German companies continue to explore digital solutions to motivate employees to stay up to date with their occupational pension schemes.

Carmaker BMW is pushing for transparency when it comes to displaying retirement plans for employees, the head of centre of competence Wolfgang Degel told a virtual audience at the Handelsblatt annual conference on occupational pensions last week.

Degel, who manages retirement provisions for 90,000 active employees in Germany, said: “Each employee should have the possibility to find all the information at a glance, and we want to provide transparency within retirement provisions.”

He said the challenge is to push employees to use the digital tools. BMW provides different types of pensions provision through an online portal with an overview of each individual at retirement age.

Its platform gives an outline of a saver’s account balance, minimum interest rate, the development of capital investments and returns.

Active employees, former employees and pensioners with open accounts can access the portal via a website, smartphones and an app.

The company combined different data and various pension promises – such as Direktzusagen of the BMW, external promises of Pensionsfonds, or Direktversicherungen – in one digital platform, Degel explained.

He noted that the older generation is more interested in the pay-out while the younger generation looks at deposits, capital investments, and the guarantees offered by BMW.

Digital solutions for pensions at BMW are a condition to attract the younger generation in particular. “You can only take [on board] the young if you offer digital solutions,” Degel said.

Michael Paulweber, managing director technology and administration solutions at Willis Towers Watson, said it was important to look at particular groups to build specific channels of communication.

“Not ‘one size fits all’,” he said, but designing portals for specific target groups. The content needs to be easy to understand and savers have to be able to keep up with the content of the tools at their disposal, he added.

As an example of a useful tool for digital pensions, Paulweber named ‘push messages’ or notifications, which are “annoying” but can be “very valuable” for employers.

Digital and human touch

Digitization has yielded positive results for BMW. The company has digitized deferred compensation, or Entgeltumwandlung, and it has built an online matching system for the opting-out process.

“Transparency is important to increase deferred compensations,” Degel said, adding that deferred compensations have doubled from 2016 to 2019, driven also by the introduction of an online portal.

Stephan Hahr, director corporate pensions and related benefits at Bosch, said his company focuses on user experience, which is based on “moments that matter” that are decisive to understand a positive experience with the company. “We have kept this channel open,” he said.

Employees still need a human touch, a contact person to speak on matters. “I think this is still important in parallel to digitization,” Degel said.

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