Kevin O’Boyle: insight into pensions education on offer to BT staff


Financial education has a long history at BT. Prior to the benefit being centralised and controlled ten years ago, it was provided to the UK workforce on an ad hoc basis by different lines of business. 

Seminar attendees
In 2008 most of the company’s employees who were retiring from a long career at BT were enjoying defined benefit (DB) pensions, supplemented by various all-employee share plans that resulted in many employees also having a substantial BT shareholding (in some cases up to 5 times their salary).

Helping people understand pension options, share management, tax, lifestyle in retirement was considered an aid to help staff better understand their options as they eased into retirement.

Current programmes

Now the company, which has a global workforce of more than 106,400 people, has two programmes. One for those aged (broadly) over 50 but more than three years from expected retirement focuses on financial planning and saving.

The other programme is for those with retirement likely in the next three years, to help them understand their options.

Seminars of up to 20 participants, which are funded by BT, offer face-to-face help. These can be followed up with one-to-one personal independent financial guidance.

Employees can then decide whether to engage further with their adviser and meet the cost themselves.

Feedback

BT has conducted research among the employees who have attended the seminar to assess its benefits and found that 68% of attendees went on to seek personal guidance.

Of these employees, 20% brought forward their planned retirement date, 40% increased or starting making additional voluntary contributions and 22% started or increased their share plan options – from an already high participation rate.

Financial education is clearly very useful for employees, but it needs to be available over time – most members come to two or three sessions before they take any action.

Future issues

The number of employees in our DC scheme is increasing and members are typically much younger than DB participants, so we need to understand how to capture their interest at crucial life stages, such as joining, life events, around age 50  and in the run up and at retirement.

In a world where DC schemes are increasing, we need to consider how the improve outcomes by challenging the inertia of many employees who stick with default contribution and investment options when making informed choices may be better.

So a key, ongoing focus is to look at a communication strategy that covers joining and leaving the scheme, and everything else in between, and consider the ways in which we can engage employees on the importance of retirement savings to drive better outcomes.

This article is written by Kevin O’Boyle, head of pensions at BT



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