Quietroom https://quietroom.co.uk/ Strategy and writing Mon, 30 Nov 2020 09:46:13 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://quietroom.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/cropped-quietroom-q-logo-site-icon-32x32.png Quietroom https://quietroom.co.uk/ 32 32 Why technical documents are the wrong tool for the job if we want to engage https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/10/01/technical/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/10/01/technical/#respond Thu, 01 Oct 2020 07:50:30 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=48119 Few people run a bath, light some candles and relax with a Statement of Investment Principles. Few people stay up too late, or miss their stops, because they’re engrossed in an Implementation Statement. So why are we using them to give members essential information?

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Why technical documents are the wrong tool for the job if we want to engage

Written by Rhys Williams

Regulators compel pension schemes to disclose lots of information to their members. But the levers of choice are governance documents that weren’t originally meant for members to read. There’s a better way.  

Few people run a bath, light some candles and relax with a Statement of Investment Principles. Few people stay up too late, or miss their stops, because they’re engrossed in an Implementation Statement. Nobody would be thrilled to find a Chair’s Statement at the bottom of their Christmas stocking. They’re just not that gripping a read.

So why are we using them to give members essential information?

The notion comes, like most notions do, from a good place. Most people don’t realise their pension money is invested (whether as the assets of a defined benefit scheme, or the pots of a defined contribution one). They don’t understand where the money goes, what it does, what impact it’s having or why that matters. In the same way, many don’t understand who trustees are or what they do. 

With a bit of extra knowledge, the thinking goes, they’d feel more engaged and more confident, and therefore better placed to get a good outcome. 

So pension people like me (and probably you if you’ve read this far) look for ways to tell the story, in order to build the engagement and confidence we’re talking about. Our eyes land on the documents we have to produce, like SIPs and statements, and those become our vehicles. It’s perfectly logical. But it is right? 

Governance documents are designed for people ‘in the know’

They give trustees, consultants, asset managers and other pension pros lots of clarity, and fulfil a really important governance function as a result. But they’re not built for members, and they won’t give members much clarity at all – at least, not without a big rethink.

Reinventing our technical documents as member-facing documents is a major undertaking. We analysed the front page of an investment consultant’s standard SIP and found 21 terms on it that we thought would need explaining to a member. There were only 348 words on the page. That means 1 in 16 of the words on that page would be unintelligible to the average person. They may as well have been written in Nepalese.

One option is just to get rid of those terms. But if we did would it still be compliant? Another would be to define each term. But if we did that, wouldn’t we end up making the documents even harder to read? Let’s say each definition added an extra 100 words. Across the SIP we looked at, that’d mean 44,100 extra words on top of the 6000 we started with. That would take the average person about four hours to read. It’s the same word count as For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming, only with much longer words, and no car chases.

The regulations say that trustees must publish SIPs and other documents on a website so that they can be found and read by both scheme members and interested members of the general public. But being found and read is one thing, and being understood and enjoyed is another. They weren’t built for that purpose – and in our view, they’re not fit for it. A member shouldn’t have to read them, any more than a homeowner needs to get to grips with the manual for their boiler. That’s only useful to the engineer. The rest of us just want hot water. 

There’s a better way

It’s to do what we should have done in the first place: create purpose-built communication that’s designed to work for members. Start with them, what matters to them, what they know already and what they need to know, and work from there. 

We could begin somewhere basic: a guide to how we invest. Like the ‘quick start guide’ that sits alongside the full manual, this would give readers a quick hit of useful, usable, enjoyable and engaging content. Then once we’ve established it works, we could move on to something more ambitious. That doesn’t have to mean expensive. In fact, we could make a virtue out of something low-fi. 

We live our lives on screen at the moment. I bet you didn’t print this article off to read it. I bet the internet is where you hold your meetings and catch up with your friends too. It might be where you go to exercise too, or to learn.

Imagine the SIP, the Implementation Statement, the Chair’s Statement, brought to life in conversation on a series of Zoom meetings. On one side, the experts; on the other, the people who need their expertise. The experts would be able to bring some much-needed humanity and authenticity to the conversation. The members would be able to ask questions, challenge assumptions and contribute ideas. We’d still need to produce the regulatory documents, but we wouldn’t be asking as much of them. 

It feels like an idea whose time has come

We’ve all become used to seeing journalists ask questions of the Prime Minister from their back bedrooms, filmed on laptop or phone cameras. Whole BBC dramas have been commissioned, filmed and broadcast in lockdown, shot in actors’ houses by their family members. There’s just no need for big budgets, high production values or complex filming logistics any more. The bar is lower – and it’s liberating. 

George Bernard Shaw said the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Let’s think about that the next time we publish a governance document – however good – and imagine our engagement work is done. 

 

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The Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance: why target-setting matters https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/09/30/net-zero-asset-owner-alliance-video/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/09/30/net-zero-asset-owner-alliance-video/#respond Wed, 30 Sep 2020 15:35:24 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=48216 The UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance has made steady progress from its launch in September 2019. This short film celebrates their anniversary.

