Mills and Reeve streamlines three pension schemes

EXCLUSIVE: Mills and Reeve has streamlined its three pension schemes ahead of its October 2013 auto-enrolment staging date.

In March 2012, the law firm began a review of its pension provision and opted to streamline its three defined contribution (DC) pension schemes, one stakeholder and two group personal pension (GPP) plans, into a single GPP provided by Scottish Widows. Employees who were not already members of this scheme were transferred in to it.

Mills and Reeve also changed its default investment fund to ensure this was auto-enrolment compliant. It now uses Scottish Widows’ balanced approach fund, which has a progressive risk profile. Its previous default investment fund was a balanced lifestyle profile.

Its new fund will be monitored annually for performance and suitability through a governance group, made up of representatives from the board, HR and at least one employee.

The annual management charge (AMC) for its now sole GPP, which previously ranged between 0.5% to 0.87% depending on the scheme, has been renegotiated to 0.45% for all members.

Mills and Reeve started a communications campaign in March 2012 to inform employees about the pensions review. In February 2013, it notified all scheme members about the findings of the review and how changes would impact particular groups of staff.

Samantha Neaves, reward and HR information systems manager at Mills and Reeve, said: “This was supported by a very comprehensive list of [frequently-asked questions] FAQs and full pension modelling functionality on our flexible benefits platform.”

It opened its pension enrolment window on its My£reward flex platform for three weeks in March 2013. This platform, which is provided by Thomsons Online Benefits, includes a pensions modeling tool, a pension risk profiler, and information about the funds available and how to change investment choices.

It also held presentations and one-to-one meetings, with Thomsons Online Benefits, at each of its six offices. “During this time, employees reviewed their new pension arrangements, made changes to their contribution levels and reviewed the funds they were investing into,” added Neaves. “Those who were not already [making contributions via] salary sacrifice had the opportunity to do so and non-members joined the scheme.”

Since March, pensions take up has risen to 90% from 87%.

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Mills and Reeve’s communications campaign has also resulted in 20% of its pension scheme members making a change to their arrangement, either by altering contribution levels or opting to use a salary sacrifice arrangement.

It will communicate the GPP to non-members in the lead-up to its annual flexible benefits enrolment window, which coincides with its auto-enrolment staging date in October 2013.