What do you want to know?
At Wasserdicht Pension Funds, the investment team generally gets on with the job of running the fund’s money in the way the trustees tell us to. Sometimes that can be very rewarding, other times less so.
Nowadays, we all have our job cut out when it comes to the way we tell the trustees about the performance of the pension fund. The trustees certainly hold us to account in a way they never used to, but so do the members. And sometimes member communications are the hardest to get right.
But outside the office and the annual participants meeting, it’s not often that you actually get to meet one of the members.
Before Christmas, my wife Jeanette and I went across to the neighbours for Christmas drinks. I am just chatting with our hosts when a hand claps me on the shoulder. ‘So Pieter,’ says a voice from straight behind me. ‘What’s up with our pension?’
Of course, it’s Arjan, one of Wasserdicht’s pensioner members, who lives locally. He asks me the same questions every time we meet and he gets full marks for attention to detail. He certainly reads the annual reports. It’s a good reminder about who we work for.
‘How did emerging markets perform this year?’ he wants to know. ‘Where will interest rates be in 12 months’ time?’ and ‘are we risking deflation?’ I tell him about our liability-matching programme and the ways in which we have diversified the fixed-income book. He seems satisfied that we are working hard to keep his retirement income safe. ‘Job well done,’ I tell Jeanette on the way home.
Back in the office, it is a Monday morning in December and I am in a meeting room with some of the trustees and Fieke, Wasserdicht’s director of corporate communications.
Fieke has been seconded from head office to the pension fund to help us complete a case study for the government’s latest consultation on pension fund communication.
Apparently the government wants to change the rules about communication again. ‘Only 43% of the participants can understand the new uniform pension statement,’ says Ronald, the chairman of trustees. ‘The government wants to replace it with a more informative dashboard with various scenarios for optimistic and pessimistic scenarios, and life events like divorce.’
Geert, our bright young strategist in the investment department, is sipping on at least his third strong coffee this morning, and looking like he is in a state of deep concentration.
‘We need to get the balance right,’ says Fieke. ‘Our job is to show that we go beyond the minimum and that we are a beacon of best practice in communications.’
Arjan suddenly comes to mind. ‘Fieke,’ I say when the meeting is over. ‘I know just the person for you to interview for a communication case study…’`
Pieter Mullen is investment director at Wasserdicht Pension Funds