Welcome back to HR Coffee Time. It's great to have you here. I'm your host, Fay Wallis, a career and executive coach with a background in HR, and I'm also the creator of the HR Planner. I've made this podcast especially for you to help you have a successful and fulfilling HR or People career without working yourself into the ground.
Although pensions can feel like a boring or complicated topic, especially if you're not a Reward specialist, my guest today, Pete Hyken, shows us that doesn't need to be the case. He helps strip away any worries you might have about choosing a pension provider and talking about pensions at work. He also has some great tips on how to get everyone engaged with their pensions and focused on their financial wellbeing.
Pete is one of the co founders of Penfold, an award winning pension provider that he set up to remove the barriers that were in the way of people investing in pensions, understanding their pensions, getting the most out of them. And also to help make the pensions process for HR and payroll teams as simple and painless as possible.
We're going to dive straight into the interview now. It starts with Pete answering my first question, which was, Why are pensions such an important thing for you, the person listening right now, my HR Coffee Time listener and dedicated People professional, to prioritize when you've already got so much on your plate at work and you may have had a negative experience before when changing pension providers or when trying to encourage people to actually make the most out of the pension offering that's already in place.
Let's get started. and hear what he has to say.
We're having conversations with HR and finance directors as well by HR. It's generally people and HR leaders that we deal with. And it's, you know, particularly at the moment, and sadly this year, HR staff and teams are under more pressure than ever because so many companies are making very, very difficult decisions.
They're making cuts. HR teams have never been more needed, as it were, and under pressure for some of the, you know, the harsher side of the world of HR. So we really get that. I think fundamentally, and this applies to companies that care about their staff and want to make good places to work. The sort of calculating reason that a lot of companies, the capitalist reason that companies want to be good places to work is because if you have happy, productive employees, or happy employees, they're going to be productive employees.
Um, and the company is going to perform better. And so we sell on the niceties and it's a great thing to do for your employees. But there's a, you know, there's a cold, hard capitalist reason to do the right thing for employees as well. You can draw a direct line from employee productivity to employee wellbeing to financial wellbeing.
If you imagine a sort of the wellbeing cake, the largest slice of the cake is the financial wellbeing slice. And actually the largest asset all of your employees will ever have in their lives is their pension. It's probably, at retirement, it will be worth more than their house. You know, so maybe property is the other biggest asset, but certainly one of the biggest parts of their financial life, and therefore their financial well being, and therefore their general well being.
Therefore, their happiness and productivity is that planning for retirement and planning for later life. Particularly at the moment, in this economy, in this environment, one of the most important things you can do for your staff, essentially, is secure their financial well being. And pensions are just such a major part of that.
tten serious. It's, you know,:
Now we're back to the serious, you know, it's the serious world of doing business and the stuff that really matters. And that's how employees are thinking as well. They care less now about the flexibility here all this or that and it's okay. I want to know about my money on a compensation package. I want to know, you know, can you help me get through this that you know, this this cost of living crisis. And pensions are a big part of that, you know, financial security and your overall package.
I guess the final reason specifically to think about a pension that gets your staff engaging is it makes them feel wealthier. Before we started Penfold, we could go to 100 people on the street and we'd ask them, how much money does your employer pay into your pension? And they could not give you a number.
You ask everybody how much their salary is, they can tell you, but people can't tell you how much your employer is paying into your pension. And it's a huge amount, at least. 8 percent of salary. So it's a huge line on every employer's P and L that none of their employees appreciate or care about or understand.
And as an HR director, if you could be the one that broke the one that brings that to life and suddenly, you know, the CEO is saying, well, I'm paying 8 percent of salaries into this pension and suddenly the employees are going, yeah, we know and we appreciate it and it's valuable. And, and we, you know, we feel 8 percent richer.
That's a big, big value you can bring, bring to the company.
That's such a good point. And I've always felt really lucky in that my very first role when I was an HR assistant many, many years ago, it was before auto enrollments existed. So, so many people that I knew didn't actually have a pension because companies didn't have to offer pensions at all.
