James Walsh, Head of Membership Engagement, allows himself a moment of satisfaction before knuckling down once more to the job in hand.
OK I admit it - there was a minor outbreak of back-slapping in the PLSA’s Membership Engagement team recently, not least by me. The cause for celebration was renewals; at the time of writing, 96% of our members have signed up for another year, putting us clear of the 95% budget target set by the PLSA’s management.
For any membership body, that’s a great level of retention, so it’s a pleasure to thank you – our members - for your support and – yes - to congratulate my colleagues on what’s been a real team effort.
But before we get too carried away with the self-congratulation, there are plenty of points for us to ponder, not least that our members are ever more determined to get really good value for their money. For many it’s about networking – opportunities to exchange thoughts with their counterparts in similar positions at other schemes and funds. It's great news that we are getting back to running our major conferences in person and I know many of our members are really looking forward to that.
At the same time, we have to remember that online has been a big plus for many of our members too. I was very pleased to see the great feedback we got for our recent webinar on pensions dashboards; of 150 people dialling in, 30 marked it ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, with no one plumping for ‘average’ or ‘poor’ - proof positive that when we get the topic and speakers right, the demand is still very much there. The mantra that people are ‘zoomed out’ or ‘bored of online’ is not true at all. We just need to get the face-to-face versus online balance right.
Whatever the medium, we know our members want us to do more to bring them together. One thing we are trialling this year is more opportunities for members with similar roles or from the same sector to swap thoughts with each other. We’ve had a ‘CEO Network’ for the heads of some of our larger members for some while, and this has thrived over the last couple of years through the very simple concept of quarterly meetings, a couple of topics for discussion and then letting our members share thoughts and – crucially – hear their counterparts’ perspectives. We’ve just launched similar arrangements for CIOs and Trustee Chairs and these new Networks are off to a good start.
We’re also holding a briefing-and-networking session – at our offices this time - for our members from the charity sector. We’re running it jointly with our friends at the Charities Pensions Club. So, if you are based at a charity and want to meet your peers on 28 June, then just let me know. It’s all about delivering more value to more of our members.
For other members policy influence is the key thing and I am very pleased that we have welcomed a raft of new members onto our Policy Board and Policy Committees. My Policy colleagues are working flat out on our key priorities for the year (which are adequacy, DB funding, Pensions Dashboards, small pots, responsible investment and DC decumulation, just in case you were wondering.) but there's plenty more to do as well. It's in the nature of policy work that things just ‘come up’, either because the Government suddenly decides to announce something or circumstances simply develop. We need to be fleet of foot and great member input helps us to respond.
Another big reason why members renew is our updates and information. Time and again, when I ask our members what we do well, the same answer comes back: ‘your Made Simple Guides’. We’ve got a number of ‘MSGs’ in the pipeline. Do please let me know what you make of them.
In thanking our members for renewing in such great numbers, we’re acutely conscious that we need to keep providing the right services for you. Have we got the mix right? Are we delivering them in the way that works for you? As ever, please tell me – and thank you again for supporting the PLSA.
If you’d like to share your ideas on PLSA membership with us, please contact James directly on [email protected]