Raising the standard

For the first time the employee benefits community will have a benchmark for the quality of the technology delivering information and services to scheme members

OVER THE last 20 years, pensions, or rather the lack of them, have moved from being a subject that would never be covered in the mainstream media, to being an almost daily component of news coverage. Virtually every story about stock market events on television contains the inevitable reference to “the impact on our pensions”. Yet despite this high interest level, the most popular employee benefit was recently identified as being subsidised gym membership.

With even prosperous businesses continuing to feel tight pressures on profitability and margins, it has never been more important to be able to clearly articulate the full value of benefits delivered to employees, regardless of their type. Despite this, up to now, there has been no widely recognised benchmark of the quality of the technology being used to deliver employee benefits information to scheme members. From today, this is no longer the case.

The ratings in this supplement have been arrived at by measuring a wide range of features and content within the online services offered by leading employee benefits consultants, employee benefits software suppliers and life offices. The process used has been based upon the eexcellence ratings service which has been measuring insurance companies’ e-commerce propositions since 2005. The full survey results document responses to over 1,800 questions covering 21 different areas of each respondent proposition, representing what we believe to be the
most exhaustive study of employee benefits technology propositions ever carried out in the UK.

Clearly there are many questions that need to be asked of employee benefits providers in the run-up to 2012, auto enrolment and consultancy charging. With tight budgets putting benefits spend under scrutiny, it is crucial for finance and HR directors to be sure that they have selected suppliers that are best placed to articulate the true value of money being spent by the employer. The organisations being recognised in the higher rating categories of the studies can now point to objective impartial research validating their propositions.

It is very clear when talking to adviser firms that employers need to fully understand the impact and consequences of the coming changes. If employers are not well informed, what can be said of their employees?

Given the widespread debate around pensions, Nest is hardly receiving glowing media endorsements currently. In reality Nest is likely to mean no pay rises for millions of employees, and it’s hardly likely that we will see a major campaign telling workers that they should be pleased they’re getting a pension instead of a pay rise. So how will employees feel about employers who simply leave them at the mercy of the default Nest proposition?

It is hard to see how this will not be interpreted as an employer not caring about their workforce.

The alternative is clear. Technology now makes it possible to deliver highly focused content to each employee to enable them not only to understand the full value of their employee benefits, but also to take far more control over their personal finances. Such services can be a
powerful tool for financial education with the best examples explaining complex subjects in ways employees can understand and interact with.

“It is crucial for finance and HR directors to be sure that they have selected suppliers that are best placed to articulate the true value of money being spent by the employer”

The widespread adoption of mobile internet and regular replacement of mobile phones, which has become a part of modern life, means that these services can now reach the most diverse workforces as today almost anyone with a mobile phone has the mechanism to receive such information.

In addition, the best executed platforms can provide employers with a wealth of intelligence on the benefits provided through a range of management information and other reports. Delivering this detailed information, in formats that are easy for the employer to use should be provided as a matter of course in any leading edge system. Such solutions combined with the right DC pensions arrangements must represent a compelling alternative to Nest for any employer who cares about their staff.

There were some organisations who were unable to respond to this survey within the original publishing deadlines. In order to give all interested parties the fullest opportunity to obtain a rating F&TRC will be producing a supplementary update to these ratings in early 2011.

The updated results, will be produced in a white paper outlining the key benefits of leading Employee Benefits Platforms for finance and HR directors, is to be published in the first quarter of 2011. Work on the full 2011 study will commence in May 2011.