And if they did, they may not even contribute anything into it. And loads of people just wouldn't bother signing up to it because they didn't really realize the importance. But I felt so grateful and I still feel grateful to her, to the head of comp and bens that was at the company I worked at in that first ever HR role.
She sat down all the new starters and she really clearly explained to us just how important a pension was and what an impact it would have if we all started saving straight away. I know that I was really lucky to have someone explain it to me so clearly and it really helped get me fired up about the idea of putting money into a pension and I made sure after I left that job and I went on to another one at a company that didn't offer a pension, I carried on contributing because she had almost put the fear of anything into me about it.
I realized how important it was. But I know so many people won't be as lucky as I was to have that experience because even though auto enrolment exists, they may never have had anyone like I had explain just how important it is and help get them excited about it and making sure that they realise just what an important thing it is.
So I'd love to hear from you Pete, for anyone listening who's thinking, I know how important this is but everyone here just isn't engaging with their pensions, no one seems to value it as much as they should do. What is your advice to them as to to how they can get everyone excited and engaged about saving for their futures, especially when pensions do have this reputation for being a bit boring.
Absolutely. Yeah, they, no, they, it's, if you do a word cloud about pensions, boring is always the word that comes up in the middle, which makes me really fun at parties. The people who've made the right decisions all have a story a bit like yours where there was someone who interceded early in their career and gave them the talk and made them okay, you know I better go and and think about my pension properly. We're really lucky those of us that have that and I think HR leaders should back themselves to be that person to have that conversation.
I think People and HR leaders, I don't know if it's often the personality type of people that are good at that job and that go into that often, you know, often seem to underestimate their own influence and the regard in which they're held by their employees and by their staff and that they can be the person
having that conversation. They can be the person giving a, giving a boring lecture on pensions, and you will have an impact and you will change people's lives. Yeah, that sounds like my answer to your question is, well, just go and give everyone a boring lecture, which it isn't, but I think it's partly it's back yourselves.
HR and People leaders, they have, they have a voice and they, and it's a, it's a voice that people will listen to. And so, you know, they, even if they, even if they do sound a bit lecturing and preachy and boring, go, go for it. My main advice is going to be that I think you can get providers that help you with that and that's literally why we started Penfold, right?
It's because we know it's not that HR directors can't have the conversation. A lot of them don't feel come don't feel confident in their pensions knowledge because they're not super detailed pensions experts to go and have that conversation because they get stumped by some as I said question about my ineligible job holder or whatever it is, and they don't, you know, obviously don't know the answer to that one.
You get a pension provider that can, that can do that for you. And so I think there's a few things there. One is about education. Generally, if you just give people the facts and you explain it and you explain it carefully and well and clearly and simply, then people are more likely to make better decisions.
So one is education. Second is making it real, bringing it to life. The great, the big thing on your side for pensions is that it's money. It's, it's a big pot of money that each of your employees have in their own name that they don't realize. You're talking to a 24 or 25 year old. You tell them that, do you know, you've got 5, 000 pounds probably sitting in a pension pot.
Because you've been paying into it for three years. That's like nine times out of ten, that's more than that 25 year old has in their savings account. They, you know, that's, that's, that's a huge number to them. And that's true basically at every age. You tell a 40 year old, did you know you've got 100, 000 in your pension pot? You know, it's, it's, it's just, it's always a significant number.
And so just making it real, bringing it to life, allowing them to see their balance. Start making a bigger deal of it on payslips or sending it out in the monthly emails that draw attention to this, this money that is going into a pot in your name. It's a real pot that gets people excited. It stops being boring when you 10, 000 pounds sitting there or whatever it is, right?
If you can, being generous helps here. If you have a pension scheme without costing your business more money you can put more money in your employees pocket essentially in their pension pocket by using tools and system setups like salary sacrifice. If you can be more generous with your matching then great as well because not only is that, by the way, a great retention tool, if you do bring it to life, it just, it makes those conversations so much easier when those numbers are bigger and when the company's being generous and the company's going above and beyond what they need to do.
