Building a more flexible future

The challenges of the coronavirus pandemic required fast thinking and even faster learning about what worked best for our customers and staff.

When lockdown started in March, our priorities were to follow government guidance and provide a targeted and appropriate level of customer service while looking after the safety and wellbeing of our staff. This meant that for a while we had to do things a little differently.

We’ve made significant adjustments to how we work

We’ve listened to customers, we’ve listened to staff and we’ve made improvements along the way:

  • We needed to keep our staff safe, so had to quickly get most of them working from home.  This meant we couldn’t talk to as many customers as usual on the phone so we increased our email and online support.
  • At first we focused our attention on the customers who needed us most (over 55s who wanted to access their money and couldn’t go online), and asked others to contact us via email.
  • This allowed the rest of our team, who were now safely working from home, to help customers via our digital channels.
  • We ramped up our online content, building key support and guidance on coronavirus, improving our contact us pages and signposting so that customers could quickly access important information. We also shared videos to show members how to manage their pensions online and made more of our forms and transactions digital.
  • As government support such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and advice from regulators evolved, we dived into the details and questions being asked by our customers and shared key information on our website.
  • When demand picked up from employers as more businesses ran their payrolls as a result of the CJRS, we created a facility to offer same day callbacks for employers who needed one-to-one phone support.
  • Throughout lockdown we’ve re-recorded our phone messages and included up-to-date information and step-by-step instructions to help people do what they needed to online.
  • We maintained quality phone services for people who couldn’t go online and needed to talk to us or who wanted to access their money.

We constantly monitor the feedback we get and have made incremental changes as government advice has evolved, and as our staff have been able to return to our offices. Since 1 April we’ve:

  • handled over 41,000 telephone calls while maintaining safe social distancing in our head office
  • responded to over 27,500 employer emails, and nearly 76,000 member emails
  • supported the successful upload of over 450,000 contributions files
  • processed in excess of £55m in individual claims
  • processed over 16,000 transfers in and out worth over £57m.

During lockdown, all our staff worked longer and more flexible hours, including evenings and weekends, to meet the demand and level of service required. Many customers have been supportive and have recognised that keeping our phones free to prioritise those in most need was the right thing to do.

Retaining the good

Our response doesn’t end there. The pandemic has accelerated our thinking and we’ve learned valuable lessons about how we should evolve our support in the future. The online changes we’ve made mean people have more choice about how they interact with us and carry out transactions. Many people want the flexibility to do what they need online at a time that suits them, while others want the helping hand of our guidance over the phone. We have listened and want to give our customers choice and flexibility.

Employers thinking about engaging with their staff to help them get the best value from their employee benefits can use our communications toolkit to make sure people know how to access their online account, check their details and consider how pension saving supports their financial future. We’re also planning to run online events for employers in the autumn exploring how best to engage staff with their pension, so watch this space for more details. If you’re interested, email us.

Strength for the future

Pensions are about steady financial growth over the long term and building foundations for the future retirement we all want. Those principles remain true at The People’s Pension and as a master trust we will continue to provide the stability and strength that all of our customers expect and deserve.

Thanks for your understanding and support as we worked through this challenging time. Please be assured that our commitment to high levels of customer service remains as strong as ever.

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You can access further information about what we are doing in relation to coronavirus on our website.

Adapting to a changing world

It’s no exaggeration to say that these past few months have been tough in every way imaginable for everyone.

A unique set of circumstances has consumed our way of life, prompting us all to quickly adapt to a new normal. Most of the globe’s population has had to make significant changes.

As well as the risk to our health, many people have faced financial uncertainty after the government took the unavoidable step of lockdown, shutting off much of our economy to protect the population from COVID-19. At the same time, the government provided some financial support for businesses in the form of furlough and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Support for auto-enrolment

We’re pleased the government has chosen to support auto-enrolment through the crisis, as it has proved to be a success and has begun to help reshape how the UK retires. Some were concerned that auto-enrolment would be one of the casualties of the crisis, but the government deserves credit for taking the long view and supporting it through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

However, we know that in this difficult time, many of our members are worried about the impact of COVID-19; some will have to make difficult financial decisions, including whether they can continue contributing to a pension, while others will be worried about the impact COVID-19 has had on their pension savings.

Pensions are for the long term

Investment in pensions is best thought about in decades rather than months – something that is backed up by the fact that, despite March’s market turmoil, our members have seen an above inflation increase on their savings over the past 5 years.

We have a 15-year glidepath reducing risk for members as they come towards claiming their money, which has protected their pension savings from the worst of the market falls and should give them comfort that their retirement plans are still secure.

Although coronavirus has meant we had to quickly adapt our ways of working to protect our staff, we’ve always been here for our customers.

Pension scams

Sadly, there’s a real risk that scammers will use COVID-19 as a way of targeting people, particularly those who are older, vulnerable or isolated. We urge people to think twice before making any rash choices when it comes to their pension. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Our website lists the available resources for those seeking more information as well as advice on staying safe from pension scams.

We thank all our customers for their continued support and understanding. Our teams will continue to pull out all the stops to meet the changing nature of the pandemic and ensure we provide the service our customers need.

Read more

You can access further information about what we are doing in relation to coronavirus on our website.