Created
26 May, 2022

The BT Pension Scheme (BTPS) is the UK’s largest private sector pension scheme.

In 2021, they introduced a fully web-based platform to improve the service it delivered for its approx. 275,000 members. It has introduced a number of benefits to members, including the ability to update their personal information quickly online and a pension calculator to help members decide how and when to take their pension.

In this 3-part blog series, we speak to Roger Higgins, Head of Member Services Technology about how BTPS made its services fit for the digital age.

In this first blog, we take a look at the progress BTPS has made…

How engaged are your members at BTPS?

Engagement is not a problem we struggle with at BTPS, although I accept that this is certainly a common problem elsewhere in the industry.

The average age of our members is 68 and, in many cases, their BTPS benefits make up a large proportion of their benefits. They care about us a lot as a result.

Of our approx. 275,000 members, 200,000 of them are retired and are already taking their benefits – they just want to make sure they continue to get paid every month! Where there is more of an opportunity for us to engage is with our deferred population - supporting them with their retirement decisions.

There’s a lot of complexity in the Scheme and we want members to spend time fully considering their options, modelling their benefits and, where appropriate, taking advice before they make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives. This is especially pertinent when it comes to pension transfers.

You talk about the opportunity to engage your “deferred population”, so what are you trying to do to engage that different population?

Choosing how and when to take your pension is one of the biggest decisions you take in life. We want our members to fully understand all their options; when they can retire, how much cash they can take and whether they should take Pension Increase Exchange (PIE). This is where a member can choose to give up some of their future pension increase for a higher annual pension straight away.

We want them to fully engage, easily find the information they need, and feel confident about the choices they make. Ultimately, we want them to feel that the whole process was positive.

We’ve used videos to help explain things simply. The more we can get people to actually engage with retirement planning, rather than go, “wow, it's too difficult”, the better.

Is there an incentive for you to get your older members to retire?

There's no incentive for us. We just want to help people through that journey and we recognise it's really difficult. It's not like booking a holiday on Expedia, which before Covid you might do a couple of times a year.

We know that our audience can do things digitally, but we know things like planning your retirement and making your will are the things you just put to the back of the queue despite knowing we should do them. So our job is to nudge people along and reassure them that it’s actually not that scary, and they’re not going to accidentally retire online just by clicking a button and getting confused.

We also know that some people want to watch a video, and that’ll be the right way for them whilst others want to speak to somebody on the end of a phone so we've got a UK call centre for that. Members who call us will get an answer incredibly quickly. They'll talk to a well-informed person, and they'll help them through if they’re stuck on something. In our case, we want to engage them early, we don't want them just to put it off. We want members to realise that their pension will be quite a large part of their retirement income and they should really try and understand it, and not be afraid.

You have an engagement sweet spot of 58, but you would like to engage with members earlier. What are you doing to try and engage younger members?

When it comes to retirement planning, 58 is our sweet spot, but we want to engage with everyone.

With our younger members we want them to register on our new portal and start to get familiar with their options by watching or reading our educational material. It’s important to remember that a large part of our membership is already retired and they still have questions. They want to know when their pension going to be paid each month and the amount, what their pension increase going to look like, what happens to their pension when they die, how do they sort out passing their pension on to their beneficiary.

What is an easy way to engage members?

Short videos work really well, breaking complex topics into bite sized chunks.

We also know that just talking to people on the phone works too. We had a call centre that was offshore, and we've now brought it back onshore. We've got the call centre sitting in the same place as our administrators, so that they really do understand what the member needs are, and we can answer their questions quickly.

Do you differentiate the information for different demographics?

We tend not to split it that much by demographic. We did some research with our members a couple of years ago, and we split them into about 18 different personas.

You can have 70 year-olds who are incredibly active on Facebook, who understand it all, they do their banking online, and they just want to be able to click and find information easily. If they want to change a form or update something, they can get straight to it. So, we need to push that information on the portal.

We've got other people where we know they don't want to go anywhere near a portal. They want to speak to somebody, and they want somebody to send something in the post. We'd like to reduce our paper, but we know some people want to continue to receive their paper pay slip in the post and when it doesn't arrive, they're on the phone asking what's happened - which is a cost to the business.

When we did our research two years ago, our members fed back to us that pensions are important; they need to do it on a laptop with a big screen. And then two years later, we're finding over half of people are logging in on the portal on a mobile device. So, it's very quickly changed, but our website is responsive, so it works very well on a portable mobile device as well.

We also know that some people like watching videos, and some people like reading. So, we've got written guides and videos. We also know that some people want to just speak to someone on the end of the phone so, we’ve made the call centre very, very responsive. I think they answer the calls in 15 seconds!

Look out for Part 2 in our series when Roger talks more about getting the basics right to drive pensions engagement.

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