PLSA AC 18: Dragons den discusses effective member engagement

Top communications consultants revealed their best ideas to further engage with members in a pensions dragons den at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) Annual Conference in Liverpool, fighting over who had the best idea for how to show people outside the industry that pensions are, as chair of the session Steve Webb said, really rather riveting.

In front of the three dragons The People’s Pension chief executive officer Patrick Heath-Lay, USS pensions strategy executive Mel Duffield and John Lewis Partnership Trust for Pensions head of trustee services Martin Mannion, three communications consultants presented their best ideas to feedback from both judges and the audience, before it was put to a vote.

The clear winner of the three was Quietroom co-founder Vincent Franklin, who through his charismatic presentation made an argument for changing the name for master trusts. Redington managing director Marian Elliott came second with her pitch for ditching paper in favour of people while AHC chief commercial officer Francis Goss finished last with his app-idea to engage with ‘stand-offish Steve’.

Of the audience, 65 per cent was willing to invest in Franklin’s cost-free idea for bringing pension benefits forward 40 years and to turn master trust members, millennials in particular, from agnostics to apostles from a simple name change.

Franklin no doubt earned bonus points for inciting genuine laughter from comparing the term ‘master trusts’ to something “invented by Dr. Who or someone from the Third Reich”.

In his pitch, Franklin said: “All evidence tells you that there is no group in society more interested in the future than young people, 62 per cent of millennials want to make a positive difference to the world, 88 per cent of them say they find their job more fulfilling when it gives them opportunities to have a positive impact on social and environmental issues.”

“They are really, really interested in the future. They are just not interested in a future that we say doesn’t start for 40 years. They want to change a future that starts in 40 minutes.”

Suggesting names like ‘power pension’, ‘future fund’ and ‘super scheme’, he said the term should be self-explanatory and provide a hook that could show off all the good things master trusts can do.

The judges, who ended up giving Franklin two out of three yeses, questioned how a name change would engage younger people, whether it provides an actual solution and that no evidence shows that it would resonate with younger savers.

Elliott, who got a yes from 55 per cent of the audience, suggested that the cost of printing glossy pamphlets that end up in the bin could be better used to create engaging, personalised online content with money to spare. Those savings, she said, could then be invested in administration costs and to focus on issues important to scheme members.

The idea presented by Goss was the only one that would require an actual investment by the dragons as both of the others were either free or supposed to save money. Goss proposed using suggestions made at PLSA AC 2016: rebranding, compulsory savings, apps, saving points, plain English and no opt-out for six months.

Using the ideas from 2016, he proposed a smartphone app and website aimed at stand-offish members to make them feel they have “future freedom”. Through active engagement, save and spend cards, calculator, personalised movies and personalised gifts, disengaged members could become excited about their savings. The dragons, however, were not and gave him a 50 per cent investment at best.

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