Andy Farmer
By Andy Farmer on 09 Jun, 2022

Previously, we took a look at how BT Pension Scheme (BTPS) made its service fit for the digital age.

In this second part of our 3-part blog series, Roger Higgins, Head of Member Services Technology from BTPS, discusses the Scheme’s member portal, and what the working elements were to drive the initiative forward.

What are your portal’s features and functionalities?

We started by surveying our members, conducting telephone interviews with them, and splitting the member base into different personas.

Different members have different needs and we wanted to build the portal so that if you are a pensioner, you only see information relevant to pensioners; if you have AVCs you see information about them, but you don’t see that information if you don’t.

For people coming up to retirement, it's about understanding their options and the pension calculator is a key tool for them.

BT have also just rolled out a panel of advisors, so they've made engaging with a financial advisor very, very easy for members.

Has the portal increased self-serve?

Since launch in May 2021, we’ve had over 87,000 portal registrations (c. 35% of the member base) exceeding the number of members registered on the previous portal. PASA suggested 10% take up in the first year might be typical where members are required to go through a registration process. To date, members have collectively logged in to the new portal 309,000 times, ran 301,000 calculations and amended 28,000 items of personal information. Month on month we’re seeing increases in the number of members going through the vast majority of their retirement journey online. Last month it was up to 62%, which is a fantastic achievement and one we intend to build on.

How did you get sign-off for the build from the C-suite?

It was complicated, because we ended up buying the software platform at the same time. Once we got comfortable with the business case, we were concerned that the software we were going to use might change in the future due to new ownership, etc.

So, because of our size, we were able to go and buy the software company, which gives us stability. Now we own the platform, we know the direction, we have certainty over the future and we can continue to invest in our platform.

The Exec and the Trustee Board completely supported our objective to deliver members the best service we could. Since bringing our administration in-house, our member satisfaction scores have been improving year on year, but members told us that our digital services needed investment. We listened to that feedback and have created an online service that’s best in class.

Pensions are one of those areas where you can still ring up and be told “the quote is in the post, you'll get it in six weeks”. Whereas to do it digitally helps a member get things done at their own pace.

From idea to launch, how long did the build take? What stakeholders were involved?

From start to end it took two years. Following a period of due diligence and planning in the summer of 2019, we bought the software right at the end of 2019. We started the data migration at the beginning of 2020. At the same time, we started our detailed member research. We wrote to our members and asked them if anyone would like to form a member panel and help us shape the new portal. Within a week, we had 1,500. We were expecting about 30!

We started off the whole design of the portal at the beginning of 2020. And then obviously, we had to start working at home on the project from March due to coronavirus. In some ways, I've told my team, that worked really well because it allowed people to focus on the project without the distraction of being in the office. But then some of the areas around collaboration and testing with members was a bit harder because what you want to do is get them in a room and show designs and judge their reaction. We've had to do all that over Microsoft Teams – like everyone else. We went live in May 2021 – a huge achievement by everyone. So, it took us 16 months in the end from the start of the project.

You’ve had an impressive number of sign-ups (87,000 members).

It's about a third of our members which we’re really pleased with. It’s important to remember that we've got over 200,000 pensioners and for many of them, their priority is just getting paid each month - and that's all they want from us. It's really the 70,000 deferred members that we want to engage with the most so we can help them through the retirement process.

We’ve reached a large number of our deferred members - probably about 80%. Plus, those members that are still employed by BT we registered through a single sign on. So, if they're on a BT computer, they can go straight into the portal without having to register.

How did communications play a part in successful sign-ups?

Communications were critical. We couldn’t carry registrations across from the old portal, so members needed to register again.

We had a long campaign communicating the changes well in advance to avoid any surprises or complaints. We also prepared our call centre for the extra calls and added extra staff.

When we went live, we launched an email campaign to get members to register. But we started off quite small because we wanted to see how it went. We knew that it doesn't matter how well you test software like this, there's going to be a few teething issues.

So, we started off with about 5,000 a week, where we got in touch with them and asked them if they'd like to register on the portal. Then we started ramping up to over 20,000 a week later on. Each communication was tailored for the personas, so for deferred members we focussed on the pensions calculator, for pensioners it was more about ease of self-service, access to P60s, payslips etc. The whole campaign took about six weeks. But registration is just one part, we’re closely monitoring usage across the whole portal using tools like Google Analytics.

Which departments did you collaborate with?

A combination across the whole business. Obviously, there's a strong technology team - making sure that everything's hosted securely with a lot of scalability in our chosen cloud solution. We used people from our member facing teams to redesign all of our workflows from first principles supported by BAs, project managers and people from our operational excellence team. Our technical team built all of the calculations and importantly our reporting team were involved from the start to build in reporting tools to give us an unrivalled level of business insight and information. Our comms team led the design of the new portal and re-write of all of the member communication material. It really was a team effort across the whole of Member Services. It is worth stressing that we also had to deliver our BAU services to our members at the same time!

Training in the run up to go-live was key and doing this remotely was challenging, but this was another area that went really well. We planned a number of dry runs for the go live weekend and these rehearsals really helped make the final go live weekend a success.

Look out for Part 3 when Roger talks about the future of the BT Pension Scheme and gives his advice for any organisation looking to embark upon a similar digital transformation project.

Do Digital. Better.