Just as the unexpected can disrupt our personal lives, unforeseen events can disrupt businesses. You only have to look at the Covid-19 pandemic to see how something that could not be predicted a year ago is having a massive impact on firms’ ability to go about their usual business.
Although we have just come out of Lockdown V2, it is likely that it will still be sometime before our working lives get back to ‘normal’, however; for many businesses business as usual must continue and it means that workplace pension providers have had to adopt new working methods to ensure they can continue to deliver the services their clients and members need.
All providers in our analysis are all well placed to continue running as ‘normal’ during these times. For all providers at least 95 per cent of their staff are able to work remotely, which has helped maintain ‘business as usual’ during the recent Covid-19 related national lockdowns.
Our data also shows that staff who are working remotely can do the majority of their role away from the office. Most providers say remote workers can do 100 per cent of their job but even at the lowest end of the spectrum, 90 per cent can carry out their roles from home.
However, most providers acknowledge that there are some duties that staff cannot do while working remotely with traditional post duties mentioned frequently as an example of something that staff cannot do remotely. Other tasks that need staff to be present in the office include physical security, mailroom scanning and cashing cheques.
We asked each provider to share a statement to explain in more detail how they have adapted during these difficult times and what processes and procedures they have put in place to ensure they have managed to maintain their usual high service standards.
Aegon responded quickly as a business at the outbreak of the pandemic. Enabling our people to work from home to continue servicing our clients was top priority. We implemented a comprehensive communication strategy to ensure all of our employers and scheme members were reassured that we continued to do business as usual and how they could contact us.
We then focused on how we could support them as they adapted to the new and changing environment. For employers we provided templates of reassurance messages for them to share with their members. We produced a suite of short films based on insight from our Operations teams into what were the most commonly asked questions from employers and members.
A key priority was promoting the importance of financial wellbeing, we developed some short films and articles giving helpful guidance on what employers and members could do. We held webinars for employers helping them understand the impact of investment volatility and we contacted specific groups of members who were at a vulnerable time in their retirement planning.
Over the past eight months at Aviva, we’ve been working tirelessly servicing our clients, while continuously keeping them up to date with what we’ve been doing in these challenging times.
We’ve adapted and executed with pace by creating several different information packages to help support our client base. For example, the online coronavirus hub, which is full of information to support clients during the pandemic.
We also included details of operational changes, so we can continue to provide excellent service when our clients need us. By April, we had close to 100% of our staff working remotely, which ensured that service levels were maintained.
We’ve also been able to continue to improve some of our operational activity, which included a change of approach in our contact teams. This has seen substantial improvement in the telephone call answer rate and speed to answer.
While there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, we won’t rest. We will continue to service our clients as and when they need us.
Fidelity has a tried and tested Business Continuity Plan in place. All non-essential staff have been able to work from home from outset. Unlike other providers, Fidelity has been fully operational this year with no helpdesk closures, restrictions or service issues. Service standards also continue to perform above average and Fidelity achieved 99.9% SLA against published targets through H1 2020 and reached a record-breaking Member NPS score of +65 in June 2020.
Fidelity has delivered an extensive communication and engagement plan to support members and clients through the effects of Covid-19. This includes new website content, regular email updates, podcasts and digital webinars.
Fidelity has also still been able to deliver on their development roadmap with the following items released this year as scheduled:
- A new member site
- Financial Wellness Score
- A Real-time Retirement Income Tool
- Investment Pathways
- An enhanced MI report
Fidelity has been sufficiently prepared for the changing environment and have continued to deliver the high-quality service that both members and clients have come to expect from them.
HL Workplace has upheld an exceptional client service with 97% of us working remotely. Highlights below.
- Communications – our multichannel proactivity has kept members informed throughout. For example, to better understand market volatility and warning about Covid-19 pension scams and how to raise concerns of fraud.
- Financial education – we provide regular, free, guidance webinars for all members. Financial resilience, budgeting and debt management, default fund performance, volatility, and retirement have all proved popular with great feedback.
- Helpdesk – we maintained 100% capacity and answered a phenomenal number of calls (for example, a spike of 29,608 calls week commencing 30th March).
- Online and administration functionality – the website, mobile app, and administration services have operated with full functionality and no downtime. Currently 82% of Workplace members have registered for online access.
- Support for companies, our clients – our Client Relationship Managers offer significant support (within 24 hours). For example, around furloughing employees, the impact on pension contributions, and stock market volatility. We have also successfully launched new schemes during this period.
LEGAL & GENERAL
At this challenging time our priority continues to be looking after our customers, safeguarding the wellbeing of our employees and supporting the needs of the broader society through inclusive capitalism. Customers continue to rely on us to pay pensions and annuities. In some areas of our business we’re dealing with more anxious or distressed customers because of COVID-19. Our institutional clients too are looking to us to provide guidance in the wake of disruption to financial markets. As a business we are taking decisions on the welfare of our people, and the needs of our customers and clients combined.
