It’s World Sleep Day…but who’s dreaming about their pension and retirement?
For many members thinking about their pension is more likely to feel like a nightmare! This is because trust and understanding in pensions is low, it seems confusing so often just gets pushed into the ‘too hard’ pile. And changing attitudes is a long, slow process, so it can feel like pushing water up a hill. But it is possible…
So how did we get here? Well… I think there are loads of contributing factors, here’s the key ones:
There’s a long history to written language development, starting at the time when only the very rich were able to read and write. It meant that initially only very formal or legal documents were actually written down. This massively influenced the difference that exists between written and spoken words… The language we use as a rule in pensions is alien speak to most people – with unfamiliar terms and an extraordinary amount of jargon. Whilst we’re getting much better at using more of a conversational tone, there will be multiple risk warnings and caveats that disrupt the flow.
Understanding is fundamental to trust.
Yes – it’s true, there are a tonne of examples where trust has quite rightly been eroded. From Robert Maxwell and the collapse of huge firms, like BHS, that result in lost pensions, to increasing the state pension age and changing the S2P calculation.
Most members won’t know about the impact of increasing longevity or improved governance and if they did there’s no guarantee they’d believe it. They listen to, and believe their friends and family. Who incidentally are nine times more likely to share bad experiences compared to great experiences. That means for every negative comment you need at least nine positive comments to be on an even keel.
Everyone loves a drama…right? Well, it seems the mainstream press do too… especially when it comes to pensions. Negativity in the press has damaging consequences to perceptions and attitudes – but it’s extremely hard to get a positive narrative that’s interesting! That’s where ESG and net zero can help – if it’s explained clearly – remember most members won’t understand investing.
The sheer number of nuanced products and rules not only result in the jargon crisis but make pensions overly complex. Add to this the tinkering changes around tax relief, earning thresholds and annual allowances and we lose people in a sea of complexity.
Digitalisation is brilliant for creating efficiencies and streamlining processes. And without doubt, has been an essential part of dealing with remote working and lockdown. But trust is much more easily established with a person. It’s important that we use human intervention for key moments that will have lasting effects.
For many people, when the conversation about pensions is started the benefit is such a long way off. It’s hard for people to put money (that they could easily spend right now) away for more years than they have been alive. The intangibility of a pension is a barrier to trust. Because, well, it’s hard to trust something you’re not really sure is there.
So we’ve found ourselves in the position where banks – a number of whom have had to be bailed out by the government – hold greater trust than pensions.
You can’t buy or hurry trust. It must be earned and reinforced. There is no one-stop-shop for winning hearts and minds. This is a long game and here’s the rules:
To build trust you must be authentic and honest, you can tick both of those boxes without being fully open. Your integrity and credibility and that of the industry will be built upon continued transparency – warts and all.
Your purpose, vision, service delivery and language must be consistently delivered. Any misalignment in these areas will play havoc with your believability and jeopardise trust.
Where you have an opportunity for a two-way conversation – use it! There are many tools and techniques to listen to the sentiments of your customers, but if you’re not prepared to change based on what you hear it’s a pointless exercise.
Use language, storytelling and content creation to bring your messages to life.
Ad-hoc and reactionary communications may not align with your overall purpose, vision and goal of establishing trust. Think things through strategically and make sure key messages are integrated through every channel.
In the absence of radical reform – using the tools and techniques that are within our control will go some way to re-establishing trust. And make thinking about retirement seem like more of a dream than a nightmare.