by Stella Beale |

People tend to feel scared and shy away from pensions information simply because they feel it’s far too complicated and something only the financially literate can understand. Hardly surprising given we all know pensions can be difficult to get your head around. But, as an industry and for people who spend their lives thinking about pensions, surely we must be best placed to help. It must be our job to demystify the complicated and dispel the fear so that people can engage and understand their highly-valuable asset – well, we think so.

We and our Trustees firmly believe that breaking down barriers to understanding and helping members find out about their pension are key steps in supporting each person to plan and prepare effectively for retirement.

Helping members to understand their retirement savings

So how do clear communications equate to fairness for members? Good question – for us it’s all about staying true to the value of ‘creating simplicity‘. If members can understand their pension, their choices and their responsibilities, they can engage and understand – something we believe passionately is entirely their right and, as such, can only be fair.

Additionally, it’s vitally important we continue to work towards making communications accessible for everyone including those with disabilities, those with low literacy levels, or those for whom English is not their first language (17% of our 5.1m members are born outside the UK*). ‘Everyone’ includes those who are more vulnerable, perhaps because they are living with dementia, or have been recently bereaved. The effects of COVID-19 mean more people have become financially vulnerable too, through furlough, redundancy, fear of insolvency and the risk of fraud and scams. Greater freedoms bring certain risks for pension savers if they struggle to understand pensions, and it’s important to raise awareness of scams as our recent report with The Police Foundation highlights.

When The Pensions Regulator initiated their recent scams campaign, we happily used our corporate sponsorship of our local team, Crawley Town FC, to amplify their important message direct to fans and reinforce the point, that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Consider too the huge number of people in the UK – 940,000 – who are turning 55 this year and could potentially be placed in a more vulnerable position if they start using their pension savings and don’t seek professional advice. There’s much evidence, including from the Money and Pensions Service, that people leave retirement planning to the last minute or, more worryingly, don’t do it at all. Of course every effort should be made to help people understand why it’s important to plan and prepare – we use content such as our retirement countdown webpages to support.

*The People’s Pension Customer Barometer Q1 2018/19 (n300 members)

Greater accessibility – we’re not there yet

It’s difficult to crack accessibility for everyone 100% of the time and of course we are on a journey – but to help break down some of the obstacles, our members have access to the following:

  • BT’s Relay UK service so people can talk to us if they have trouble hearing or speaking over the phone.
  • Key member information in another format such as braille or large print, on request.
  • The Recite Me tool so users can change how they view things on our website to suit their needs.
  • Key member information translated into Polish, Spanish and Romanian (the 3 most popular languages among our members based on downloads) on our website, and other languages on request.

We’re signed up to the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends initiative and are working towards becoming a dementia-friendly organisation. If we get it right for people with dementia, then we are sure to get it right for all. And of course, we work with the Plain Language Commission – always committed to clear communications, we find this invaluable and their guidance helps us stay on track.

Working to level the playing field

Through the B&CE Charitable Trust, set up in 1991 to give back to those in the construction industry, where our roots lie, we help to support people in times of need. By awarding hardship grants for essential needs such as housing costs or funding for training, smoothing journeys back to work, assistance attaining new skills or health and safety initiatives that improve safety in the workplace – we try to help level what is often a very unfair playing field.

During these difficult times we’ve been reminded that support is even more important now. Over the last few months, we’ve seen a sharp rise in requests for financial help. In September alone, we saw a 57% increase in the number of requests for support compared with September 2019.

Our customers are helping us to improve

Keeping our eyes fixed on fairness, we regularly talk to customers via focus groups, surveys and our new Research Lab, to find out what matters to them most, what gaps we need to fill and how we can improve our communications so that no one’s left out of the loop.

This has helped shape our communications toolkit to support employers when they’re talking to employees about their pension. It’s available for all to use at no extra cost – after all, we believe that’s only fair!

Employers – join our online events

We’re running free online events for employers to find out more about the communications toolkit – if you’re interested please get in touch by calling 0333 230 1310 or emailing RRM@bandce.co.uk.

Members – get to grips with your pension

Through your Online Account, you can manage your pension savings, transfer in other pension pots, and see how much is in your pension pot. If you’re a member of The People’s Pension, why not set up or log in to your Online Account and start getting to grips with your pension today?