IRELAND - The Irish Pensions Board (An Bord Pinsean) has come under fire from PRSA (Personal Retirement Savings Accounts) providers for not doing enough to raise general awareness ahead of the September deadline.
Employers in Ireland have less than three weeks to meet the deadline for designating a PRSA provider.
But the Pensions Board has been criticised for leaving the awareness campaign at the door of providers such as Ark Life Assurance.
“To date it has been left to a number of main life assurance companies to advertise and promote the reticence of PRSAs,” said Bernard Lynch, marketing managers for Dublin-based Ark Life, AIB’s life and pensions company.
“Financial institutions with branch networks are best placed to promote and distribute information about PRSAs. However, the burden of promoting the concept through media should not be falling to marketing departments such as our own. It should be backed up by a national campaign run by the Pensions Board.”
PRSAs were introduced in April 2003 as a low-cost savings initiative to increase pension coverage from 50% of the workforce to 70%.
But this latest criticism has only fuelled long-held concerns about the future success of the accounts.
A recent survey commissioned by Ark Life - entitled ‘Project Noah - Awareness of PRSAs’ - showed that despite 62% of employees claiming to be aware of PRSAs, only 19% of these had heard of them through their employers.
The survey - which polled 400-500 employees - also revealed that where employers had provided information to staff only 39% recommended that they should take out a PRSA.
In general, some 40% of employees were not convinced by PRSAs, with 10% of these seeing them as a bad idea.
Since then, the Pensions Board has published a PRSA guide for employers. In it, Mary Coughlan, the minister for social and family affairs, explained that the booklet is the first of three to form part of the ‘National Pensions Awareness Campaign’.
“Take up of the new products has been slow to date, and these publications, allied to the general awareness campaign by the Pensions Board is aimed at increasing coverage amongst the workforce...,” she said.
Ark Life, which claims to have a 35% share of the PRSA market, has also embarked on its own radio campaign to raise awareness ahead of the September 15 deadline.
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