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The Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance: why target-setting matters

Written by Quietroom

The UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance has made steady progress from its launch in September 2019. Members have been busy developing decarbonisation targets, which will be rolled out for individual asset owners in the first quarter of 2021.

We worked with the brilliant Spare Part Films on this short celebration of the Alliance’s first anniversary. It shows how the Alliance is tackling climate change through finance. It encourages those outside to join and those who’ve already joined to participate even more.


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Building client relationships online – 10 things you need to know in the age of Zoom https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/09/21/building-relationships/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/09/21/building-relationships/#respond Mon, 21 Sep 2020 08:10:12 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=47843 We’ve been working with financial advisers – helping them have meaningful conversations with their clients through the power of Zoom (and its less excitingly named siblings). We’ve learnt loads along the way. Here are some of those things.

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Building client relationships online – 10 things you need to know in the age of Zoom

Written by Vincent Franklin

We’ve been working with financial advisers – helping them have meaningful conversations with their clients through the power of Zoom (and its less excitingly named siblings). We’ve learnt loads along the way. Here are some of those things. The principles that drive all of them are:

  1. People make decisions based on how they feel, not what they know
  2. We need to add value, not just facilitate a transaction, or we’ll be usurped by technology
  3. We need to combine empathy with competence to build trust. One without the other is not enough

Above all, people need to meet you, not just evaluate your skill set, and they need to know that you’re interested in them.

Read on below or, if you prefer, download the PDF

  1. Share the agenda – it’s not a magical mystery tour

Most clients won’t have had many meetings with a financial adviser before. They don’t know how this meeting is going to work. And that’s not good for their confidence. If we just set off, asking questions and gathering information, they can feel out of control. And that’s not good either.

Sharing your plan for the meeting and getting them to agree to it, can really help. It makes sure that we all know what we’re trying to do and how we’re going to do it.

It doesn’t have to be a formal agenda. It might be fairly loose – ‘I’d like to spend some time finding out about your plans for the future and then find out a bit more about what you’re already doing to help you get there’ – but share it and agree it with them. Give them the chance to change it and add to it before you set off. You can then use it to frame your conversation, bring people back to the plan and lead them through it.

Get permission: as you move on from one topic to another (because you need to) make sure that your client thinks it’s time to move on too. Do they have any questions about what you’ve just talked about? Would it be okay to move on to X now?

  1. Build plans around your client’s ambitions – that’s what motivates them

Restoring a steam engine, helping your daughter buy her first home, moving to Brazil, are all things that excite people. Achieving an average return over 10 to 15 years that’s 3% above inflation is just an abstract idea that excites very few people.

So, we need to build people’s financial plans around the things that motivate them, not around investment products. Money is only the mechanism by which we can do the things we dream about.

And this applies to any meeting with a client – what’s keeping them awake at night? What do they want to be doing differently in 5 years’ time? Let’s talk more about them and what they care about and less about us and our range of exciting products and services.

  1. Ask open questions and follow them up – it gets the most valuable information

Rather than defining open questions in the way the Oxford English Dictionary does, I’m going to be cheeky and define them in a way that I hope is useful. Open questions invite a long response. Closed questions invite a short one. So, ‘What do you want to be doing in 10 years’ time?’ is an open question. ‘Do you want to retire in 10 years’ time?’ is a closed question.

Asking open questions hands the ball to your client and lets them run with it. It means they get to talk about what’s on their mind and what matters to them. You can then explore their answers with more questions – ‘You say you don’t want to be working as much as you are now. How much would you like to be working?’ These second and third questions are where the real value is. Rather than just moving on, you start to explore the details of what they’ve told you. ‘And if you’re not working, what will you be doing?’

  1. Come around the table and sit next to your client – at least metaphorically

This isn’t an interview or a negotiation. You’re both working together to collect all the information you need to put a good financial plan in place. If you imagine sitting next to your client rather than across from them, it can massively change the way you start to communicate.

  1. Play back what people said – it shows you’ve been listening

 We send lots of messages that show we’re listening, both verbal and non-verbal. When we’re not in the same room, some of these messages get lost. A really simple way of showing how much attention we’ve been paying, is to play back what people have just said and to sum up several things they’ve said over the course of a conversation. This isn’t just about checking we’ve got our facts straight, it’s about demonstrating our interest in that person and our desire to understand them.

To make this really resonate with people, try to use the actual words they used rather than paraphrase them. If someone says they’re ‘excited’ about retiring or want to ‘streamline’ their life, then those words played back will be much more powerful than if we talk about them ‘looking forward’ to retiring or ‘simplifying’ their life. These words are also the perfect candidates for your open questions – ‘What’s prompted you to want to streamline your life?’

And meetings aren’t a memory test. If keeping some notes would make it easier to remember important words and ideas, write them down. Just don’t pretend to your client that you’re not. Telling your client what you’re doing (and why!) is all part of sharing the agenda and working together to get the best result.

