Financial services sector puts increased focus on flex

Employers in the financial services sector are putting a greater focus on flexible benefits offerings due to competitive pressures, according to research from Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

The 2007 Survey of Benefits in the UK Financial Services Sector of 69 UK financial services sector organisations, reveals that 29% are offering flexible benefits. These give staff the option to partake in wine clubs and bicycle schemes as well as more traditional benefits such as medical insurance and life assurance. In addition, 40% of those employers in the sector plan to make changes to their flex plan in the future.

David Wreford, principal at Mercer, said: “We see the prevalence of flexible benefit plans and their designs as a measure of the maturity of companies’ benefits plans, their attitude towards the attraction and retention of employees and the depth of their pockets.”

The survey also reveals that the financial services sector is at the forefront of changes with regards to work-life balance. Two-fifths of respondents offer flexible working hours to their staff and 21% have formal policies on home-working and telecommuting. The majority of companies provide private medical family cover, with 73% offering access to private GP services.

Just 43% of employers in this sector do not make company cars available as a benefit to any category of staff. Instead, many have rolled the value of the benefit into base pay. Among those that still operate a company car policy, 54% offer a cash alternative.

Only 15% of respondents have a final salary pension scheme open to new employees. Most schemes offered to new entrants are defined contribution plans. Employer contributions to these schemes in most cases (71%) vary according to factors such as length of service and the contribution the employee chooses to make. The survey shows that typical contribution levels for a 35 year-old with five years’ service are 2-2.5% with a median employer contribution of 10%.