And then finally, I think, just talk about finances in general. Pensions will come up, and if you create a culture and environment where people can talk and talk about their financial well being and talk about money or ask questions about money without feeling stupid, pensions will come up. You know, they, they, they, I guarantee.
If you, you know, people start feeling comfortable and able to ask for what they want from a financial perspective, yes, they'll all say salary, but pretty quickly pensions will come up as well.
There are a couple of things that have sprung to mind while you were talking there, Pete. The first is, I'm picturing myself back in my old HR role and thinking, okay, imagine I was given responsibility for the pensions for everyone.
That would feel slightly terrifying because I'm definitely not a pensions expert, but if I wanted to take that advice of talking to everyone, I am such a rule follower, Pete, such a do things by the book, like worry about getting in trouble about anything. I'd be quite nervous, because I'm not a financial advisor, as to what I can actually talk about and what's okay to share.
So I know if I'm worrying about that and I'm not even in that situation that some people listening today, that may be one of the first thoughts coming into their mind. What would you say to put them at ease about that or to reassure them?
Yeah, it's a really good question. It's funny. We hear it from HR leaders.
We also, we hear it from accountants. Accountants are scared to tell, to talk about pensions because they're worried about, you know, getting advice. And so it's not going to be financial advice. It's, it's just not. And so it's basically how I reassure people for it to be financial advice. You have to have two things.
You need to recommend a very specific financial product and you need to be doing that recommendation based on taking into account someone's personal circumstances. So yes, if you sit down with a member of your team and you ask them for their salary, their outgoings, you know, a bunch of personal information about that and their goals and you write all that down and then you go, right, you should buy this stock.
Yeah, that's, that's financial advice. Don't do that. If you educate people about pensions, if you say pensions are great for this reason, pensions have great, have tax relief, pensions have X, Y, and Z. If you, if you educate people, this is how pensions work. This is how you pay into your pension. This is who else pays into your pension.
You know, this is what the government puts into your pension. This is what the state pension is. Educating people is absolutely fine. Recommending pensions broadly and saying you should be investing in a pension. It's good for you. Absolutely fine. You don't need to, and unless you're sitting there trying to sell particular, essentially trying to sell products to people based on personal circumstances, you're gonna be okay when comes to financial advice.
There was another thing that leapt out at me, and that is when you said, make it okay to talk about money, create a culture where people don't feel silly if they talk about money. And I think that sounds like a fantastic idea. But I can't picture in my mind. Again, if I think if I was in that role, how would I do it?
How I could actually do that? So I was wondering if you have got maybe an example of a client that you have that you've seen do this particularly well.
Yeah, so funnily enough, I do have a client. I probably can't say who they are but so they have a slack channel, which is I can't remember, it's got a great, it's got a funny name, but it's you know, basically money questions slack channel and anyone can join and anyone can ask questions And anyone can answer those questions because you know, they're not worrying about financial advice and they've got this isn't financial advice.
And they say, you know, don't fill in a survey and then recommend particular products to people. And then you've all, I think they've got it. So the HR, you can email questions anonymously to HR and HR will post it in the Slack channel and then do follow. So, but it's great because it kind of, and it's anything from, Oh, I want to buy a car.
Should I get a credit card or a loan? I don't want, who can recommend a mortgage broker, but to, Yeah, I'm really struggling this month. You know, I think I've only got 400 pounds left and I know I've got these bills. What should I do? And there was one which was, how should I ask for a pay rise? So, you know, which is quite interesting because it's gonna, you know, the boss is gonna read that and see the tactics that are being used and all that, but it was great and I think, I don't know, but I suspect the trend has gone.
Lots of anonymous questions at first and a bit tentative and now it's quite an open channel. It's a huge worry for people talking about money, right? Like, obviously, especially in this, in the climate we're in. So it's, it is on people's minds. It will, it will be on all of your staff's minds. And building a community around us.
