Professional Pensions spoke to Phoenix Corporate Investment Services senior manager Jess Williams 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?
It really has been a transformational period for us at the Phoenix Group. In July 2020, Phoenix completed the acquisition of the ReAssure business. This has seen Phoenix Group become the UK's largest long term savings and retirement business with around 14 million policies, something we are very proud of.
In terms of Phoenix Corporate Investment Services (CIS), which powers our investment only platform business, we continue to grow, by servicing the ongoing needs of large UK institutional pension schemes. Over the last 18 months we have successfully delivered a number of key client transitions, which required us to be really inventive with complex solutions and the sheer scale made them extremely challenging. This year we have invested in solutions that give our clients access to an even wider and more relevant fund offering. From ESG funds to ETF solutions, illiquid investments to non-daily dealt funds, we have enhanced our offering as an investment only platform that offers true innovation and reflects the future of our market.
What do you believe sets you apart from your peers and contributes to your successes?
Our clients tell us that what we offer is truly bespoke and personal. We listen, we understand and then we build our solutions around them. Our flexibility & ability to stay fund agnostic, means that we can add whichever fund solutions that clients and consultants actually require. This saw us be the first institutional platform to offer target dated funds, be an early adopter of exchange traded funds, and now sees us offering a diverse range of ESG funds and illiquid fund solutions.
We like to build long term trusted partnerships with our clients, so that we can understand the challenges that they are facing, and help them achieve the strategic investment objectives required for their scheme. This collaborative approach, between client, investment consultant and us, really helps us add value to our clients.
When it comes to platform performance, we pride ourselves on the high level of automation embedded in our processes with over 20 years of continuous improvements. This year we have again excelled at demonstrating to clients and consultants alike that our platform is a robust environment for their assets and a trusted partner in helping them manage change for their schemes.
How has your business dealt with the challenges of Covid-19?
It's clearly been a very challenging time for everyone in the UK, and our priority has obviously been the safety and welfare of our employees, while continuing to deliver a quality service to our clients. We were able to react quickly to the Covid-19 crisis, mobilising 99% of our UK workforce to operate effectively from home, and without having to furlough any employees over this period.
We've embraced video conferencing technology to keep regular communication in place between our teams, as well as ensuring all employees have the right equipment in order for them to feel comfortable working from home.
While we continue to work remotely, in line with government guidelines, our customer satisfaction levels remain high, and with a highly experienced operation, we have been able to adjust our processes to enable a continued service for our clients in a remote environment.
What are the key challenges facing your pension scheme clients at the current time and how are you helping them address these issues?
We fully appreciate that things do not stand still for our clients, so we have helped support clients make necessary changes to their investment solutions, in what continues to be challenging market conditions.
Our ability to enable clients to make swift and effective changes to their fund structures has been crucial. We have been able to demonstrate value for money whilst offering a diversity of fund range, in particular the ability to incorporate ESG solutions from a range of different fund managers, to clients' schemes. We have also helped several clients with the rebalancing of their blended funds, giving clients investment options, both for clients impacted by property fund suspensions, and those clients seeking to avoid the unintended rebalancing consequences caused by market volatility. Alongside this we have been listening to our clients to understand their needs with what comes next in terms of decumulation options.
Our role as an investment only platform is really to support the ongoing needs of trustees, release the burden on them and enable fund solutions to future proof their schemes. And that is what we continue to do.
How will you continue to improve your services to pension scheme clients over the coming year?
We can't stand still and we don't. In fact, we pride ourselves on our ability to continually develop our investment only platform to meet the ever changing needs of our clients and their trustees. Over the next 12 months, we are delivering three key projects, that all further enhance our proposition to our clients and their consultants in helping them to deliver their current and their next investment strategy.
Firstly, we are developing a new microsite for the Phoenix CIS business, which will help showcase our solution and give clients and consultants access to the latest information on our services and funds. We will publish our first ever externally validated AAF Report before the end of the year, which will demonstrate the successful risk and control framework supporting our key functions. We are also further developing our post-retirement solutions for the defined benefit and defined contribution (DC) markets.
All of these are exciting milestones for us, and continue to demonstrate the important role that an investment only platform can and will continue to play in our market.
Phoenix CIS was shortlisted in the DC Pension Provider of the Year and the DC Innovation of the Year categories of this year's UK Pensions Awards. Find out more about the awards here.
Contact and Corproate Details
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