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This Event Summary is also available to download (PDF, 308KB).
An engaging and insightful event dedicated to Corporate Advisers and EBCs. Scottish Widows were delighted to host a packed room of Advisers at our event, hosted by Head of Workplace Business Development, Jill Henderson. Jill set the scene on the scale of change financial services, and the UK have seen over recent years – from cost of living and market volatility to political upheaval, conflict, and the climate emergency.
To put this in context and discuss the impact on pensions and savings, our Chief Economist, Angus Armstrong, gave an insightful and informative update, covering all the above but also touching on US politics, oil contracts, globalisation, inflation, and banking regulation changes.
While inflation may see a short term fall, it won’t be enough to solve the cost of living pressures, and although only around 6% of mortgages have remortgaged this year, fixed rate protections will only last so long, and people will start to see the real impact when these fixed terms end.
Questions were raised in the room and these focused on what’s ahead of us – what will the new ‘norm’ be like and what intervention can we really expect from national government policy?
Nature under the spotlight
Picking up on one of these global issues was Maria Nazarova-Doyle, Head of Responsible Investments and Stewardship. She provided an alarming but essential update on the scale of the nature crisis. With 2/3s of the rainforests destroyed and 83% of wild animals now wiped out, we need to tackle nature and sustainability to make an impact.
There are around £3 trillion of assets in UK pension schemes. This is a unique position to influence sustainability and Scottish Widows is playing its part. The ‘find your impact’ tool launched over a year ago and is providing valuable insight into members' views and priorities. There’s a link to the first year report at the end.
Questions explored what Scottish Widows are doing and how we can help shape and influence and making the connection between pensions investments and climate action for members.
Investing for tomorrow
Investments Director, Iain McGowan gave an overview of asset allocation, and performance of our Pension Investment Approaches (PIAs) over the last 10 years. He explained the focus on equities for long term performance, and our move to a more globally balanced approach. He talked about illiquid investments, providing choice for members to creative diversification, and tailoring guidepaths as people approach their retirement.
Advisers asked about our investment approach, the diversifying of bonds, and the move away from property. They stressed the importance of simplicity for those who wish to switch funds/approach.
Event Podcast - Value For Money
Scottish Widows hosted its’ first live podcast, chaired by Robert Cochran, Pensions Specialist. On the panel were Independent Policy Adviser, Darren Philp, Professional Trustee, Joanne Fairbairn and Head of Policy, Pete Glancy.
The panel discussed the current consultation and Pete framed what the VFM consultation is trying to achieve and how competing agendas risk creating confusion.
Joanne considers the review on balance a positive move for members but must look wider than simply cost and ensure that metrics are effectively used and prompt real action. Darren explained that the consultation needs to be clear in the problem it’s trying to solve, and be wider that the current focus on costs and charges; retail versus workplace.
There were lots of questions – from the review motivation and concerns over shifting focus to short term benchmarks, to risks in comparing schemes targeting different societal demographics, and through different charging structures. All this while mindful of members' views who don’t all fully understand pension investments, and with the spectre of UK Productive Finance hanging over the consultation.
Listen to the Podcast on Podbean.
Putting it into action auto escalation client case study
It was great to hear from Roy Brown, Jaguar Land Rover, on their successful approach to improving member outcomes.
With the pension funding disparity between DB and DC schemes, they worked with their trade union to move all 9000 scheme members up from the lowest contribution tier. Members had the choice to opt back down but as a result of a well managed consultation and communication process, only a handful changed back. Questions focused on the process considerations, affordability, and maximising member engagement during the changes. The use of their staff app played a big part in making this easy for members.
A roadmap of support and innovation
Ross McKie, Head of Proposition explained that the member experience and increasing engagement are core to our development roadmap. He covered a wide range of projects including our digital ecosystem.
With 59% of UK adults having low-moderate financial numeracy skills, inclusive design and delivery drives digital development. Fund switching, and digital retirement functionality are coming later this year.
Ross updated on our financial wellbeing support and showcased the Be Money Well site, with over 70K views since launching in autumn. The financial foundations tool, video benefit statements, employer workplace insights, and open finance are all coming this year.
Questions focused on engagement with the app and the member feedback we've received through 'Find your impact' feature – a link is provided below.
Reinvesting for our customers
Reflecting on the day, Workplace Pensions Director Graeme Bold highlighted the way Scottish Widows is making significant investment in engaging members of workplace pension schemes, and creating a great personalised digital experience.
The core message from Graeme was that our clients (whether advisers, employers or employees) are at the heart of Scottish Widows' approach – reinvesting in the business, personalising experiences, and embracing growth at the heart of future strategy.
The following pages and documents were discussed during the event and can be accessed below:
Strategic Asset Allocation report (PDF, 2MB)
Nature and biodiversity report (PDF, 3MB)
Find your Impact report (PDF, 4MB)
‘There’s a knowledge, warmth and humour to your people that makes me want to do business with you’ – Adviser attending
‘A fantastic day getting into the nitty gritty of VFM. Great to hear how one of our key clients is tackling this’ – Jill Henderson, Head of Business Development