  1. Make people feel clever – and they’ll be your sales team

 When we’re trying to prove our competence, it can be tempting to try and impress people with how clever we are. But it’s much more effective to make them feel clever. You can do this by using vivid metaphors, compelling stories and simple explanations that unlock tricky concepts. These not only build people’s confidence in themselves and in you, they also give them things to share with others. They can repeat what you’ve told them to their friend down the pub whose own adviser left them feeling bamboozled.

  1. Swap ‘I’ for ‘we’ – it makes you and your client a team

When you’re the one leading the meeting, there’s a real danger that you reflect this in the pronouns you use. You start talking about ‘what I need’ and ‘what I’m going to do’.  You can build a stronger relationship by using ‘we’ instead. This word automatically points to you and your client at the same time and makes you a team.

  1. Avoid jargon – it alienates people and makes them feel stupid

Jargon is words that are specific to a group – words that only that group understands. Using jargon can save time and reminds people in the group that they belong together. But for people who don’t belong to that group, jargon is a reminder that these jargon-speakers belong to a different group. And that makes building trust more difficult. Jargon also leaves people confused and often feeling stupid – blaming themselves for not knowing what things mean.

So, avoid jargon whenever possible. Often we don’t need it – we don’t need to talk about ‘decumulation’, we could just talk about ‘using the money you’ve built up in your pension pot’. Yes, it’ll take a few seconds longer, but it will save time in the long run because it won’t lead to the question, ‘What do you mean by decumulation?’ If you need to use a piece of jargon, make sure you open it up as soon as you’ve used it – ‘This diversifies your investment, so you’re investing in lots of different things.’

  1. Choose words that change how people feel

 ‘Seaside’ and ‘coastal regional’ mean pretty much the same thing. But if you run a ‘coach trip to the seaside’, you’ll get more takers than if you organise an ‘excursion to a coastal region’. This is because, when we learn a word, we attach memories and experiences to it. When we hear that word again, it resonates with us because of the context in which we’ve heard and used it. In the world of finance, great words like ‘help’ and ‘make sure’ are often replaced with functional words like ‘assist’ and ‘ensure’. We think they sound more professional, but they’re just weaker. Nobody ever went home to ‘ensure’ they turned the gas off.

Meaningful words pull people towards us, formal words keep them at arm’s length. Unsurprisingly, if you choose the words that you’d use if you were talking to someone close to you, you pull your client closer. And research suggests that the more educated someone is, the more they prefer these short, personal words to the long, formal ones.

  1. Choose words that make the task sound easy – and it becomes easy

 Some words make a task feel onerous. Other words make the same task feel easy. Lots of people will struggle to ‘decide what is right’ but would be able to ‘choose what they prefer’. If we use words like ‘prepare’ and ‘evaluate’ and ‘ascertain’, when talking about financial planning, we can make it feel beyond people’s ability. If we talk about ‘choosing’ and ‘looking at’ and ‘comparing’, we make it feel doable. And when something feels doable, people do it better than when they think it’s beyond them.

This isn’t about dumbing down the decision itself, it’s about framing it in a way that makes it feel achievable.

 

Download the PDF


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What members think about responsible investing https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/09/11/video-1/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/09/11/video-1/#respond Fri, 11 Sep 2020 15:41:46 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=47689 The post What members think about responsible investing appeared first on Quietroom.

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What members think about responsible investing

Written by Quietroom


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Your pension scheme should grasp social media https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/09/10/socialmedia/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/09/10/socialmedia/#respond Thu, 10 Sep 2020 16:44:20 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=47631 Most pension schemes aren’t businesses and don’t need to attract customers or fight for market share. So to trustees and administrators, social media can seem risky and unnecessary. In fact, social media offers real advantages to pension schemes looking for ways to better engage with their members. But we need to pay proper attention to the risks, too.

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Your pension scheme should grasp social media

Written by Robin Harries
Thistle image for Quietroom blog

Most pension schemes aren’t businesses and don’t need to attract customers or fight for market share. So to trustees and administrators, social media can seem risky and unnecessary.

In fact, social media offers real advantages to pension schemes looking for ways to better engage with their members. But we need to pay proper attention to the risks, too.

4 reasons why you should

1. You can speak to your audience where they are

Trustees and administrators spend lots of time thinking about how to better engage with members. But the way that schemes operate makes direct conversations difficult. If comms pass through employers, they can get lost, delayed or distorted. If they’re on your website, they’ll only reach members who are reasonably well engaged already. If you post letters – well, who reads letters about pensions?

Whatever it is you want to say, you can say it more often, and to greater effect, if you say it where it’s most likely to be heard. And it’s more likely to be heard on social media than on any other channel available to you. At the start of 2020, 67% of the UK population was on social media. 71% of UK adults are on Facebook and 74% of those check their account at least once a day.

A social media presence gives you a direct channel to speak to members whenever you need to. It increases the likelihood that that they’ll see your message and take action. And it ends your reliance on employers to distribute communication for you.

2. You can drive traffic to the news and information on your website

If you’ve got information on your website, how much traffic do you get? You can hugely increase the potential audience for announcements, reminders, guides and videos by cross-posting it on social media.

Whatever impact you’re aiming for when you create a piece of content is amplified by your social media presence. So more members nominate a beneficiary, or check their account. And, if you’re trying to get more members to understand the scheme, and better appreciate what it gives them, your efforts will likely be more successful in this, too.

