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Delivering advice and guidance in the workplace

Three advisers share their ideas and experiences of helping employees with their financial decisions

The workplace is instrumental in engaging people to save for retirement. How are advisers helping employers provide advice or guidance to their employees?

Telephone guidance

Financial education provider and advice firm Wealth at Work recently launched a telephone guidance service to help employees understand their financial options at retirement.

“It needed to be a remote service because some schemes have deferred members, and the telephone was the best option, as every member can have access to it. Cost was also an issue, and a telephone system is cheaper to do,” says Wealth at Work director Jonathan Watts-Lay.

“We’ve always had informal guidance like a helpline where the employer retains us to answer questions from people who are thinking of retiring and to point them to regulated financial advice. This service is formalising that guidance, so rather than answering ad hoc pension questions, the same team asks a formal set of questions.”

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Watts-Lay says the fixed set of questions ensures that guidance does not tip over into regulated financial advice. “The questions we go through talk about the options very generically; they cover the advantages and disadvantages.
We never give opinions or tell someone what they should do.”

The service costs £2,500 to set up, and after each call, members receive a written report of their options. Each report costs employers £150, and will flag up anything that warrants regulated advice.

“The service is very much positioned so members can go anywhere they want for advice. However, some of the schemes that have signed up might negotiate preferential rates with us for regulated advice for members.”

Pension advice vouchers

Adam Price, chief executive of VouchedFor and financial planning firm Hatch, has devised a pension advice voucher scheme, which resembles the childcare voucher scheme.

The pension advice vouchers allow employees to spend up to £500 of their pre-tax earnings on advice. However, unlike childcare vouchers, employees pay the advice themselves initially, then request a reimbursement from their employer under a salary sacrifice arrangement.

“New rules came into play that allowed salary sacrifice in the workplace but nobody had built anything to make it practical,” says Price. “As we had VouchedFor, it was possible for us to create something quickly, and we got it launched by December.”

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Price recognised the need for checks and balances to be built into the system to ensure advisers are registered with VouchedFor and that requests for reimbursement are genuine. To do this, he was able to take the existing platform VouchedFor uses to verify client reviews of advisers and use it for a slightly different purpose.

“To raise awareness of the vouchers we are speaking to advisers, who log into VouchedFor and invite their clients to claim a voucher. We are also going direct to employers and employers are also coming to us,” he says.

Price believes the voucher system is a good introduction to the workplace for advisers trying to get into that market.

Retirement relationship managers

JLT Employee Benefits unveiled its guidance service, the Pension Decision Service, at the end of last year. To reduce the burden that questions relating to pension freedoms had placed on its admin team, JLT created the role of retirement relationship manager for the service.

“We administer 3,300 schemes and are keen on getting feedback from members. Of our five million members, about 30,000 go through retirement every year. We want to find out what they were anxious about and they just wanted someone to talk to,” says Pension Decision Service, JLT Employee Benefits, director Richard Williams.

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Retirement relationship managers have some qualifications but are not fully regulated. Williams says there is a framework to ensure the guidance stays within the correct boundaries.

“We don’t want anything too scripted as the member won’t then get the best experience,” he says. “We record all calls and there is an automated system that picks up things that are anywhere near advice.”

There are also teams that go through cases to ensure guidance does not stray into advice. Where advice is required, members are directed to Unbiased or to JLT’s advisers if they prefer.

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