I saw a tweet from a millennial the other week that said: “Do you know what’s boring? Emails from your pension scheme.”
It is certainly not easy to bring pension communications to life when there is so much regulation that governs how figures are presented. What do lines of complex and sometimes depressing numbers mean to the lay person?
The job of advisers is to bring those figures to life and help either prevent the nightmare or make the dream come true. But all the time consumers are disengaged this will remain a challenge.
The thing is, while pensions may seem boring, life assurance, of all things, has got exciting. Looking after your health opens you up to freebies, discounts and opportunities to lower premiums.
And it is not just Vitality standing out in this sector. Virgin has also entered the fun stakes by getting behind oh-so-cool running festivals in key locations in order to get target markets engaging with its brand.
The job of advisers is to bring pension figures to life and help either prevent the nightmare or make the dream come true
Boring banking got interesting too, with new entrant Metro Bank and its initiatives such as inviting dogs in store and providing premises to have businesses networking events.
These types of movers and shakers are far from perfect entities but they are seemingly forgiven because fans buy into their willingness to challenge the status quo.
Indeed, while Virgin shook up charges in the pension industry back in 1996 by coming out with a 1 per cent annual management charge – the lowest by far at the time – they still stand at that level today, making it one of the highest chargers.
Meanwhile, go just over 120/80 and you do not get Vitality points for your blood pressure reading. It is enough to make you blood boil but I suppose you can see what it is trying to do.
Reaching out to customers
Prudential leads the way in engaging with consumers via charitable sponsorship deals, still deeply embedded in the annual Ride London cycling event, which attracts the attention of many families. But a lot of the more traditional insurers still have a way to go in this respect.
Many trundle on with their almost mandatory charitable causes which few know about. The Aviva Community fund does deserve a mention but for two contrasting reasons. Just look at the list of benefactors and it is really quite impressive how local it gets.
But its arguably self-publicising social media shout out for deserving causes also attracts some painful Facebook comments from existing customers – “just cut the cost of my car insurance!” being one example. At least it is trying.
Cut the boring
So what ideas might there be to engage pensions consumers in the future? For those not into fitness, how about a fat-free “Standard Lite Burger” or foodie deals at the other end of the scale: “eat as much as you like until it is Aegon”?
Seriously, though, if pension illustrations continue as they are, with cold projections based on outdated annuities at rock-bottom rates, things will remain boring for consumers.
Throw in an animation of the Churchill dog tilting his head in dismay and something might happen.
But for now one thing is sure: whether it is to save people from themselves or make dreams come true, financial planners are the life of pensions.
Mel Kenny is a chartered financial planner at Radcliffe & Newlands