The Client Challenge
Allianz embarked on a pension review program in 2014 with the objective of ensuring that the company remained in a position to provide a sustainable and competitive future pension offering for our employees, with the desired outcome of benefiting both the company and the employees alike.
Our Defined Benefit (DB) pension scheme was closed to future accrual at the end of 2015 with all employees now saving for retirement via the company Defined Contribution (DC) scheme. However, the liabilities associated with the DB scheme were still significant and therefore significant risks remained for employees and the company. It was important that Allianz consider how best to communicate the prevailing risks and provide an alternative for our employees, which would protect them and their families against any future erosion of their retirement benefits. We were also concerned with ensuring that Allianz did not sustain any financial or reputational risk during the process and at all times we were vigilant and cognisant of the potential risks associated with the move.
After considering all aspects of this initiative we decided to progress with the plan and chose Acuvest to partner with us to assist with the design, execution and implementation of our refocused pension strategy. Our decision to work with Acuvest stemmed from their reputation of being both professional and independent with a proven record of working with all stakeholders at every level in the organisation. We needed to be able to trust our consultant client partners, to have at all times, the best interests of Allianz and our employees at the forefront of their actions.
“The ETV was always going to be about people. The solution had to be people centric, easy to relate and, more importantly, easy to understand. As this is something, which is so important and personal to our employees, we wanted everyone involved to be fully informed with all relevant information to enable them to take their next steps and feel ready to take appropriate action.”
Working with Acuvest helped Allianz to articulate our future vision for retirement savings and to evaluate our strategic options to make the move from our current operating model towards a more sustainable and secure future.
As part of the next steps in that journey, Acuvest devised a compelling business case for the implementation of what has now materialised into our innovative Enhanced Transfer Value (ETV) offer for both existing and previous employees. Driven by the principles of being member centric and offering real choice, the purpose of the ETV offer was not only to mitigate against future DB uncertainty but also to offer alternative flexible options, which could be easily communicated and would provide employees the comfort of having both choice and control over their own retirement savings.
Project management for the ETV offer involved Acuvest setting up and running a Project Board with all stakeholders and decision makers represented. This strong governance framework provided clear reporting structures, roles and responsibilities and a forum in which key decisions could be taken efficiently against Guiding Principles. Reporting to the Chief People Officer and Chief Financial Officer jointly, this forum allowed the Allianz Board to understand the offer and its consequent organisational impact and to proactively work towards securing the necessary funding to support the business case.
Acuvest proposed at the outset of the project that the ETV offer itself should be created and built as an individual offer. The individualised offer was constructed by the Acuvest data team to ensure that not only was the offer fair and equitable to all, but that it also contained a series of clear and concise messages that were applicable to all. Any unnecessary complexity in the design could have negatively influenced the take up rate of the new proposal.
Acuvest worked collaboratively with our Allianz team, and contributed to the implementation of the ensuing communications strategy. Using existing channels and proven formats, the joint team was tasked from the outset with the role of keeping employees at the heart of every communication, from the creation of the information guides to the selection of appropriate representatives with the pre-requisite inter-personal skills to successfully and skilfully deliver the face-to-face presentations to our employees.
A fundamental objective of the communications strategy was that everyone involved in the project, at a minimum should understand his or her own position. To facilitate the absorption of all the information contained in the proposals, Acuvest created sample personas which employees could relate their situation to. Regularly updated Q&A briefings and suggested access for employees to help lines was also provided. Acuvest delivered all the current and past employee presentations and worked collaboratively with third parties to ensure messages remained consistent throughout the process.
The take up of the ETV offer amongst present and past employees far exceeded our established business case expectations. This in turn significantly reduced the DB scheme’s accounting liabilities, boosted the net asset position of the company and reduced the company’s capital requirement.
The overall project was delivered on time and within set risk and budget parameters. Management time and focus can now firmly concentrate on the next phase of our pension journey to deliver a best in class DC pension scheme while continuing to ensure we have robust governance structures in place to manage all remaining DB assets.
Having successfully secured over 97% engagement in the communications process amongst existing employees, the communications objectives of the offer were also surpassed. The aspiration to ensure that everyone understood their own pension position and were offered genuine choices to control their own retirement savings was achieved through the process.
What the client said:
“Acuvest’s willingness to partner with Allianz and our pension providers, and to take appropriate ownership and responsibility for making the right things happen was in my opinion a significant factor in the ultimate success of the ETV offer.”
Ursula Murphy, Chief People Officer, Allianz PLC