That's one really great example, I think. And then I think it's about creating a culture, trust and psychological safety as well, right? And, and an openness and transparency, which I suspect People leaders are far better and know how to do far better than I do. But I think, I think that's, that's one really good example.
It's a great example. It's really funny seeing what a powerful tool Slack is becoming for so many organisations and how well utilised it is. I'm beginning to feel like a dinosaur because I don't use Slack, so I may have to actually dip my toe in the water and start giving it a try. But you're right, everyone listening, so many of them are experts and incredibly passionate about making sure they are creating psychologically safe environments at work.
But I think everyone appreciates having some practical ideas on what they can be doing. Moving us along slightly, now that we've talked about pensions being important from a financial well being perspective, there's another perspective I thought it would be good to touch on today that I hadn't really considered before until I started doing more research into pensions.
And for anyone listening, they might be thinking, this isn't like Fay to be covering a topic like pensions on the podcast. And when you and I were first talking about potentially you coming on the show to talk about pensions, I thought, gosh, why haven't I done this as a topic? And I think maybe it's partly because it isn't something I felt hugely confident in, which is why I've done all this research.
And also because it, it really made me look back at all the previous episodes and I can see that lots of them will just focus on general career, helpful advice, like how to be more influential at work, questions to help prioritize your career, how to do well in an interview, all things that are very obviously career based.
And then other topics where I've had guest speakers to come and talk to the audience and talk to me, a lot of the time they very much focus on inclusion. And I think this must be a reflection of just how important inclusion is to me. I think it's such an important topic, which is why I keep on covering it in all different guises on the podcast.
So I would love us to be able to talk about pensions from an inclusion perspective as well. I had a guest on the show last year, I think it was. And she was called Michelle Smith. She came on for episode 48, which was on a completely different topic. It was called how to support your colleagues with bereavement at work. But she really was able to drive home the importance of viewing everything we do as People professionals through a lens of inclusion.
Now I know I'm not technically a people professional anymore, so I probably shouldn't be saying as people professionals, but everyone listening. I would really, really hope that that message sunk in because I completely agree with it. But the problem is you can say things like that, like we have to make sure we're looking through a lens of inclusion.
But it can be harder to do than it sounds if we haven't got knowledge about certain things. So I'm going to do what Michelle asked me to do and make sure that our talk today, I do shine that lens of inclusion on it. Because actually there are a couple of elements when it comes to pensions where inclusion is incredibly important and I've only picked up on two where I'm not a specialist.
There may be others as well, but I thought it was definitely worth mentioning these two. So having dug around your site, Pete, I saw that Penfold offers different options for investing with your pensions. And so there is one option, which means that you can have Sharia compliant funds. And the other one is that you can invest in sustainable funds.
So that means that with your pension, you know, the money that you're investing, it's going to be invested in organizations that want to do good in the world. Now, lots of people may not be aware of Sharia compliant funds and how important they actually are as an option. So would you mind just talking us through that?
It's a really good topic, actually. And it's one of the, I didn't mention earlier, but it's one of the key things we thought both could have been done better, can be done better with pensions. Taking pensions seriously are a signal of a company that's taking inclusivity seriously, but I'll come back to that.
On Sharia funds, we had that for a very long time. There's something like between 25 and 33 percent of Muslims in the UK are opted out of their workplace pension because it hasn't got a Sharia compliant fund. Which is just a staggering statistic. And when you just think about how that is putting, how far that is putting back and the money that is there for being, you know, not left on the table being kept, you know, that's employer contributions, HMRC, top ups,
that aren't going into Muslims pension pots because, because they can't, you know, because what's been offered to them isn't appropriate. So it's a big problem and it's kind of easily solved by having a Sharia investment fund. I think inclusivity, that's an easy fix. Have a Sharia fund. If you're, if you're a, uh, a People leader who cares about inclusion and diversity and equity. I think one of the traps you can fall into, you probably are the sort of person that is already thinking around gender inclusion, religious inclusion, ethnicity, sexuality.
