Importantly, our online services are supported by a telephone support network. Again, this is tailored to different audiences, so our staff members are trained appropriately and aligned with people at different levels of the organisation and with differing requirements: employees, trustees, advisers and employers.

Overall, we have looked at providing a holistic proposition for intermediaries and their clients that encompasses key elements of their experience in dealing with us – not just designing good products, but also getting the customer service right, providing clear and engaging communications and ensuring a wide range of investment options to suit most investors’ requirements. Now, more than ever, getting the online segment of our proposition is arguably the most important of all. We reckon there are 34 reasons to believe we’re on the right track.