BNP Paribas UK maximises choice for employees within flex scheme

BNP Paribas flexible benefits
Credit: Gerard Uferas/ La Company BNP PARIBAS London

BNP Paribas UK tries to promote true flexibility through its flexible benefits scheme and regularly tweaks its provision to operate at its best for its workforce.

The employer has seven organisations in different UK financial services markets, with more than 8,500 staff ranging from investment bankers to call centre workers. It extends its flexible benefits scheme to each of these, so while each sets core benefit levels for its market, each employee gets treated the same regarding providers and flexible options.

Its flexible benefits scheme was introduced in 2010 with wide range of options. Since then, it has amended this by adding a neurodiversity benefit to its private medical scheme, which it runs as a trust, and allowing them to join a gym during any month or select an electric car from car leasing provider Arval.

It also gives staff the ability to reduce their pension scheme contributions in return for extra cash in their pay slips, as well as to direct more of their salary to their pensions. This helps to increase staff engagement with their pension scheme.

The organisation’s emphasis has changed from how to improve the benefits offering to how to best promote the benefit offering so staff utilise it fully, explains Ian Mackenzie, head of pension, benefits and wellbeing at BNP Paribas UK.

“We call the scheme Spectrum and have had consistent branding year-after-year that evolves to keep things fresh,” he explains. “We look at new ways to engage, have run traditional and virtual benefits fairs, and for the last few years have run what we call Bite-sized Benefits. During the three-week enrolment [period], we host 15 lots of 15-minute sessions on a particular benefit or topic. We typically get between 100 and 200 staff attend each one.”

BNP Paribas UK maximises flexibility to ensure monthly choice is available, unless HM Revenue and Customs or provider rules prohibit this. It tailors communications so staff receive information that is relevant to them and seeks to remove barriers. For example, it allows staff to book a cognitive behavioural therapist first while the providers work out the insurance claim later, which made a difference to take-up of the benefit.

Its virtual GP service is open to parents, partners and children and its health screening is tailored to the employee. If an employee is at elevated risk of heart disease or certain cancers, it adds a specialist scan not normally covered by screening or private medical insurance. If the scan shows something of concern, the individual can then transition to the private medical scheme and keep their referring doctor. This approach identified advanced heart diseases and cancers where staff had no symptoms.

If employees are not engaging with a benefit, the organisation looks at how it can better explain or promote it and as a result, nearly all of its benefits have high engagement. They also feature strongly in third-party review sites and internal staff surveys, which helps retain staff and attract others as people talk, says Mackenzie.

“We know at each renewal about 90% of employees access the system and 80% make an active change, and of those that don’t, it is because many have flex options in place that roll forward each year. We even have a tool for our recruiters that can show how prospective staff can flex benefits to maximise their overall package for their needs, such as buy extra ones or sell down what they don’t need for extra cash,” he concludes.