Some of the, I guess, the intersections that occasionally get forgotten, e. g. age, or being a parent or not being a parent, or financial background, or socioeconomic background, or class, or whatever it is, not forgotten, but aren't, you know, aren't always prioritized, are where pensions are so important, because
I guarantee your older staff care a lot more about pensions than your, than your younger staff do, or are thinking about it a lot more. I guarantee that people who come from a poorer socioeconomic background, who have much less safety net, who have much less, you know, potential they're going to get, not going to get help getting on a housing ladder, or they're, or whatever else it is, harder to get mortgages, all these things.
Pensions just become a, uh, even bigger part of their lives. They're thinking differently about the state pension to the way your other staff are. It's. It's so important from a diversity and inclusion angle, so take your pension seriously to get it right. And I also think it's one of, it's something that the quieter voices perhaps.
You know, in a, particularly in a progressive modern organization, your louder voices are often going to be your younger employees who are going to care less, or they shouldn't, but they who are focused and thinking less about pensions. Your quieter voices, when it comes to benefits, when it comes to particularly inclusion and diversity, are going to be your older voices and your parents, and, and, and in any organization, your quieter voices are going to be people from, from, from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
And those are the people that I think often will care more about pensions. So getting a pension right is really, really important from a diversity and inclusion perspective.
That leads me on to my next question, which is for anyone listening who now might be thinking, right, perhaps we need to have a look at switching the pension provider that we use within the organization. What is your advice to them? Because I know it can feel.
I'm already feeling a little bit overwhelmed, thinking, oh, okay, right, I've got to make sure it's inclusive. And there are all these core groups that Pete just mentioned. I've got to make sure I'm going to get everyone on board with this. I've got to make sure it's going to be easy to do and isn't going to be absolutely horrendous.
What guidance would you give that's going to take some of that overwhelm away so someone can feel confident with their decision in making a switch?
It's a really good question. I think. You can simplify it a little bit and take a little bit of pressure off yourself, if you're, if you're trying to make this decision.
Partly because, look, there is a list of approved providers by the pension regulator and the FCA, so, you know, it's not this open ended discovery process you've got to go through. But I think the, the way to start is, You don't need, this doesn't need to be a big formal process. You can start having conversations with your employees, whether you've got a employee kind of representation group or whatever it is, or just, you know, however you would do that at your organization.
Understand you, you, if you ask people to open-ended pensions might not come up, but if you ask, you know about pensions, you'll get a sense of, you know, what is it? Is it just we want more or is it that we wanna know more what's going on? Is it that we want more investment choice? Get a sense of what matters to people and then you can go and, you know, you can, you can do within a couple of hours of self directed research, Googling, you know, you can find the three half a dozen providers that, that, that, that might, that might suit your needs.
You want a provider that's going to engage your employees. And if you're going to do this, you know, it's. Going to get them engaged with their pension is perhaps a better way of putting it. Someone that has loads of well being tools and offers loads of sort of well being and education partnerships. And someone that makes it easy for the business as well because that's not being selfish as a HR team, that's, if you want to do the right thing by the staff, it's only going to happen if it's simple and easy and quick to switch and you've got a dedicated account manager that's going to walk you through it and do it for you, or it's really easy to self serve and do it online and it's going to properly engage.
So I think if you look for those three things, I think you can simplify it and I think you, you shouldn't overthink it either. Go for a provider that feels like it matches the values of your business. that is going to engage your staff and make your life easier.
It's a crucial step that can make all the difference.
The very first piece of advice that you just gave, which is about engaging your staff early on, I think that's advice that we can apply to almost anything that we want to do as far as the People function and the People service within an organisation is concerned. So... It's wonderful to have that very important reminder because I think although we're all really aware of that, that often to make any sort of change a success, you have to make sure you're communicating and consulting right from the very beginning.
It can be easy to just forget that step or skip it and want to dive straight in to start making a difference. And thank you for all the other recommendations as well. Now that we're coming towards the end of our time together today, it's time for me to ask you the question I asked. every guest who comes on the show.
And I've changed this recently, so you now have a choice of two options.
