Joanne Segars: chief executive of the NAPF

Despite the market turmoil of recent weeks, I’m pleased to see staff still recognise the importance of having a pension that comes with their job. The National Association of Pension Fund’s Workplace pensions survey, published in March, showed 75% of people think it is important to have an [occupational] pension. And, in total, 30% thought it was the most important benefit, above flexible working, a bonus and generous holiday allowance.

This is good news for employers too. Much has been made of the benefits of pensions as a recruitment and retention tool. But our survey also shows there is a ‘loyalty bonus’ for employers that operate a pension scheme. Half of employees working for organisations without a pension said the presence of a scheme would enhance their loyalty to their employer.

While they feel it is important to have a good workplace pension, less than half (45%) of employees are actually confident about pensions compared to other forms of saving. Given just how complex pensions are, it is little wonder.

So there’s a real job to be done in improving understanding and, with it, employee confidence in pensions. That was certainly one conclusion of the Treasury-sponsored Thoresen review of generic financial advice, published last month, which recommended a national ‘money guidance service’, in part provided via the workplace, to improve the nation’s financial awareness.

Providing free-at-the-point-of-use group presentations, the NAPF’s Pensionsforce service provides generic information about retirement planning. Employers report an increased awareness in pensions issues and employees tell us they have a better understanding of pensions as a result of attending a presentation.

Never more so than now, the HR community is central to workplace pensions provision and, ultimately, central to overall retirement provision in the UK.

Having worked in pensions for twenty years, the role of HR has undergone a sea change and it came as no surprise to see that [in January’s] NAPF Annual survey, 25% of pension schemes have an HR director sitting as a trustee. No longer are workplace pensions seen as the sole preserve of the finance director.

Joanne Segars is chief executive of the National Association of Pension Funds