Knowledge is power in the new world of pensions

Irish Life has redefined the whole focus of member engagement, writes Fiona Mullally, Head of Client Services at Irish Life Corporate Business

Fiona Mullally, Head of Client Services at Irish Life Corporate Business: ‘Pensions don’t have to be complex beasts that people can’t fathom or harness.’ Picture: DesignWorks Photography

The world of pensions has seen transformational change recently, largely driven by IORP II, which was designed to deliver better member outcomes through higher standards of governance. The industry has gone to great lengths to meet the new requirements, which have impacted every pension plan across Ireland.

After all the upheaval, many businesses must be wondering: have these changes positively impacted members yet, or will the long-term nature of pensions mean it will be years – or even decades – before we see any real impact?

Even as the leading defined contribution pension provider in Ireland, with the largest master trust in the market, Irish Life believes that it will take time to evidence the long-term impact. However, a key area of the new regulations, and an arena that has been particularly interesting to watch, is member engagement and communications.

Engaging members, tackling inertia and boosting low financial literacy regarding pensions to help members feel confident in this space is infamously challenging.

In a world where consumer expectations are higher than ever before and many segments want to be wowed with bite-sized videos rather than wading through a pdf, where everything is going digital, yet attention spans are getting drastically shorter, while email fatigue is also increasingly setting in, capturing people in the moment and motivating them enough to even open an email is only getting harder. And yet, in this new world of pensions, it has become infinitely more important.

At Irish Life, engaging members has always been one of our key priorities. We have worked closely with our clients over the years to deliver effective communications and support members at key moments. But not every business has the resources to actively promote their pension as part of their wider workplace benefits packages, never mind formulate and deliver a specific pension-focused communication strategy.

So, it’s great to see what this renewed focus, combined with the scale of our master trust, has allowed us to achieve. We now have a comprehensive, persona driven communications programme that allows us to deliver compelling content at scale and offer meaningful support to members throughout their journey toward life after work. This, in simple terms, means every member of the Empower Master Trust experiences a premium proposition in this space, no matter the size of their plan, or their pension pot.

We launched the programme in 2021 and, even though it’s still very much in its infancy, we’ve seen some dramatic results. In the first year, we saw a 61 per cent increase in emails opened, as richer, tailored content proved more engaging. We also saw a 22 per cent increase in Pension Portal users. But the real story goes beyond those initial numbers.

At Irish life, we have redefined the whole focus of member engagement. Sending emails and creating opportunities for our members to connect with their pension, though important, is simply not enough anymore, when there is so much more we can do. Pensions don’t have to be complex beasts that people can’t fathom or harness. Our goal is to help members to feel comfortable with their pension: dare I say it, even knowledgeable.

Knowledge is particularly powerful when it comes to pensions because, with it, members understand their status throughout their journey and – pivotally – know the steps they can take at any time to improve their position. We believe that is what it takes to really guide people toward a better life after work.

Earlier this year, we launched an extensive communications calendar and a monthly webinar series, all tailored to specific personas. We facilitate diverse consumption preferences, depending on the audience we want to engage. We follow the data to continuously evolve and refine how we communicate, and we have strict standards when it comes to making sure our language is simple and jargon free.

This year, by the end of Q2, we had delivered an average of three tailored communications per member, with a 60 per cent average open rate (well above the industry average) and facilitated thousands of members in educating themselves through webinars and supporting content. So we’ve made huge inroads over the past year, and we’re only just getting started.

However, as great as the initial results have been, engaging people on their pension will always be challenging. As industry experts, it’s important to accept that challenge and know that we will always be learning: from our members, from our clients and from trends in the industry itself. It’s a fast paced world we live in: consumers evolve, trends rise and fall and regulations change.

As they say, nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Our job is to guide people toward living their best possible life when they are done with work. Which is incredibly important.

So, we will always need to find new ways to connect people with their pension, while also now equipping them with the knowledge to be comfortable in the decisions they make and the steps they take toward having a better life after work. It may never be easy, but it’s certainly more than worthwhile.