Over the past few years, global banking and financial services organisation BNP Paribas has been faced with a challenging task: aligning the activities of its multiple companies to those of ‘one bank’.
This challenge involved the alignment of benefits provision across seven core businesses to just one scheme in order to achieve the organisation’s vision. Ian Mackenzie, head of pension and benefits, explains that with seven businesses in the UK operating in different markets, each one has its own individual business challenges. “The need was to bring those seven businesses together and to have a common brand, [flexible benefits scheme] Spectrum, across all the companies and make it look very similar,” he says. “A key business aim is internal mobility, and if someone moves from one company to another, Spectrum allows them to effectively maintain their benefits.”
One bank identity
The seven core businesses have mostly been acquired and, over time, have maintained part of their old identity. The business vision of BNP Paribas has been to create one bank, and the benefits scheme is helping to raise awareness and recognition among employees in the different companies. Thomas Hiles, group benefits manager, explains: “Having Spectrum as a single benefits scheme goes some way to doing that. We used elements of the Spectrum brand, which is very well recognised by staff, in our share plan launch. We’re trying to present something to staff so that when they see it, they already identify it as being part of their benefits [package].”
The efforts of Mackenzie and Hiles were recognised with five wins at the Employee Benefits Awards 2015, where the organisation walked away with awards for best healthcare and wellbeing benefits – large employer; best flexible benefits plan – large employer; best alignment of benefits to business strategy; best benefits communications – large employer; and the Grand Prix.
The work of the past few years was carried out with a limited budget. “Because we’re quite a small team and our budgets are relatively small compared to others, a lot has been done by [Hiles] and myself,” says Mackenzie. ”It’s about achieving a lot with a little.”
Communicating the changes
With the bank’s corporate vision in mind, the benefits team created a flexible benefits package that standardised its provision for all employees, while allowing each company to retain core benefits. It gave everyone the same options and had the same look and feel across all divisions, regardless of company. The scheme offers employees access to all available flexible benefits through one online portal. The single portal, along with the communication campaign, helped to reinforce the ‘one bank’ message.
Hiles explains that with a small budget, the team had to carefully consider how to reach around 8,500 UK employees with news about the scheme. “We spent a little bit of money on updating some booklets for the new year, but everything else was about trying to be smart with the way we looked at behaviours, and thinking about how we target messages.”
Childcare is one example, says Hiles. Although 60% of bank employees were eligible for the childcare voucher scheme, take-up was fairly low. In this instance, the team put together targeted communications with key messages, which has led to increased interest in the scheme.
“We didn’t do anything particularly fancy in communications, we’ve done desk drops and large-scale benefits fairs, so this time it was around getting across what the important messages were,” says Hiles. ”We had a strategy but tailored it for each company and also for the individuals within those companies. It was a good strategy in the sense that we didn’t just do the easy thing and send out simple, low-administration communications.”
The strategy involved a range of methods including face-to-face presentations, flash animation on the intranet, ‘snow-storm’ messages, and the targeted emails. “The proof was in the take-up rates,” says Mackenzie. “The vast majority accessed the system and made changes to their benefits, across all companies.”
BNP Paribas has also placed an increased focus on the health and wellbeing of its employees. The bank offers employer-paid health screens, but until recently take-up was just 15%. In order to make improvements, the benefits team worked with its provider to analyse the data produced by the screens. “We were really keen to try and make a difference to people’s behaviour and improve their health outcomes,” says Mackenzie.
The bank introduced an onsite physiologist to follow up staff after a screen and improve behaviours in the long term. Looking at the data over a three-year period, staff health noticeably improved and, in 2014, the take-up rate for health screening rose to around 80%.
The bank has also introduced genetic testing for breast cancer and cardiac risks, which has received positive feedback, particularly during employee focus groups. “A common [theme] was: ‘the bank cares about our health’. Even if they don’t choose a genetic test, they probably recognise that it’s quite innovative, and sends a message that the employer is doing things in the interest of staff,” says Mackenzie.
But despite their success at this year’s Employee Benefits Awards, Mackenzie and Hiles are keen not to rest on their laurels. Employee perception of benefits will always be high on the agenda and this is something the team will focus on in the coming months. “Because we won these awards, we feel it’s a good opportunity to improve things further,” explains Hiles. “We want it to be a fairly sophisticated, high-quality [benefits] package that is well received, but for the right reasons: not just because we’ve marketed it well internally, but because it works well for [employees] and their families.”
Ian Mackenzie will be speaking on Developing a compensation and benefits strategy to meet an organisation’s long-term goals at Employee Benefits Live on 21 September.
BNP Paribas at a glance
BNP Paribas is a global banking and financial services organisation, with around 8,500 employees in the UK. It has two core business areas: corporate and institutional banking, and retail banking and services. BNP Paribas has been in the UK for around 150 years. The global group operates in nearly 75 countries and employs more than 187,000 people. The UK employee base has an average length of service of around seven years.
Business objectives impacting benefits
- Aligning four more businesses to the benefits scheme, with around 850 additional staff.
- Changing legislation, such as the Budget announcements impacting pensions.
- Creating more bespoke health screening for employees.
Ian Mackenzie joined BNP Paribas as pensions manager for its corporate and institutional bank division in 2005. Prior to joining the bank, he worked as a pension consultant for Mercer and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). During his time at BNP Paribas, his role has developed so he is now head of pension and benefits for the UK group of companies, with responsibility for wellbeing and occupational health.
Thomas Hiles is group benefits manager for BNP Paribas UK having joined into the corporate and institutional bank in 2009. His focus is on building up the new benefits function and integrating Fortis Bank into the UK benefits platform. Since expanding to a group remit in 2013, this has extended to integrate all UK business lines into a single platform including flexible benefits and share plans. Hiles’ previous roles include compensation and benefits manager at Bureau Veritas UK and Ireland, and consultant roles at CMS Cameron McKenna.
The benefits offered by BNP Paribas
Moving to one mastertrust defined contribution scheme by end of 2015 for all staff.
Contributions vary by company: various contributory and non-contributory schemes.
Private medical insurance available through flexible benefits scheme.
Dental insurance: employer-funded in some companies.
Eyecare voucher scheme.
Critical illness insurance as a voluntary benefit.
Employee assistance programme.
Occupational health, including an onsite physiologist.
Company car schemes in some companies.
Family friendly policies
Enhanced maternity and paternity leave in some companies.
Shared parental leave.
Emergency childcare in some companies.
Eldercare in some companies.
Childcare vouchers scheme.
Networks including parents’ network and women’s network.
Between 26 and 30 days, depending on length of service.
Employees can buy or sell up to 35 days through flexible benefits scheme.
Personal accident insurance: core benefit for majority of staff.
Subsidised onsite restaurants.
Onsite dry cleaning.
Sport and social clubs.