Trustee support for digital comms surges to 59% amid Covid-19

The proportion of defined benefit (DB) pension trustees who believe that digital communications should be used to engage with members' needs has risen to 59 per cent amid the pandemic, up from just 5 per cent in 2020, according to Hymans Robertson.

The survey from the firm found that 50 per cent of DB trustees believe that the pandemic has increased the need to invest in engagement strategies and to provide access to financial advice to members.

In addition to this, there has been a large increase in the number of DB schemes considering a pension increase exchange (PIE) and offering members increased choice about their pensions.

In particular, the survey revealed that the number of DB trustees whose schemes were considering such action has increased from 9 per cent in 2020 to 49 per cent in 2021, with partial transfers also increasing from 9 per cent in 2020 to 42 per cent in 2021.

The firm highlighted this as demonstration of the view that retirement options must be diverse, as individuals have different circumstances, arguing that trustees must ensure there is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach.

Hymans Robertson partner, Ryan Markham, commented: “The effects of Covid are far reaching with many members close to retirement impacted in ways they quite simply had never imagined pre-pandemic.

“Some may have lost their jobs or are now in poor health and might face an immediate need for early retirement. Others, however, may have had to reprioritise their pre-pandemic timescales and are looking for more flexible retirement options.

“Trustees must recognise this change and ensure that they are able to provide guidance and assistance at not only this stage, but throughout the retirement journey.

“The rapid increase in the use of technology over the past 18 months, has created a need for trustees to be more creative in their communication approach. By engaging with members digitally, employers can ensure that decisions can be made with full and concise understanding to help achieve retirement goals.

“The desire to offer members greater choice within their DB scheme by offering PIE and partial transfers is hugely encouraging at a time when greater flexibility both within and outside the DB scheme could be of real value to some members."

However, Markham warned that it is "vital" that actions speak louder than words, and that trustees "fully understand the impact Covid-19 has had on their members", arguing that they should offer "genuine support far beyond the short-term promise to make sure members are guided to choose the best investment outcomes".

“They must also ensure the safety of their members savings by offering advice on how to protect themselves from unscrupulous scammers who may be preying on them," he continued.

"Member engagement combined with valuable choice leads to better decision making and outcomes for members, and in tandem, reduces the risk to the scheme leading to better outcomes for all.”

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