I'm going to ask you, would you like to share a non fiction book recommendation with us, or would you like to share a confidence building tip with us?
I've got a confidence tip that is, that I got from a non fiction book that I'll recommend.
Can I do that?
I like it. I like it. It's combining the two into one. Let's go for it.
So that's a really, what a great question. And so, so Michelle Obama wrote a fantastic book, Becoming, I think it was the first book she wrote after, after they left the White House. And it's just her, essentially her autobiography.
But there's this fantastic line in it that is... I have been in rooms with the U. S. cabinet, with presidents, with world leaders, with the most senior business people in the world, and I promise you, and I'm telling you now, there is no special order of people that are better than you, and that... know how to make decisions that you don't.
Everyone is just an ordinary human being. And I think that's so powerful. And I think what really holds most people back is they think, um, Oh no, that's not me. You know that you need some huge special expertise to go for that job or start a business or take that risk or do this project or change our pension provider.
You need to know this. And Michelle Obama is sitting there with the most powerful and successful people in the room. And you know, I've not been in the rooms that Michelle Obama is in. But I've been in rooms with, you know, people that work in, you know, very, very senior in finance. I've been in rooms with millionaires and billionaires and big company owners and corporates.
And I agree. There is no, there is no different class of people running the world that are just smarter than the rest of us or better than the rest of us. So, I think, A, read that book because it's great. It's a really, it's an absolutely fascinating book and I think she's got an amazing story. Um, I think there's probably other great confidence building quotes in her because, I mean, she's focused on, you know, advice for, I think, and she's not focused on that, I mean, a lot of her career now is focused on advice for
young woman from underprivileged backgrounds in America and building their confidence. So there's probably other great confidence building quotes in that book as well. So read that book and then remember that it's, you know, you can do it. There's not some special group of magic people that are different for us that should be doing the things that we want to do.
What a fab and insightful tip, Pete. Thank you. And what's so strange is that Michelle Obama's second book was recommended by a guest just a few weeks ago. So there's a strong theme coming through here. I think for myself and everyone listening, the message seems to be, make sure you're reading Michelle Obama's books.
I haven't read the second book, I must. Yeah.
Well that you can add that to your reading list now. And for anyone listening who wants to add it to their reading list, I'll make sure that I put a link to the book in the show notes as well. All that leaves me to say is a huge thank you for your time today, Pete.
It's been brilliant diving into the world of pensions with you. And for anyone listening who'd like to learn more about Penfold and their offering, Pete has created a special link for you as an HR Coffee Time listener. If you go to getpenfold.com/hrcoffeetime, you'll be able to book in for a free virtual coffee chat to learn more.
And Pete and his team will even send you a free voucher for a cup of coffee. So you can sip a delicious cup of coffee while you're talking to them. And I thought that was such a great idea. I love it. that you've laid this on for all the HR Coffee Time listeners. Thank you so much, Pete, and I hope that anyone who decides to book in for a chat really enjoys it, as well as enjoying their coffee, of course.
Thank you so much Fay, it's been great to be here.
Fay Wallis:. My first thanks is to Aldona:
That's how their name appears on Apple Podcasts. They are the most recent person to write a review of HR Coffee Time in the Apple Podcasts app. They wrote, I've been listening to your podcast on my way to work, and I always find your episodes very interesting. I don't have a favourite one because I like them all.
y. So a big thank you, Aldona:
Chris has started editing the podcast for me, so if you've noticed the audio quality improve over the past three episodes, that's because instead of spending hours and hours editing the podcast myself, it's now in Chris's capable hands. I can't thank him enough because I've been able to use the time I've got back to work on my other services that support the HR and People community.
The next version of the HR Planner is going to be ready for you all soon, and I've also started delivering team building and career planning workshops for in house HR and People teams, which is an exciting new service I haven't offered before. So a big thank you Chris, it is wonderful working with you.
HR Coffee Time will be back again next week with the next episode going live on Friday morning. I'm looking forward to popping back into your headphones then. And have a great week in the meantime.