3. You can respond to members’ questions and problems publicly

People are used to finding organisations on social media to ask questions or report problems. Having a voice on social media means you can start taking part in public, real-time conversations – responding to queries with relevant, helpful information. This in turn helps you build more meaningful relationships with your members. And other members will see that you’re helping, and understand that that’s what you do.

A public dialogue can also reduce the amount of work and cost associated with responding to duplicate enquiries on ‘one-to-one’ channels (like email and telephone). Once a question’s been answered, it’s on the social media page for everyone to see. You can reduce the amount of time spent responding to the duplicate enquiries even further by using chatbots to reply to members’ direct messages about common topics – such as how they can find out the value of their benefits, or when they can expect to see their annual statement.

4. You can engage with members at difficult times

Some organisations worry that a social media presence gives people a place to air grievances. And it’s true that if a member is unhappy, they might talk about it online. But unhappy members could talk about your scheme on social media whether or not you you’re there to take part in the conversation. So it’s better to be there than not.

One large scheme experienced this when their members were told that their scheme was being restructured, and asked to make a choice about their individual benefits. A number of social media groups were set up by members, and many provided useful information and reassurance. But they were also used to spread suspicion and mistrust. The trustees decided not to engage with these channels or set up their own, because not all members use social media. An independent review said that this had been a ‘missed opportunity’.

3 things to watch out for

1. Signing off content can take time

Social media feels like it should belong to the marketing and communications specialists. But certain content can touch other departments – like operations and compliance. This means that signing off content can get messy and protracted. But if content isn’t posted regularly, and responses to member interaction aren’t timely, much of the value of even having a social media presence in the first place can be lost.

A sign-off process needs to be defined and refined to make sure that there’s no loss of momentum. Different scenarios should be planned for. Business-as-usual comms can be straightforward. But what if a news story leads to a sudden surge in traffic? Simple, pragmatic policies will help you respond quickly and decisively to business-as-usual and unexpected situations.

2. Securing your account

In most organisations, more than one person will need to access social media accounts. In this environment, sharing of passwords can become widespread – which starts to defeat the point of having passwords at all. This can leave you vulnerable. How can login details be kept somewhere that’s both accessible and secure? What happens if someone with access to this information leaves ‘under a cloud’?

The best way to mitigate this risk is by using social media administration tools like CrowdControlHQ. These give everyone with a hand in social media management an individual login, and limit access only to people who’ve had the proper training and authorisation. Access can easily be expanded to new users or withdrawn from old ones.

3. Problems and grievances are more visible

When you set up a social media account and accept comments and questions from anyone, you will be exposed to complaints made in a public forum. You’ll also be exposed to any rudeness, belligerence and trolling. If your scheme is in the news, you could see a sudden, marked increase in the number of negative comments you get.

Different organisations deal with these problems in different ways. Some try and ‘shut down’ negative commentary by deleting comments and banning ‘difficult’ people. But audiences typically don’t react well to this kind of heavy-handedness and you could end up making the situation worse. Once again, it’s much better that you let your profile be a conduit for tricky conversations so that you can take part in them – rather than pushing them away to where you can’t.


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How to talk to members about a bulk annuity purchase https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/07/09/bulk-annuities/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/07/09/bulk-annuities/#respond Thu, 09 Jul 2020 12:05:18 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=47502 A buy-in or buy-out is usually good news for a scheme. So why does it feel like a difficult thing to tell members about? Here are 6 tips for getting it right.

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How to talk to members about a bulk annuity purchase

Written by Robin Harries
Piggy-bank pig with its mouth masking taped shut, illustrating a blog about why being passive costs pounds.

A buy-in or buy-out is usually good news for a scheme. So why does it feel like a difficult thing to tell members about?

Perhaps it’s because members aren’t generally consulted about the process and might feel a bit ignored. The trustees might seem to be handing responsibility to a third party – perhaps one the member has never heard of. Trustees themselves might have mixed feelings about it. If members don’t understand what’s happening, they could start to worry. Some might think about transferring out. Explaining what you’re doing and why, makes it less likely that they’ll react in a way they might later regret.

Read on below or, if you prefer, download the PDF

  1. Tell members that their benefits won’t reduce

Unexpected letters about your pension can make for an unwelcome surprise. Many members who open one will immediately fear the worst. Anything that comes before the information they most want to hear – that their overall benefits won’t change – will most likely be skimmed over.

So, try and get this crucial message as far up the page as you possibly can. Once you’ve put your audience at ease, they’re more likely to read and absorb the rest of what you want them to know. 

  1. Make it clear that this is good news

People are used to news stories about pension schemes getting into trouble and members losing money. Against that background, an insurance company getting involved in the scheme’s payments could sound to a member like something’s gone badly wrong.

So, you should reassure members that the scheme isn’t in trouble – quite the opposite. Emphasise that the money in the scheme is being used to make a very large insurer, backed by big cash reserves, responsible for funding some or all of the scheme’s benefits. These insurers specialise in managing money and paying pensions in this way, so it makes sense to involve one of them. It reduces risk and makes the financial future of all members even more secure. You could also say that this is very common – something lots of schemes are doing to reduce risk or make the scheme more secure.

