Voices from Accenture Public Service

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In my first blog, we went beyond the data to explore the retirement information gap that confronts members and asked how pension agencies can bridge it. As I said there, it all begins by asking members the right questions and then aligning the results with what your organization’s strategies and capabilities actually are. So far, so good.

But if we establish that there is an information gap, what does it look like and what information do members feel they don’t have? And that’s where things get more complicated. Our research shows that 77 percent of active and retired employees want more knowledge and understanding about retirement options and 82 percent want more education on retirement planning.

Clearly, there’s a big space to fill. However, most active employees, 69 percent, also told us that their pension organization does, in fact, give them enough information. So why the apparent contradiction?

I think that, once again, looking beyond the data can provide some useful insights. Information from a single provider about a single product is more than likely fit for purpose to meet members’ needs for information about that specific, discrete product. However, planning for retirement for most people today is a much more complex proposition. Most employees will move from one employer to another a number of times throughout the course of their working lives. The shift from defined benefit to defined contribution plans is another factor, putting the onus on individuals to take more responsibility to save for their retirement. And most people today will have a range of sources for their retirement income.

It’s the interplay between these different factors that explains the apparent discrepancy highlighted by our research. What members lack is the ability to understand the totality of the variable influences that will determine whether or not they achieve their retirement goals.

In order to truly plan effectively, employees need a holistic view of their income projections, the ability to estimate their replacement income needs and understand their options about how best to draw down or decumulate their retirement savings in the most effective way across all sources. And that information is what’s missing today.

What does this mean for pension organizations? They need to consider how they deliver the best value to their members. And that almost certainly means adopting a more holistic approach to helping members comprehensively plan for retirement.

Some pension organizations are responding by adding new capabilities to their modeling tools. These enable members to aggregate their retirement benefits from not just their pensions, but from other savings too.  But this needs to go further. Fitting together all the different pieces of the pension puzzle is challenging. It’s clear that what members really need is support in developing and managing a balanced portfolio that takes all risks into account, can help prioritize decumulation and assess the merits of plans and products against individual needs.

Pension organizations are ideally placed to deliver this. Why? Because members trust them as impartial entities whose only ‘vested interest’ is securing their members’ long-term financial wellbeing. The trust they have built with members makes pension organizations the natural place for the 84 percent of people who (our research reveals) want support and coaching throughout their lives.

Some agencies may, in time (as one in Canada already has), evolve into a fiduciary role. Others may not want to go that far. But whatever their strategy, they will need to collaborate within broad ecosystems of partners to make sure members get the holistic support they so obviously want and need. And that’s the subject of my next Beyond the Data blog.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your views about the support and coaching you believe your members need. Please share your thoughts below.

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

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