Auto enrolment is not a ‘one size fits all’ process – it is going to be essential to understand a client’s specific needs and find the right system for each client. Within this communications is going to be a crucial area. This needs to cover both the strategy for the employer’s auto enrolment and achieving engagement. Technology can smooth the communication between adviser, employer and employee, but it is essential to choosing the right communication methods for your audience.
Electronic communications can be great for office based workers or those using mobile technology but does everyone have access to e-mail? What percentage of the potential members have smartphones and if this can’t reach the full audience, is a paper alternative available and what additional costs are involved?
Some firms are hiring additional staff to address auto enrolment but this will become harder for smaller firms. The more you can reduce manual intervention the better.
Support issues are also really important. You have to be clear with the employer what you will need them to provide and when. When considering any auto enrolment solution understand the support available. Who picks up the problems when things go wrong because if you do any volume of such work at some point they will.
Make sure the system is capable of meeting the scale you need, although again this may be less of an issue for smaller firms it is worth understanding how many users an organisation has committed to, can they deliver on promises?
Understanding the payment frequencies supported is crucial. A number of very streamlined systems are emerging but frequently these can only support monthly payroll. How many payroll systems does an employer use and what are the frequencies of pay periods? This will have a big impact on the costs an adviser incurs in servicing an employer.
Having the right data is absolutely essential. Frequently payroll staff are reluctant to provide all the information required at outset because they do not understand the reasons why it is needed.
To help with this F&TRC’s Workplace Forum has recently created a guide to the data needed, which highlights the information required, why it is needed and the consequences of not having the right data. This is designed to be used with directors of firms at the initial meeting stage to help them understand the importance of such data. It can be downloaded free of charge from http://www.advisersoftware.com/Images/pdf/GuideforEmployersAdvisersInformation.pdf where advisers can also obtain advanced access to our Quality Analyser Auto Enrolment proposition comparison service.
Our discussions with adviser firms who have been successfully running auto enrolment programs overwhelmingly agree that technology is vital to success. The right solution needs to clearly recognise the needs of individual employers, one size will rarely fit all. For example online solutions may not always be the right answer. To carry out an effective assessment advisers must understand what other technology is in use within the business. What payroll systems are in place, what HR systems are used, where does the crucial data necessary to achieve auto enrolment reside within the employer?
It is also important for the adviser to consider their own operating environment, how will they support auto enrolment activity? Will this be achieved by your own office based staff, will you be able to provide onsite assistance as the employer stages, is it time to implement remote support using systems like Go To Meeting, Webex or Skype? All of these now deliver screen sharing capabilities so enabling the adviser to see what the employers staff are doing on their desktops.
The frequent pronouncements of pensions minister Steve Webb and others that employers will be able to address auto enrolment on their own simply do not hold water. Even Nest is stating publically that there is a major need for advisers to help employers with their responsibilities. There are real shortfalls in the numbers of advisers able to help employers so this must represent a massive opportunity for adviser firms to grow their businesses.
To do so successfully however it is essential that advisers have a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the different technology solutions available to employers and to be able to align individual needs to individual organisations. With a real capacity crunch in the market, successful auto enrolment will be as much a matter of knowing who can effectively fit where, not trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Those advisers who recognise this and advise accordingly will be the most successful.