  1. Think about segmenting your audiences

Your scheme might be going through a process that will only include some members. And you might also be talking to a group of members about other options for taking their benefits. If this is the case, it’s really important to explain to all members that reducing risk in the scheme is a good thing for everyone. Then segment your communications so that people only get more details when those details apply to them.

  1. Use everyday language

Whenever you write to members it’s a good idea use language that can easily be understood. Very few people know what a ‘bulk annuity purchase’ is, so think about whether you need to use the phrase at all. ‘Buy-in’ or ‘buy-out’ is easier to digest, but make sure you explain what it is before you start talking about it.

Think about describing what’s happening in the clearest possible terms: the trustee is buying an insurance policy that reduces the burden on the scheme and makes members’ benefits even more secure.

  1. Signpost members to more information

No matter how clearly and positively you explain a buy-in or buy-out, some members may still worry. Host a well-organised, well-written FAQ page on your website and that will be enough for the vast majority of members. But for those who want more, make it easy for them to get in touch, and let them choose between phone, email and post.

  1. Keep it consistent as you implement the change

Maybe the trustee does a good job of explaining a buy-out. But what happens when the insurer steps in and the member becomes a policyholder? A carefully planned comms handover between the trustee and the insurer will help people know what’s happening and feel in safe hands. Keep terms consistent and cover letters short. This serves everybody’s interests – reducing anxiety as well as calls to your admin team.

Download the PDF


Now watch some of our videos about tricky topics:


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Navigating 4 communication challenges facing trustees https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/06/10/navigating/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/06/10/navigating/#respond Wed, 10 Jun 2020 19:41:34 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=47495 We asked pension scheme trustees how lockdown is affecting their work. Here are our suggestions for tackling four big challenges they told us about.

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Navigating 4 communication challenges facing trustees

Written by Kathryn Papworth-Smith
We’ve spoken to trustees to see how the lockdown is affecting their work. There’s been lots of change. Some positive – like shorter meetings and quicker decisions – and some more challenging, like trying to get your message heard by members above the roar of the news headlines.

Here are our suggestions for how to tackle four of the challenges trustees have told us about. Read on below or, if you prefer, download the PDF

1. How to ask for an expression of wish

It’s a constant challenge for trustees to get members to fill in an expression of wish form. Now that more people are spending time on their laptops when they might otherwise have spent it commuting, it’s a good opportunity to collect members’ information. But in the current climate, death is a more sensitive subject. And with your members’ wellbeing in mind, you need to be careful how you approach it. We would recommend you don’t make it the sole content of your message. Instead, think about how it links to another action you want to encourage members to do.

Here’s a couple of ways you could do it.

Ask members for their email address

It might be an opportunity to write to members about the benefits of them giving you their email address. And while they’re doing that, you could ask them to fill in the expression of wish form at the same time.

Example for active DC members

Since lockdown began, we’ve been meeting more often so we can continue to make decisions in the best interests of our members during this crisis. We want to make sure you’re getting information quickly, and as post can be delayed at the moment, we don’t want you to miss out. So please send us your email address by going to [web address] or emailing xxxxx.

Even better, you can sign into our secure website where you can put some of your finances in order. You can fill out or update your expression of wish form, so we know who you want us to give money to if you die. And you can check how much you have in your pension so far, to help you think about whether you want to change how much you’re saving. Just go to xxxx.com.

 

Suggest members use any extra time to improve their finances

This could be a chance to suggest to members how to use the extra time they might have got now they’re working from home or on reduced hours. Point out to them it’s an opportunity to get their finances on track.

Example for all DC and DB members

The perfect time to take control of your finances

If you find lockdown is giving you extra time, why not use it to look at improving your finances?

Check you’re getting the best deal

Shop around for cheaper energy and insurance deals using sites like uswitch.com or moneysavingexpert.com.

Think about the future

Take a look at your pension and make sure we know who you want to give money to if you die. Just log on at xxxx.com.

Tell us what you think

We want to hear from you. If you have any questions or concerns about your pension, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at xxxxx.

 

2. How to get heard above the noise

Take a look at our writing tips on using titles and headings to make your message stand out.

Writing isn’t the only option. Think about possibly doing a short video instead of an email, newsletter or online update. We have some tips that might help, for how to film yourself on your mobile phone.

 

3. How to settle the nerves of DC and DB members

It’s an unsettling time for members. There’s been a lot of media coverage about the markets plummeting and they could be tempted to stop contributions, transfer out or just worry when they don’t need to. To help you tackle questions like ‘How will Covid-19 affect my pension?’ we’ve put together some answers that we hope will help.

 

4. How often to communicate with members

We recommend you communicate regularly and reliably. That might be every month or every six months, depending on the scheme. What you have to say doesn’t have to be momentous. But what matters is you set expectations and meet them. So if you say you’ll contact everyone again in two months’ time, make sure you keep that promise. Doing this will help build a relationship with your members.

