Employee engagement around pensions can be a thankless task, but at BT a financial education approach has yielded results

Communicating with employees about pensions can be really tough. Challenges range from the battle against lack of engagement – people can be baffled, mistrustful or simply disinterested, to the tricky task of getting timings right (too young and they won’t care, too old and it’s too late).

Despite this, a growing number of companies are investing in financial education programmes to help their workforce navigate the maze of retirement. One such company is BT, whose integrated education strategy, created by Wealth at Work, has seen an uptick in everything from contribution rates to the number of people taking advice.

The voluntary education plan has been in place since 2012, and in part is delivered by seminars. This year, BT conducted research among staff who had attended these seminars, to see whether the programme was delivering results.

The findings were impressive. 68% of employees said they had taken action since attending a seminar, with some going as far as to seek regulated advice. Of these, 20% of employees have brought forward their planned retirement date, 40% have increased or started making AVCs (additional voluntary contributions) and 22% started or increased their share plan contributions.

Jonathan Watts-Lay, director at WEALTH at work commented: “The fact that so many employees went on to take further significant actions after attending a seminar is testament to the powerful effect of financial education.

It helps employees understand the financial decisions they will face at-retirement, encourages them to think about how much money they will need in retirement and how best to save towards this. As the research demonstrates, financial education has helped a large number of employees realise their retirement goals earlier than they had planned, which is truly life changing for those individuals.”

And the seminars have proved popular among staff. 93% rated the retirement seminars highly (scoring either a 4 or 5 on a 1 to 5 scale), and 90% said that they would recommend the seminar to a colleague.

Kevin O’Boyle, group head of pensions & benefits at BT commented: “WEALTH at Work… have helped us not only to put together and deliver highly engaging seminars, but supported this with an online capability to help BT employees through their decision making process.

“This complements our own pensions modelling tool by giving specialist information about relevant issues such as state benefits and capital investment.

“The research we conducted highlights how much the retirement planning seminars have benefitted our employees financial wellbeing and we hope to continue to build on this in the future.”