Three years ago, when a small group of us set out to build the J&rgonFree business, I had a pretty clear idea of what it was we were looking to achieve.
It was simple. If we could adapt intelligent middleware to help employers comply with the duties laid on them by the 2008 Pensions Act, we could possibly hold the key to the SME and micro-employer markets in the UK. Those firms employ half the employees in the UK workforce, the forgotten half, the other half who, after 50 years of pension scheme development in our country, still today find themselves as pension outsiders.
The sad fact is that it is only those employees who work for big employers who are lucky enough to be offered pension schemes and other valuable workplace benefits by their employers. That is the way it has been for 50 years here, so long that we have come to think of it as being normal but it is not, is it? That had to change, of course, and these truly revolutionary reforms will spread workplace pensions to all UK employees for the first time in our history.
But it is not something that will happen on its own. The right to opt out of pension schemes has also been handed to employees as part of the reforms. That too is right but it will present a very real challenge to those of us engaged in helping to spread pension coverage.
Pensions and other workplace benefits will need to be explained to employers and employees in a way that engages them and leads to them being truly valued both by businesses and individuals.
To be honest, our track record for engaging employees and employers in pensions and workplace benefits in the UK is not that good. Indeed, in my view, we have done a bad job of communicating the benefits and advantages of workplace savings. Our industry will either have to get a whole lot better at communicating with its techno-savvy end users or stand in the shadows and watch other new and younger businesses demonstrate how to take pensions and workplace benefits to the forgotten half of the working population.
My decision to use intelligent middleware, the most powerful communication medium in the workplace, as the bedrock of our J&rgonFreeBenefits product was right. A single platform that would wrap up all the many systems smaller employers cope with to run their businesses would be the true corporate wrap that many have spoken about for many years now.
I knew it instinctively nearly eight years ago when I first started thinking about the post-2012 markets. I knew it three years ago when we established the J&rgonFree brand and I know it for sure now that we are finally ready to launch our productin time for the onset of auto-enrolment this summer.
Steve Bee is managing partner at Paradigm Pensions