Voices from Accenture Public Service

Something you should know about me is that I have a passion for data. But I never take the numbers at face value. To get to new insights, I ask questions, explore context, develop hypotheses—and even challenge conventional wisdom. That’s how I’ll approach my blogs, starting with this post. I’ll use pensions data as a jumping off point and see where it takes me. I certainly don’t have all the answers, so please share your thoughts and join me in going beyond the data.

Our latest Accenture Pensions survey reveals that 75 percent of public pension plan employees want more information about their retirement options. At first glance, most of us would say that this data tells a straightforward story that public pension plan employees are hungry for information. So much so that even the 44 percent of members who believe they already have advanced knowledge today feel they could use more.

pension agencies _graph showing public employees' knowledge and understanding of retirement optionsThere’s more nuance to explore here. This data calls to mind a debate happening across the public pensions community today—something that’s been the subject of a lot of conversations with our pension clients lately. Pension agencies are struggling to determine the extent of educational services they should be providing to meet members’ unmet needs for retirement information.

This debate is one of mandate versus social responsibility. On one side, there’s the belief that in a resource-strapped environment, public pension agencies should focus solely on their mandate to balance fund sustainability and benefit adequacy. On the other side, these agencies hold a position of trust with their members and there’s the belief that providing retirement information is simply the right thing to do regardless of whether it’s core to the mission.

“Doing the right thing” is a challenge in itself. When people say they want more information about retirement options, what exactly do they mean? It’s a critical question with no one right answer. Members’ needs run the gamut. That’s why pension agencies must stop assuming they know what their membership wants and start engaging with them in new ways to clearly understand their unique needs and expectations.

As my colleague Teri Bennett explains in a recent blog, Design Thinking is an innovative method that pension organizations can use to understand different member types. It’s a highly collaborative and interactive approach that allows organizations to see the services they provide through their customers’ eyes and use data insights to tailor truly relevant interactions and service delivery.

When pension agencies start with this member-focused, outside-in perspective informed by data insights, they are in a more informed position to solve for both sides of the debate. They can deliver relevant retirement information that empowers members to make the right decisions with the right information at the right time while staying true to their core mandate.

There’s a spectrum of information services that pension agencies can offer to get the appropriate level and type of information to members. They can simplify the information they provide today, make the information more personal through scenario building, act as retirement coaches offering nudges and reminders across the journey to retirement, or even provide full financial advisory services.

Pension agencies are well positioned to fill the retirement information gap for members. But broad-brush, one-size-fits-all approaches won’t be effective. Good thing there’s a wide array of information and advisory roles for agencies to explore. And a great way to find out what’s right for you and your members is to start by asking them the right questions, and then aligning the results with your organization’s strategy and capabilities.

What about you? What responsibility do you think pension agencies have here? Please share your thoughts at the bottom of this blog.

To learn more, visit www.accenture.com/pension and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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