We’re doing all we can to meet our customer service and call answering targets and all of our important and critical processes are performing strongly. We’ve quickly introduced some new ways of working and made significant improvements to our online accessibility and tools. We’ve also ensured that our post room and scanning teams have maintained a good service level throughout this time, meaning that we have not excluded customers who may not be able to take advantage of our digital channels. Supported by our established agile working technology most of our people are able to effectively work away from our offices, and our systems are able to withstand a sustained period of home working.
Most of our customer service support is now able to be provided, securely, outside the office. We have absolutely prioritised essential services, including payments to our customers. Finally, we are providing additional support for our people’s mental and physical wellbeing to sustain and support at this time.
2020 has been a year like no other. Keeping us at the top of our game during the coronavirus pandemic have been our people. And while we put people at the heart of our service, everything we do is underpinned by smart technology. In real terms, this meant that within days of the lockdown 98% of our people were working from home. This in turn meant we were able to deliver service as normal, at a time that was anything but.
We listened to what advisers, employers and customers were saying and quickly adapted our processes to fit, with a strong focus on digital enhancements.
We’ve maintained our excellent service standards and have added to our collection of awards, voted for by the financial adviser community.
“Our focus has been on supporting customers and advisers through the challenges associated with Covid-19. There has been no disruption to our award-winning customer service which was due to the immense effort from colleagues.” – Barry O’Dwyer, Group Chief Executive of Royal London
SALVUS MASTER TRUST (CUSHON)
In March, both Cushon (the funder of Salvus) and HS Administration (the administrators) closed their offices in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.
Cushon already operated a flexible working model, with all employees equipped to work from home using cloud-based systems, so there was no impact to the business – indeed March was a record month for contributions into Cushon ISA products.
For HS Admin, the team were promptly equipped with home-working equipment and where applicable, processes were adapted. The net result was a seamless continuation of service, and all staff connected to the Master Trust have adapted extremely well to the challenges posed. Management monitor productivity and service levels on a continuing basis, and these are reported to the Trustees. We are delighted to report that neither productivity nor service levels were adversely affected during the pandemic and period of home working,
All parties have worked to ensure that all scheme members and employers have kept up to date with developments. Regular updates are posted on the website and on the member and employer portals.
Supporting customers, clients and colleagues through these challenging times is paramount to us. We quickly enabled colleagues to work remotely whilst maintaining service standards, and provided training on supporting customers in the changing environment. We monitored customer activity and reacted accordingly, such as creating digital content and Benefit Statement inserts to provide information on the impact of market volatility. We responded to peaks in demand by re-allocating resource, improving processes and launching a virtual assistant.
We created Covid-19 information hubs for Customers, Employers and Advisers, updated scheme-specific sites and developed and shared a variety of content through a range of channels. This included our popular Covid-19 employer webinar and our ‘Expert Sessions’ films, receiving over 1m views. We’ve provided bespoke scheme-specific support and relaunched our employee engagement and financial wellness propositions as updated and digital offerings. We’ve also successfully moved client meetings, pitches and presentations to virtual format, adapting to our clients’ needs.
Whilst we’ve ensured digital access to support, we’ve also focused on vulnerable customers, including prioritising phone lines and maintaining a multi-channel approach.
In response to COVID-19, our priority was ensuring the wellbeing of our employees, and supporting the needs of members, clients, trustees and their advisers. In terms of our staff, 99% were equipped to work from home within 10 days of the first lockdown. We rolled out enhanced management oversight reporting to help us monitor service levels, member experience, productivity and colleague wellbeing closely. We maintained our service levels and our customer satisfaction level across the Group was above 90% at the end of April.
We moved very quickly to support members through the pandemic. We added more ‘stop and think’ messages in for members to help reassure and protect them, especially from pension scams. This also covered increased messaging on market volatility including onserts to all annual benefit statements. A new Covid-19 member hub was also established to provide further support.
We also worked with Cowry Consulting, our behavioural insights partner, to support more vulnerable members, including identifying and supporting with the increase in financial hardship.
We were already seeing an increase in the use of digital and this has accelerated more in recent months. Members are engaging more than ever before with webinars – we have seen an up to 300% increase in attendance at our retirement webinars. It is important for us to continue to offer support and guidance across all channels so we are there for all members, irrespective of how they choose to engage with us.
Since 23rd March 2020, all of our servicing staff have been working remotely from their homes. True Potential technology was always designed to allow us to be fully functional wherever in the world our staff were and we prepared with a series of practice days before lockdown began. As a result, we transitioned seamlessly to fulltime home working with no downtime and are pleased to say that all services have been fully operational during this time. Our clients can contact us 8am-8pm weekdays by phone, email, live chat, secure message or video call.
Whilst working remotely we have also expanded our servicing teams, reduced our response times and developed exciting new features for our clients. This includes the brand new True Potential Investor app and the launch of True Potential Rewards, allowing clients to get money back from their everyday purchases and automatically add it to their pension.
All providers who were able to provide a statement have demonstrated how they we able to act quickly to introduce new measures to ensure that their staff, clients, and members were affected as little as possible, while they continued to be serviced to the highest of standards. Well done to all for doing such a great job, during what has been one of the strangest times in history.