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Annie Hayes



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The big ‘pensions’ interview … continued


HR Zone Q9: Can HR professionals and recruiters turn the pensions issue to their advantage?
Boulding: What is important is the perceived value that an employee attaches to a pension scheme. A moderate pension scheme that is well presented will have a greater perceived value than an expensive scheme that is poorly perceived. So HR professionals and recruiters can use their communication skills to leverage competitive advantage out of the pension scheme, without it having to cost the sponsoring employer an arm and a leg.

HR Zone Q10: Can pensions ever be a reality for young workers struggling to get on the property ladder and what does the bricks and mortar challenge mean for pensions provision?
Boulding: It's all a question of balance. Young employees will have other high priorities, not just housing but possibly also life assurance and debt repayment. Initially, pension contributions should therefore be kept quite modest, perhaps just enough to trigger an employer contribution. The new post A-Day environment will allow for a degree of ‘catch up’ later on in life, but not if the gap to be closed is too great.

HR Zone Q11: Are cafeteria-style reward schemes ethical? If an employee selects lifestyle options such as health and well-being over pension’s contributions is this right? Should employers police pension provisions?
Boulding: I have a view that it is unethical to offer employees choice without appropriate education alongside it. So cafeteria style reward schemes are fine, and will be popular with staff, provided enough help and advice is given. A communication programme, perhaps with independent advice seminars is called for. Then the employees can feel really empowered to exercise their new choices.

HR Zone Q12: Is life-long learning and working the only option to the shortfall?
Boulding: No, because I'm planning to retire at 60 and my better half hopes I'll choose to go even earlier than that! It's just a matter of saving enough first. The earlier you start saving the better, as a delay of just five years can make a big difference.

HR Zone Q13: Which companies in your mind are stepping up to the pensions challenge?
Boulding: Companies fall into one of two types today. Some see pensions as a cost, and do everything they can to contain that cost. Others see pensions as an important and tax efficient part of their remuneration package, are keen to promote them to staff, and work hard to maximise the take up. It is the latter that will bet the best return from their pension investment.

HR Zone Q14: What are you final thoughts on pensions provision?
Boulding: In the 1960's there were seven million Britons over age 65. By the middle of this century there will be 17 million. Ignore all the bad news and cries of despondency, those of us working in pensions are in a growth industry.

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Annie Hayes


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