Bibby Financial Services bolsters flexible benefits to boost retention

Vicky Smith, HR project manager at Bibby Financial Services, should be feeling triumphant after achieving a 98.5% take-up rate for the organisation’s flexible benefits plan during its enrolment window in December 2014.

Bibby financial services office

But she believes that there is room for improvement, despite beating the exceedingly high 98% target she set herself for 2015. To put this into context, the average flex take-up rate among the financial services industry employer clients of Bibby’s flex consultant, Thomsons Online Benefits, is just 69%.

This is because Smith, who joined the Banbury, Oxfordshire-headquartered organisation as HR adviser in 2004, is a self-confessed perfectionist with exceptionally high standards. This helps to explain her success in single-handedly creating a reward strategy for the organisation since working her way up to HR project manager in 2011.

She says: “We have grown our reward strategy from a blank piece of paper [since 2011] and introduced a pay structure, a salary sacrifice pension scheme, flexible benefits and a recognition framework. We have also updated our bonus scheme, although flex was by far the biggest and the most far-reaching project.

[The flex plan] is part of everyday life now, but we are really keen to ensure that we do not just meander along. We need to keep it fresh.”

The stretching targets are also a result of increased market competition, which means that the organisation is having to work even harder to attract and retain staff.

Bibby, which was ranked number 50 in The Sunday Times’ Best Companies to Work For 2015 specialises in invoice finance, which provides businesses with the funding that they need for cashflow as a result of unpaid invoices that they have in the pipeline with their customers.

According to Smith, increased competition has resulted in new market entrants attempting to poach Bibby’s top talent, hence the organisation’s renewed focus on retaining and supporting employees to help develop unique product propositions and exceptional customer service.  

Flex plan tweaks

As part of these efforts, the organisation has made a number of tweaks to its flex plan for 2015. This involved benchmarking competitors’ reward packages, including FTSE banks as well as fellow independent financial services organisations, and analysing feedback from the reward survey that Bibby conducts with staff each February following the organisation’s flex enrolment window in December.

New benefits include a computer scheme provided by Computingscheme; critical illness insurance for employees’ partners provided by Aviva UK Health; health assessments for employees’ dependents provided by Bupa; and the extension of health screening to all staff over the age of 40 when it was previously only available for senior staff, also provided by Bupa and part-funded by Bibby.

The organisation has also repositioned its health cash plan, provided by Medicash, as a core benefit following staff feedback that called for wider plan access that extended beyond the Bibby’s flex scheme.

The flex plan offers every employee a flex pot worth two days’ pay, which they can flex up by selling a maximum of four days’ holiday. It replaced a piecemeal setup, which previously operated across Bibby’s UK business operations. 

The communications strategy underpinning the plan comprises workplace posters, roadshows, webinars, email campaigns and text messaging to remind employees, for example, about a forthcoming enrolment window.

The introduction of targeted communications in 2013 also ensures that staff are reminded about relevant benefits, such as childcare vouchers for working parents.

Bibby’s flex strategy is designed to support its three core corporate objectives: being a great place to work; leading on service and value; and growing profitably.

New recognition scheme launch 

Bibby financial services office

Smith has created a recognition scheme as part of the organisation’s efforts to retain staff, which she implemented in 2014. The scheme concept was also driven by feedback from the organisation’s 2013 reward survey, which called for more consistent employee recognition across the organisation.

The peer-to-peer-based recognition scheme, entitled ‘The Outstanding Contribution Awards’, enables staff to recognise colleagues across the organisation for exceptional performance through a dedicated online recognition portal, which was designed in-house.

An employee-based panel of judges whittles down the nominations (a total of 127 made between August and December 2014) to create a list of 12 finalists who are each awarded a certificate for their efforts and invited to Bibby’s annual sales awards dinner, which this year took place in London in February.

Smith says: “Our managing directors are giving us anecdotal feedback about staff being chuffed to receive their certificates. It is [about us creating] that feel-good factor and about [staff] having a little bit of attention in front of [their peers].”

Bibby will now focus on reviewing its maternity benefits to see whether or not these need tweaking in light of the new shared parental leave rules. This follows the introduction of a baby bonus, worth one week’s salary, for new mothers upon the birth of their baby or the placement of an adopted child, in 2014.

Bibby Financial Services at a glance

Bibby Financial Services is one of nine organisations within the Bibby Line Group, which has grown to generate a turnover of £1.59bn since launching as a shipping business more than 200 years ago.

Bibby Financial Services specialises in invoice finance, which provides businesses with the funding that they need for cashflow as a result of unpaid invoices that they have in the pipeline with their customers.

The organisation employs around 738 employees in the UK and more than 1,260 globally in 46 locations across 15 countries. The workforce comprises 60:40 female and male staff, who have an average age of 40 years and an average length of service of six years.

Business objectives impacting benefits

Business objectives impacting benefits

  • To make Bibby Financial Services a great place to work
  • To lead the market on service and value
  • To grow profitably
Vicky Smith

Career history

Vicky Smith was tasked with introducing a range of HR and benefits policies and procedures for Bibby Financial Services when she joined as HR adviser in 2004.

Since working her way up to HR project manager in 2011, she has introduced the organisation’s first formal reward strategy, which included the implementation of a flexible benefits scheme in 2012.

This earned Bibby the accolade of runner-up for the ‘Best reward strategy aligned to business strategy’ at the Employee Benefits 2013 awards.

Smith, who works as part of a 10-strong HR team, has sole responsibility for benefits.

She worked previously for recruitment firm Manpower, and then undertook a number of interim HR roles for a range of employers, including Oxfam, before joining Bibby.

The benefits offered by Bibby


A Bibby Line Group-managed contract-based defined contribution (DC) pension scheme open to all employees, with employees’ contribution rate set at 4% and Bibby’s contribution rate set at 5%.

A second contract-based DC scheme has been set up for auto-enrolled staff, with contribution rates set at the government’s statutory minimum (currently 1% employee, 1% employer).  

Life assurance at four times salary for all Bibby Line Group pension scheme members.

Healthcare and wellbeing

Critical illness offered through flex

Private medical insurance (PMI), employer-funded for all employees, and dependents’ cover available through flex

Health cash plan, employer-funded for non-PMI scheme members

Dental healthcare offered through flex

Health assessments offered through flex

Health screening, employer-subsidised for staff aged over 40

Employee assistance programme


Holiday between 25 and 30 days for staff with at least 10 years’ service

Holiday trading after one year’s service

Other benefits

Bibby discounts (retail discounts)

Childcare vouchers

Gym membership offered through flex

Bikes for work offered through flex

Computer scheme offered through flex

Give as you earn