Communication in any scheme is crucial. Sponsoring companies want to know about the health of the scheme they provide. Consultants and advisers need to be aware of any changes. Investment managers and fund platform providers need to know any changes to investment strategy and conversely must communicate any changes to the make-up of their funds. And, most importantly, members need and want to be informed of the state of their pension.
In a multi-employer scheme like Ireland's Construction Workers' Pension Scheme (CWPS), which replaced the Construction Federation Operatives Pension Scheme, communication will take on many different forms and innovation is key. The new scheme is designed to meet the needs of today's employees, giving them the opportunity to build up a pension for retirement, while providing other important benefits. CWPS wanted to make sure that employers and members were clear about the benefits of the new scheme and understood the reasons for the change. And it has an increasingly international membership to consider.
"Polish workers comprise around 10% of scheme membership, along with Lithuanian, Latvian and Chinese workers. It is essential that all audience groups understand the scheme's benefits," the fund says. But that is not the only challenge it faces in its communication strategy, as size and age range are equally important. "The scheme is the largest in the country with around 8,000 employers and 280,000 members - an estimated one in six of all male workers in Ireland between the ages of 20 and 65," CWPS adds.
CWPS believes planning financially for retirement is essential for everyone. The scheme's communication strategy is key to its success and the communication objectives it has set are clear:
q communicate clearly with target audiences using everyday, positive language;
q maintain and improve member appreciation of a valuable benefit;
q instill confidence in the scheme;
q raise the scheme's profile, promote membership and take-up, and
q provide better access to information.
Pension scheme communication is no longer confined to an odd letter here and there and an annual statement. This is especially true of defined contribution and hybrid plans where communication with members is generally more frequent, as they bear the investment risk and have choices to make. Many schemes are designing their communications to be appealing.
"A key element of the communication strategy was a strong visual scheme identity," CWPS says. "This would aid recognition of the scheme, raise its profile, and provide a professional image. A full brand was developed covering typography, colours, an image library and slogans for member and employer communication reinforcing the scheme's message that a pension is essential equipment," it explains.
An entire suite of literature and brand identity guide was produced including letterheads, pensioner cheques, and business cards. Next challenge: how to get the message across.
"The scheme has produced a tailored range of information using a variety of media. Active members received tailored information in three phases," CWPS comments.
Phase one announced changes to the scheme. Phase two explained the new scheme and changes with literature and a DVD telling members about benefits and how to join. Phase three confirmed their membership and provided them with a scheme guide and wallet to store scheme information.
New joiners are sent a pack which includes a welcome letter, a clearly-written jargon-free scheme guide and a DVD explaining the scheme and importance of pensions. This stars real members and is available in Polish as well as English.
Deferred members were sent a leaflet explaining the changes, benefits and details of how they were affected. "We sent a courtesy letter to pensioners, for although they were largely unaffected, CWPS feels it was important to reassure them of the security of their benefits and to introduce the new scheme identity."
It was important to get employers ‘on board' as they needed to sign up to the new CWPS before their employees could become members. Employers were also targeted in three phases. "In addition to guides and benefits information they also received a new deed written in plain English, a certificate of membership, booklet with easy-to-follow instructions to administer the scheme and a binder in which to store information," CWPS says.
In addition to the Polish version of the members' DVD, the majority of printed material was translated into Polish and there is a Polish section on the scheme's website. "CWPS is conscious of its multi-cultural industry and need to reach out to all members and employers," the fund says.
CWPS say the transition between has been seamless, aided by a manned helpline and a dedicated support structure. It says proof the communication strategy worked is in the pudding as there has been a sizeable increase in the number of companies signing up to the scheme - 237 to over 8,000 representing more than 280,000 members since July.
Highlights and achievements
Communication is crucial to any pension, especially large defined contribution schemes that regroup large numbers of firms in a given industry, as CWPS does.
CWPS's recognition of the changing nature of its market and how it needs to serve both employers and employees in the future is reinforced by the fact it has translated details of the workings and benefits of the scheme - both online and in printed matter - into Polish.
The success of any communication scheme can be measured by take-up and the fact that CWPS represents even more employing companies now since launching its campaign is truly impressive.
Finally, CWPS has not been afraid to embrace new technologies and the DVD - as a visual aid featuring current members - is the perfect complement to the old-fashioned brochure.