Eight tips for better communication with LGPS members
20 March 2023
A recent PLSA survey with our LGPS members found that 79% feel there’s scope for more communication with their scheme members. Tiffany Tsang asked three experts for their top tips.
1. Work closely with employers.
Jo Quarterman, Head of Governance, Norfolk Pension Fund, says: “Our employers have a close relationship with their employees and our scheme members. Quite often they are able to help get pensions messages across to them through internal work arrangements.” Charlotte Jackson, Head of Guidance Services and Consumer Protection Strategy, Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), adds that many of the questions MaPS receives relate to wider employment: “Those include the implications of early partial retirement, and consolidating different pension pots, especially when people change jobs. We are also seeing queries around paid leave and ill health, understanding the implications of working irregular hours, and also making additional contributions.”
2. Help people reduce rather than stop contributions where possible.
“Once someone stops contributing, it’s very difficult to get them to commit to when they’ll start again,” says Jackson. “Help people think about reducing rather than cancelling contributions, or if someone can’t afford to contribute at all, perhaps consider pausing rather than stopping completely.” “Although we haven’t seen a significant number of opt-outs or use of the 50/50 fund, that may still be to come,” says Quarterman. “The 50/50 fund means that members pay 50% less into their pension, but importantly they still have access to life cover and ill health cover. It is a good option for members to keep making some provision while dealing with difficult current challenges and decisions.”
3. Support vulnerable members.
“In our membership, 68% are part-time workers and of those 86% are female,” says Quarterman. “That includes many people with below-average income who are particularly vulnerable in this cost-of-living crisis. Our average pension in payment is around £5,000, which again makes many of our retired members financially vulnerable. We are very mindful of that.”
4. Help members keep their pensions safe.
“Fraud is on the rise, in pensions and more widely,” says Jenny Wright, Regional Partnership Manager, MaPS. “Help members educate themselves. Financial services organisations have a duty of care under law to make sure that people are protected as far as possible. But it’s equally as important that individual consumers engage with understanding fraud.”
5. Show the full value of scheme membership.
“If members opt out of the scheme, we need to make sure that their expectations are clear,” says Quarterman. “When they give up a pound of pension contribution, they may not get an extra pound in their pay packet – it may be reduced by tax – and they are giving up more than just their own contribution. There may be three or four pounds from the employer for each pound someone contributes, which are then index-linked. The tax-free lump sum could be very valuable, as are the other safeguards, such as a pension for their dependents if they die, and access to ill health early retirement.”
6. Educate members.
“Employers are realising that their staff are dependent on them for financial education – 70% of employees feel that it is the responsibility of their employer to give them financial information as well as the right tools and resources to make decisions,” says Wright. Quarterman adds: “The LGPS website has some great resources and we are also signposting services such as MaPS Moneyhelper. It’s about helping people build an understanding of what they need in retirement, and helping retired members with topics like pensions credit.”
7. Be flexible.
“Be clear on key messages, but also keep listening. If we’re not getting communications right, we have to think and do differently. And we need to keep repeating messages so that people have information when they need it. That includes using different communication channels and being mindful of the great diversity of our members,” says Quarterman.
8. Pensions may be just the starting point.
“Often the question that someone first asks is not the one that they actually want an answer to,” says Jackson. Wright agrees: “We need to be mindful and aware that what’s going on in people’s homes around money is not always what they’re showing on their faces. In conversations at MaPS, we’ll try and bring out the real issue without being patronizing, and as we’re doing it, explain what that means and confirm what someone is really intending to ask.”
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