Use our tips for how to communicate in tough times.

 

Download the PDF


Now watch some of our videos about tricky topics:


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Getting Guy’s ‘good’ guide to ‘great’ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/05/30/covid/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/05/30/covid/#respond Sat, 30 May 2020 18:42:34 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=47482 The guide covers a hugely important subject that many people are concerned about. So it’s worth looking at how it could be even better, just in case the producers are plotting a sequel. And, perhaps more usefully, there are some lessons we can learn from it about how to make all our pension communications even more fun than they already are.

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Getting Guy’s ‘good’ guide to ‘great’

Written by Simon Grover

This new route map through the pensions/Covid jungle has lessons for everyone on how to write something not just good, but great.

 

Everyone loves a new pensions publication, and there’s a lot to quicken the pulse about the one just out from the Dept of Work and Pensions and 6 big UK pensions bodies – Covid-19 and your pension: where to get help.

It looks friendly, it’s well written, and it has some useful information, clearly explained. And it has authority, authored as it is by a pensions partnership of big hitters, from the Pensions Ombudsman to the Pensions Regulator, with a warm-up by minister Guy Opperman.

The guide covers a hugely important subject that many people are concerned about. So it’s worth looking at how it could be even better, just in case the producers are plotting a sequel. And, perhaps more usefully, there are some lessons we can learn from it about how to make all our communications even more fun than they already are.

  1. Be clear what your communication is about

Experts in any field often pack their communications with lots of information about, well, everything. The guide’s title and the first two sentences of the minister’s foreword seem to say this is the place to come if you want help on how Covid-19 will “affect my pension and retirement plans”. Great. But Guy then says the guide outlines “the measures taken across the industry to support savers”. That’s fine, but it’s moving away from the idea of me and my pension.

Even more distant is the minister’s hope that “this guide will enable readers to familiarise themselves with these [6 pension] bodies”. That’s a pretty niche interest, and a sign that someone has got confused about what the message is. It’s starting to feel like Guy’s boss might have had a hand in this. Any communication is likely to be more effective if you focus it on just one idea.

  1. Build it around your reader’s world, not yours

You might expect the guide’s contents page to be a list of the worries that you can read about. But instead, it’s a list of the contributing pension bodies. This suggests that the guide is, in fact, mostly about those 6 bodies and what they do. And indeed when you start reading, you find that the guide is mostly about those 6 bodies and what they do. It’s not about answers to questions you might have.

That’s happened because each body has contributed its own chapter. Each chapter has useful information in it but the guide is not structured in a way that makes it easy for the reader to find that information. What we have here is a guide to pension bodies, instead of a guide to questions about your pension in the Covid crisis. If you want your words to be read, you need to organise them around what your reader wants, not what’s easiest for you.

  1. Say things once, in one place

Sometimes my life feels like an endless cycle of asking people to stop repeating themselves. There is a lot of repetition in this guide. All good things, but it’s easier for the reader if we just say it once. 2 of the contributing bodies talk about not rushing decisions. 3 of them talk about scams – 2 with exactly the same list of 4 warnings. And everyone signposts to guidance that is similar, but slightly different, from everyone else. Writing like this can confuse or even annoy your reader and make it harder for them to find what they need. Save ink.

  1. Answer real-life questions

FAQs are great, but make sure yours really are frequently asked. Several of the contributors to the guide offer FAQs. But a lot of these are not questions that many people would be looking in this guide for. One of the FSCS’s puzzlers is ‘Are claims still being processed in the usual timeframes?’ While the PPF deals with that hot potato: ‘How can I prove I’m still in education so I can continue to receive my survivor benefit when my school is unable to sign the continual education form?’

These questions are, I would argue, rather too particular for this guide. We’ve put together some of the top questions people are asking right now about the effect of Covid on their pension. You’re welcome to use them.

  1. Keep it short

Rare is the pleasure of something about pensions that takes less than 5 minutes to read. This guide is 29 pages long. For most people, that’s going to look like hard work. As a result, they’re less likely to read it. That’s a shame, because it’s well written when you get into it.

It actually doesn’t need to be that many pages. The font size is surprisingly big and there are lots of graphics that aren’t really adding anything. If you also followed the suggestions above, you might get it down to 10 pages. You could probably give the main points in just 2 or 3. A lot more people would read something that length. If you have more to say, give links to further info. The pensions industry always has more to say (just because we love pensions so much). Which is why this is probably a good point for me to stop.

 
 

Other things you might like

How to make pensions interesting

Video: What ordinary people think about responsible investing

How to talk to pension scheme members in a downturn


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How to make pensions interesting https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/05/11/interesting/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/05/11/interesting/#respond Mon, 11 May 2020 16:47:21 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=47465 Your pension is a tax-efficient vehicle with which to save for the future. Interesting? …no. Your pension is helping cure Covid-19. Interesting, yes?

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How to make pensions interesting

Written by Caroline Hopper

 

Your pension is a tax-efficient vehicle with which to save for the future. Interesting? …no.
 
Your pension is helping cure Covid-19. Interesting, yes?
 
