AA revamps flexible benefits under new ownership

The Automobile Association (AA) was in the opposite position to PwC when its owner, Centrica, sold the vehicle recovery organisation to two private equity firms in 2004.

In its first year of operation, the AA stuck with the status quo and continued with the flexible benefits scheme (and provider) Centrica had used. Lindsay Fitzpatrick, HR manager at the AA, said it was initially a paper-based scheme because "the cost of moving online was prohibitively high considering the number of individuals we had covered by flex."

But as the HR team became more familiar with flex, the AA investigated the possibility of enabling online benefits selection and moving to a new provider. In November 2005, it held a formal pitch and selected Benefex to introduce a new flexible benefits plan.

The new online benefits platform went live in June 2005 with the addition of three new benefits: will writing, experience days and health screening. This was on top of the package of flexible benefits previously offered to staff, which included dental insurance and payroll giving.

"The scheme has exactly the same name as before: FlexSA (Flex Spend Account), but we’ve added a strapline: ‘You’ve got AA choice,’ which ties in with our external branding: ‘you’ve got a friend,’" explains Fitzpatrick.

The AA also introduced two new types of communication. Firstly, it sent out a warm-up card with a welcome letter, which introduced the new branding and some of the new benefits. This was followed by a 12-page brochure, which gave more detail on the benefits and the rules of the scheme. The new communication was clearly worth the investment: at launch, more than 93% of employees enrolled and selected benefits rather than taking cash. Toshiba Information Systems UK, which makes PCs, flat screen TVs and mobile phones, introduced a flexible benefits scheme for its 350 sales staff in 2001, at a time when it was hard to recruit IT specialists.