ESoG / ORA - Effective member communications

20th January, 2022

  • The draft new single code from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) reiterates the legal requirements for various member communications, for example, basic scheme information to members and prospective members, Auto-enrolment notices, statutory financial statements (even the simplified ones), retirement information and nudging, transfer information, various statements and information on scams – to name just a few!

    In terms of an Effective System of Governance (ESoG), the Trustees need to assess how effective their member communications are. In most cases, there will be room for improvement – otherwise we wouldn’t be moving to simplified annual benefit statements.

    Making member communications effective includes looking at the communications from the member’s perspective. To engage the members, the communications themselves need to be engaging.

    Many people approach their finances with a now, tomorrow and later mentality. What do I need now? If I can’t afford ‘later’, I’ll worry about it ‘tomorrow’.

    Importantly, pension saving is a choice and one that can be at a cost of something else.

    Effective member engagement can’t simply be switched on. It’s a journey – but it’s not a linear journey – and it will be different for each member.

    Stages of engagement:

    • Inclusion – Auto-enrolled (I’m included but I’m a passenger, I’ve no idea what is going on).
    • Involvement – I’ve got a joining pack / SMPI – SABS / login instructions sitting in a cabinet and burning away at my sub-conscience.
    • Interest – I’ve read a communication (SMS contribution received on DD/MM of £X, total fund value is £Y) / I’ve signed-up for the online / app service / even tried to read a fund fact sheet.

    But why? What has triggered my interest?

    • Curiosity (positive interest) – typically a planning nudge but could be Scam contact
    • Concern (negative interest) – typically event driven – COVID / age / divorce
    • Investigative – what’s in my joining pack / SMPI – SABS / what’s an EoW / what’s ESG / what’s my dwell time?
    • Intervention – I’ve used the online / app service or called the helpline to take an action / submitted a completed EoW / made an investment switch / NRD switch / sought guidance – PensionsWise / transferred a legacy pension.
    • Education – what are my options / how much do I need / what can I afford / what can’t I afford / what’s my target / why?
    • Understanding – I know what I can do / I’ve set a plan / I know how to measure against my plan / I know that I’m likely to need to revise my plan.
    • Engagement – I’m in control, driving an outcome / I may obtain advice / I’ll know when I’ve achieved each milestone / If I need to make compromises I’ll do so knowingly / I’ll also be revisiting previous stages of engagement on certain parts.

    What’s the key?

    The key is trust. Members are far more likely to engage with a communication from a source they trust.

    Studies have shown that the more their employer is directly engaged with their pension arrangement, the more likely it is that members will also be engaged. According to the 2017 CIPD report, more staff than ever before are interested in obtaining access to advice and guidance from their employer about financial issues1. The reason for this is that employees trust their employer. Trustees we find are also trusted.

    The communication then needs to be plain, understandable, plausible and positive. Empathy mapping is a very effective way to understand member needs, to lead the member on a journey and aid in decision making.

    Type of communication

    Trustees need to consider the type of communication and the desired outcome:

    Tell: generic – increase in Normal Minimum Pension Age

    Tell: specific – the current value of your retirement fund is £X

    Nudge: generic – have a look at this video on pension scams

    Nudge: specific – go online and update your EoW

    Ask: send in a copy of your passport to complete your membership verification

    The type of communication will then typically align to an appropriate effective medium for the communication, for example, a video Chair’s statement compared to 15 pages of A4 for members to read at their leisure.

    The ‘one and done’ mentality for member enquiries has been great for SLAs but really hasn’t helped to engage members. It’s great to see some forward thinking now, for example, ‘You asked for your current fund value, here it is. We note you are over 55 and may be considering taking benefits. If so, have a look at this information and this video on pension scams.’

    Enablement and culture

    The Trustees and the trusted employer should develop an engagement culture over time, to help members create better outcomes. Such action can include:

    • Education in the workplace
    • Engaged employers – if the members don’t see the employer to be engaged with the pension, why should they be?
    • Ease of use – minimal time / 3 clicks
    • Communication – short and frequent, sub 5 mins is ideal / nudge technology
    • Communication style – tell / ask / nudge technology
    • Communication medium – SMS / video / podcast / webinar / on-site / multiple channels
    • Communication source – who from? Provider / Employer / Trustees
    • Interactive Communication – member surveys (sub 5 mins) / helpline / webchat / competitions / online planning tools and stochastic modelling
    • Communication and target audience – age / life events / teachable moments
    • Communication and target audience – where in the stages of engagement is the audience likely to be? / social and financial cohort
    • Communication language – avoid technical / outcome based
    • Communication message – what’s the desired outcome? Awareness / Education / Action / Timebound


    Not all members are the same. Race, culture, language barriers, disability (including neuro disability), financial struggles, family make-up and financial interconnectedness and values. One medium for a particular communication is, therefore, unlikely to engage all of the membership.


    How do Trustees know the communications are effective?

    What are the measurables to understand the effectiveness?

    How do you then track an increased engagement of your membership?

    For employers and trustees, developing communications that are effective and which members respond to will play a vital role in assisting with engaged and informed decision making.

    For members, this is what pensions are all about! 



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    • Published byPaul Tinslay

      Paul Tinslay is a Professional Trustee for DB and DC Pension Schemes, including Chair for Sole Trustee positions, and EGLAS arrangements. With 33 years in the Life and Pensions Industry, Paul has the very rare, if not unique experience of...

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