Here’s the difference. One talks about pensions as something far away, something intangible, something complicated, and something-you-can’t-do-anything-about-anyway-so-why-bother-engaging. The other does the opposite: here are 4 tips to make pensions interesting.
 
1.      Show people where their money is invested right now
Usually, when you talk about pensions, you’re inviting people to think about the future. Humans aren’t very good at thinking about the future, and they’re even worse at giving up something today to get something more tomorrow.
 
Instead, talk to members about the here and now. Tell them their money is invested, and that it’s buying them bits of companies right now. Tell them those companies are building the world around them. Tell them how you take care of who those companies are and how they act, so we’re all building a world we want to live in.
 
2.     Paint a picture by giving examples of real things investments build  
When the industry paints a picture of pensions, it’s always the same: an older couple, wearing gilets, and walking along the beach. (It’s not always the same. Sometimes the older couple ride bikes.)
 
Instead, paint a picture to show pension savers what their money’s doing: it’s building this road, this hospital, this school. It might even be helping combat coronavirus, with testing, research, treatments and vaccines, like the companies in EQ investors’ portfolios. It might be part of a movement to tackle climate change, to stop banks funding fossil fuels. Whatever it’s doing, it’s working hard, and it’s not a walk along the beach.
 
3.     Talk about recognisable companies, not abstract percentages
There’s enough jargon in pensions already. Talk to people about ‘salary sacrifice’ and they assume it’s something they’re not supposed to do. (When has ‘sacrifice’ ever been a good thing?)
 
So, assume intelligence, not knowledge. Skip over ‘your money is 70% in equities’. Go straight to ‘most of your money is invested in companies, such as Apple and BP. Here’s what those companies do…’ Once you’ve told people they invest in companies, it’s much easier to explain everything else – such as market volatility, downturns, risk and return and even fixed income.
 
4.     Invite members to ask you questions
In general, people are passive when it comes to pensions. That’s because people only take action if they have to, if they know how to, and if they care to.
 
When you tell people what their pension money is actually doing, they will care. They might feel empowered by what they’re investing in, or they might hate it. They might want a say. So, tell them how to get in touch. If there isn’t a way, set one up. Use the systems your members use elsewhere in life, if you can – whether that’s phone, email, Zoom, or something else. If you don’t know what your members like, ask them.
 
 

Other things you might like

7 tips for keeping your team together – and remote

Video: What ordinary people think about responsible investing

How to talk to pension scheme members in a downturn


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How to film yourself on a mobile phone https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/05/06/mobile/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2020/05/06/mobile/#respond Wed, 06 May 2020 08:07:08 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?post_type=thinking&p=47460 Lots of people are getting their messages across simply, cheaply and effectively by filming themselves at home. Here's how to do it successfully.

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How to film yourself on a mobile phone

Written by Quietroom

We’ve been working with financial advisers – helping them have meaningful conversations with their clients through the power of Zoom (and its less excitingly named siblings). We’ve learnt loads along the way. Here are some of those things. The principles that drive all of them are:

  1. People make decisions based on how they feel, not what they know
  2. We need to add value, not just facilitate a transaction, or we’ll be usurped by technology
  3. We need to combine empathy with competence to build trust. One without the other is not enough

Above all, people need to meet you, not just evaluate your skill set, and they need to know that you’re interested in them.

Read on below or, if you prefer, download the PDF

  1. Share the agenda – it’s not a magical mystery tour

Most clients won’t have had many meetings with a financial adviser before. They don’t know how this meeting is going to work. And that’s not good for their confidence. If we just set off, asking questions and gathering information, they can feel out of control. And that’s not good either.

Sharing your plan for the meeting and getting them to agree to it, can really help. It makes sure that we all know what we’re trying to do and how we’re going to do it.

It doesn’t have to be a formal agenda. It might be fairly loose – ‘I’d like to spend some time finding out about your plans for the future and then find out a bit more about what you’re already doing to help you get there’ – but share it and agree it with them. Give them the chance to change it and add to it before you set off. You can then use it to frame your conversation, bring people back to the plan and lead them through it.

Get permission: as you move on from one topic to another (because you need to) make sure that your client thinks it’s time to move on too. Do they have any questions about what you’ve just talked about? Would it be okay to move on to X now?

  1. Build plans around your client’s ambitions – that’s what motivates them

Restoring a steam engine, helping your daughter buy her first home, moving to Brazil, are all things that excite people. Achieving an average return over 10 to 15 years that’s 3% above inflation is just an abstract idea that excites very few people.

So, we need to build people’s financial plans around the things that motivate them, not around investment products. Money is only the mechanism by which we can do the things we dream about.

And this applies to any meeting with a client – what’s keeping them awake at night? What do they want to be doing differently in 5 years’ time? Let’s talk more about them and what they care about and less about us and our range of exciting products and services.

  1. Ask open questions and follow them up – it gets the most valuable information

Rather than defining open questions in the way the Oxford English Dictionary does, I’m going to be cheeky and define them in a way that I hope is useful. Open questions invite a long response. Closed questions invite a short one. So, ‘What do you want to be doing in 10 years’ time?’ is an open question. ‘Do you want to retire in 10 years’ time?’ is a closed question.

