Employee Benefits Awards 2009: Most effective international employee benefits strategy

RBS Group RBSelect (entered by Thomsons Online Benefits)

The judges felt RBS’s international benefits strategy is “well ahead of the rest of the market”. The banking group set itself a target of being the first financial services organisation to implement a flexible total reward strategy globally, and to ensure it was tailored to suit local needs in each country. RBS wanted to align its business objectives and reward strategy across all operating countries (52 in total) and business units. It also needed to integrate new businesses and harmonise terms and conditions. Initially, the scheme was launched in nine countries.

The flexible benefits programme, RBSelect, provides staff with a ValueAccount containing money to spend on benefits. This sum is shown on payslips and is accessible online. Staff can choose to take cash, benefits, or a combination. Some perks can be flexed monthly, but most are flexed annually.

The scheme has four tiers and the exact design in each country depends on local legislation and tax rules. Before implementation, RBS used surveys and focus groups to be sure what its global workforce wanted. Staff were divided into groups so online communication could be personalised cost-effectively. A global toolkit was given to local teams in each country for the launch.

Take-up rates were impressive. For example, in RBS India, 88% of staff logged on and 81% made changes to their benefits. RBS Malaysia was the first former ABN Amro Bank to launch RBSelect, and 84% of staff made changes to their perks.

Pictured above (from left): John Greenwood, editor of Corporate Advisor magazine and Sally Bence, remuneration and benefits consultant at RBS Group. Bence said: “This award reflects all the hard work done by our team at RBS and also our provider, Thomsons Online Benefits.”


  • Baker Hughes MyBenefits (entered by Watson Wyatt Worldwide)
    Offshore staff at this global oilfield service company did not have a standard benefits package; instead, reward was bespoke to each employee. The launch of MyBenefits harmonised benefits and facilitated employee mobility between divisions. It includes MyPension, an online tool, MyFlex, and MyTotalRewards, to be launched in 2009. Under the flexible benefits plan, staff who spend more than 50% of the year outside the UK can flex between local and international private medical insurance (PMI) for themselves and their dependents. Using this innovative methodology, over 37% of staff on international PMI switched to have their dependents on the local plan.
  • HSBC Bank International Group Executive Services
    International HSBC staff are managed by seniority, and divided by region to ensure they receive the service necessary to do their jobs. They receive the same benefits as the bank’s international premier customers. In addition, they are advised on tax efficiencies in different countries, and are given life and critical illness insurance that maintains cover when staff move to higher-risk countries. The bank uses these staff to pilot new products for its international customers.