B&CE grows benefits package in line with its culture

June B&CE

B&CE was founded in 1942 as a simple way to help construction workers build up holiday pay. It branched out into offering other financial products, such as pensions. However, it is in the last few years that the business has seen its workforce grow, fast.

When the government decided to introduce auto-enrolment, as an established pensions provider to the construction industry, B&CE saw an opportunity, and in 2011 it created mastertrust The People’s Pension.

When it launched, The People’s Pension was hoping to capture around 5% of the auto-enrolment market. It landed 15%. Patrick Heath-Lay, chief executive officer, says: “It is fair to say that our level of growth exceeded our expectations.”

In 2011, B&CE had around 130 staff. Today it has 360. “That growth has been three or four times our expected level,” says Heath-Lay. “We will probably have to recruit another 50-60 people this year.”

Such radical growth has challenged the business. “You go through that rapid growth and change and I wanted everyone to have a lifebelt,” says Heath-Lay. “I want [staff] to stay true to some valued principles.”

When Heath-Lay joined in 2012, he re-wrote B&CE’s then-nine corporate values. “Nobody knew what they meant. We went through a process of evaluating what are we all about as an organisation. We came up with three very simple values, which remain integral to what we do.”

Another challenge was benchmarking its benefits. As a not-for-profit financial services organisation, B&CE is an unusual hybrid. Heath-Lay describes the feel as family-oriented. He and his team have grappled with whether offering bonuses is compatible with the culture and have decided against it for now. “That is a challenge for me,” he says.

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“We have to stay competitive in the local market and take feedback from staff. We run regular surveys and have focus groups that will help us to understand what we could do differently going forward.”

The upshot is a generous package of benefits, which includes health insurance, death in service, and a leave entitlement that starts at 25 days and goes up to 28 with service. Employees also have access to study support, which provides them with time off to prepare for a qualification and £75 for every exam passed; the organisation has an annual staff training budget of £240,000. On-site fruit, access to a personal trainer and nutrition advice, and an on-site gym help staff stay healthy. The package also includes a generous pension scheme; if an employee contributes up to 7%, B&CE will double match that with 14%.