Professional Pensions spoke to Standard Life managing director of workplace Gail Izat as part of an exclusive series of interviews with some of the finalists and winners of the UK Pensions Awards. This is what she had to say…
What have been your main achievements as an organisation over the past 18 months?
At Standard Life, we are passionate about helping people achieve a more secure and sustainable future. And to do this it's important that we have a resilient business that can deliver on its promises, no matter what the circumstances. That is why I am immensely proud of my colleagues at Standard Life Assurance, part of the Phoenix Group, for their resilience and commitment to continue to provide an exceptional digital and telephony service at the same time as developing new solutions to enhance the experience for members, employers, trustees and advisers.
As an example, we delivered our new in-scheme drawdown solution for our DC master trust in July, with guided investment journeys aligned to the FCA's investment pathways.
How has your business dealt with the challenges of Covid-19?
We have taken significant steps to support and protect customers, colleagues and communities.
The majority of colleagues continue to work from home, and through strong business continuity we have continued to provide a service with high customer satisfaction scores.
Our parent company, the Phoenix Group, remains financially resilient, which is hugely important in supporting a sustainable future for members. And they have made charitable donations, including to the ABI's Covid-19 support fund, to help our communities and people most impacted by Covid-19.
What are the key challenges facing pension scheme members at the current time and how are you helping them address these issues?
The challenge to ensure members feel engaged, supported and informed to make the right choices for their financial future becomes more complex with the concerns brought by Covid-19. We recognise that people are impacted in different ways and it's important we offer support that is relevant to them, in the way they choose to engage with us.
We were already seeing an increase in digital engagement and Covid-19 has only accelerated this, with people adapting to digital solutions to connect with family, friends and colleagues. Our Standard Life mobile app usage has seen an increasing trend with a 72% increase year on year (as of June 2020).
When restrictions from Covid-19 set in, as well as introducing priority access for keyworkers and those affected, our team enhanced its tailored digital communication to support individual members, based on factors such as age, needs and member experience to date. We've ensured information is easily digestible and have been using different communications approaches, which is a vital part of the support we continue to offer. For example, we're using a ‘stop and think' approach to inform around market volatility and pension scams; and providing relevant information and guidance to help members based on their life stage.
Financial hardship is on the increase and can have an impact on member wellbeing. Therefore we are working with our behavioural science partners Cowry to help identify signs of financial hardship (online or over the phone) and provide relevant support.
How will you continue to improve your services to pension scheme clients over the coming year?
We're passionate about helping to engage pension scheme members by truly understanding their needs. We will be using our member segmentation model, based on differing needs, to enhance our automated, dynamic communications programme; communicating with members at the moments that matter to them. We‘ve also started to roll out our client analytics insight tool, which empowers employers and trustees by making it simple to turn data and insights into actions that will benefit members.
Some of our other developments include further integration of the PLSA Retirement Living Standards, a new retirement income modeller and real time personalised videos available in member dashboards.
Standard Life was shortlisted in the DC Pension Provider of the Year; DC Master Trust of the Year; and Pensions Communication Initiative of the Year categories of this year's UK Pensions Awards. Find out more about the awards here.