WSB talks to Barnett Waddingham partner and head of workplace health and wealth Damian Stancombe about winning the Employee Benefit Consultant of the Year award.
What does it mean to win this award?
Winning this award is testament to the time and effort we have put into developing our workplace health and wealth offering over the past five years - taking what it meant to be Barnett Waddingham, a firm with a strong sense of independence and doing the right thing, and applying it to the health and wealth area of business. This has taken time, but it feels like these efforts have really come together over the past 12-18 months and that our clients now really get what we are trying to achieve.
Judges comments: Barnett Waddingham demonstrates a "clear strategy" and "puts the customer at the centre of everything they do"
What do you believe sets you apart from your peers?
We like to think we see the world more holistically than our peers and are able to bring the strengths of the broader Barnett Waddingham business to our workplace health and wealth business.
While we do not have products, we do have strong analytical capabilities and can offer solid independent consultancy to our clients. Because we are not selling products, it allows us to really look at the problems faced by our clients and I really do believe this sets us apart from our peers.
What are the key challenges facing your clients and how are you helping them address them?
One of the problems that we are facing today is the productivity puzzle - how do we get a better return on investment from our employees? In the UK, we have relied far too much on de-personalised, low-paid employment instead of investing in technology and upskilling - that means we have not seen our productivity increasing in line with our global peers.
To address that we have got to attract the right people to our organisations and to retain them, and there is also a lot of training that needs to go with this. We are very keen to help organisations create a culture that is the sort of place that an individual of that talent pool will want to go and to help them future-proof their businesses. What we do has to both add value and be future-proof - if we cannot add value, then we are not going to recommend you use our services.
How will you continue to improve your services to clients over the coming 12 months?
We are a very strong defined contribution team, but we need to be broader because you cannot talk about retirement when you have real issues (such as personal debt) within workplaces today. We need to get people to understand how they can make their pound go further.
We have tried to do this from a very consumer point of view with the launch of Me2, which is something we are going to push further over the coming year. Organisations do not want to pay our fees to do presentations in the flesh any more, but they do want their people to be educated to be able to make choices - our Me2 platform enables employees to learn and plan, not just around their own wealth, but around their health too.
The corporates of the future really need to take a personal interest in their employees and some of the stuff we're producing and working on will allow them to do just that.
It is about recognising what the needs of the employer are and actually building to meet those needs, not for us to sell.
This week's top stories included the Department for Work and Pensions issuing two separate consultations on the pensions dashboard and defined benefit consolidation.
A regime similar to that for defined contribution (DC) master trusts will be set up for regulating defined benefit (DB) consolidators under plans announced today.
Defined benefit (DB) superfunds that wish to enter the market must talk to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) about their plans before opening for business.