The Merchant Navy Officers’ Pension Fund (MNOPF) is running wellbeing webinars aimed at helping retired members through the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdowns by improving their physical and mental health.

The defined benefit (DB) scheme has 25,000 members and some 350 participating employers.

The live webinars, provided by Wellbeing People, are being run as 13 weekly sessions, which include topics such as coping with social distancing and self-isolation, resilience and mental fitness, nutrients versus calories, and easy exercise routines.

E-mails were sent to 13,000 members for whom the scheme has e-mail addresses – largely in the UK, but also spread throughout the world. The messages invited them to sign up to the webinar series, and achieved a 68% opening rate – a “phenomenal response”, according to the pension fund.

At least 430 members have tuned in to each of the first two webinars, with an additional 730 viewing them afterwards. This proves there is a need for the service, according to Rory Murphy, chair of MNOPF, who also believes the programme is unique in the pensions industry.

The idea originated with Murphy, whose trade union background had encouraged him to believe that pension funds should do more for their members than simply pay out a retirement income.

Murphy said, “Our members are going to suffer during lockdown, physically and mentally. Retirees are not always able to cope with lockdown because they can’t go out and pursue their leisure interests.”

Webinars are accessed by a simple link and each lasts one hour. Members can ask questions during each session via a chat function, and the most popular topics are answered later on the scheme’s website, which contains a video recording of the session.

The members’ section on the pension fund website also contains the latest news relating to the MNOPF.

Rory Murphy at MNOPF

Rory Murphy, chair of MNOPF

Murphy added: “The main tips for our members are, first, do not take dramatic action as a result of COVID-19, be aware of scams. Second, our fund is doing well and there is no need to worry. Thirdly, look after your wellbeing.”

The scheme considers that the cost per head of those participating provides very good value.

Murphy said he would like to see every pension fund following the MNOPF’s lead in providing wellbeing support for members.

He said: “I want to see our members live as long and as healthily as they can, enjoying the fruits of their labours. As a pension fund, we have a part to play in that, because it is a people business and our members trust us.”

Murphy said he would like to take the member support concept further, for example, by using MNOPF’s bulk-buying ability to provide discounts on financial products such as home and motor insurance.

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