Asking open questions hands the ball to your client and lets them run with it. It means they get to talk about what’s on their mind and what matters to them. You can then explore their answers with more questions – ‘You say you don’t want to be working as much as you are now. How much would you like to be working?’ These second and third questions are where the real value is. Rather than just moving on, you start to explore the details of what they’ve told you. ‘And if you’re not working, what will you be doing?’

  1. Come around the table and sit next to your client – at least metaphorically

This isn’t an interview or a negotiation. You’re both working together to collect all the information you need to put a good financial plan in place. If you imagine sitting next to your client rather than across from them, it can massively change the way you start to communicate.

  1. Play back what people said – it shows you’ve been listening

 We send lots of messages that show we’re listening, both verbal and non-verbal. When we’re not in the same room, some of these messages get lost. A really simple way of showing how much attention we’ve been paying, is to play back what people have just said and to sum up several things they’ve said over the course of a conversation. This isn’t just about checking we’ve got our facts straight, it’s about demonstrating our interest in that person and our desire to understand them.

To make this really resonate with people, try to use the actual words they used rather than paraphrase them. If someone says they’re ‘excited’ about retiring or want to ‘streamline’ their life, then those words played back will be much more powerful than if we talk about them ‘looking forward’ to retiring or ‘simplifying’ their life. These words are also the perfect candidates for your open questions – ‘What’s prompted you to want to streamline your life?’

And meetings aren’t a memory test. If keeping some notes would make it easier to remember important words and ideas, write them down. Just don’t pretend to your client that you’re not. Telling your client what you’re doing (and why!) is all part of sharing the agenda and working together to get the best result.

  1. Make people feel clever – and they’ll be your sales team

 When we’re trying to prove our competence, it can be tempting to try and impress people with how clever we are. But it’s much more effective to make them feel clever. You can do this by using vivid metaphors, compelling stories and simple explanations that unlock tricky concepts. These not only build people’s confidence in themselves and in you, they also give them things to share with others. They can repeat what you’ve told them to their friend down the pub whose own adviser left them feeling bamboozled.

  1. Swap ‘I’ for ‘we’ – it makes you and your client a team

When you’re the one leading the meeting, there’s a real danger that you reflect this in the pronouns you use. You start talking about ‘what I need’ and ‘what I’m going to do’.  You can build a stronger relationship by using ‘we’ instead. This word automatically points to you and your client at the same time and makes you a team.

  1. Avoid jargon – it alienates people and makes them feel stupid

Jargon is words that are specific to a group – words that only that group understands. Using jargon can save time and reminds people in the group that they belong together. But for people who don’t belong to that group, jargon is a reminder that these jargon-speakers belong to a different group. And that makes building trust more difficult. Jargon also leaves people confused and often feeling stupid – blaming themselves for not knowing what things mean.

So, avoid jargon whenever possible. Often we don’t need it – we don’t need to talk about ‘decumulation’, we could just talk about ‘using the money you’ve built up in your pension pot’. Yes, it’ll take a few seconds longer, but it will save time in the long run because it won’t lead to the question, ‘What do you mean by decumulation?’ If you need to use a piece of jargon, make sure you open it up as soon as you’ve used it – ‘This diversifies your investment, so you’re investing in lots of different things.’

  1. Choose words that change how people feel

 ‘Seaside’ and ‘coastal regional’ mean pretty much the same thing. But if you run a ‘coach trip to the seaside’, you’ll get more takers than if you organise an ‘excursion to a coastal region’. This is because, when we learn a word, we attach memories and experiences to it. When we hear that word again, it resonates with us because of the context in which we’ve heard and used it. In the world of finance, great words like ‘help’ and ‘make sure’ are often replaced with functional words like ‘assist’ and ‘ensure’. We think they sound more professional, but they’re just weaker. Nobody ever went home to ‘ensure’ they turned the gas off.

Meaningful words pull people towards us, formal words keep them at arm’s length. Unsurprisingly, if you choose the words that you’d use if you were talking to someone close to you, you pull your client closer. And research suggests that the more educated someone is, the more they prefer these short, personal words to the long, formal ones.

  1. Choose words that make the task sound easy – and it becomes easy

 Some words make a task feel onerous. Other words make the same task feel easy. Lots of people will struggle to ‘decide what is right’ but would be able to ‘choose what they prefer’. If we use words like ‘prepare’ and ‘evaluate’ and ‘ascertain’, when talking about financial planning, we can make it feel beyond people’s ability. If we talk about ‘choosing’ and ‘looking at’ and ‘comparing’, we make it feel doable. And when something feels doable, people do it better than when they think it’s beyond them.

This isn’t about dumbing down the decision itself, it’s about framing it in a way that makes it feel achievable.

 

Download the PDF

Lots of people are getting their message across simply, quickly and cheaply by just filming themselves talking at home, using their phone camera. Sometimes these films look great. And other times…

Here’s how to get it right. Download the PDF.

 


Watch some of our videos explaining tricky topics:

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