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Are you a fruit or a vegetable?

3 December 2018

Are you a fruit or a vegetable?

Brian O’Driscoll, the decorated Irish and British Lions rugby international was once quoted in a press conference saying that "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”

The reasons for him saying that were revealed some years later, and it didn’t involve either wisdom or knowledge!

However, I was reminded of the quote the other day when looking at the current market within employee benefits. It all seems a bit mixed up.

We have the traditional ends of the spectrum where providers have provided (Scottish Widows, Legal and General, BUPA), and brokers have brokered (Mercer, Aon, Hargreaves Lansdowne, JLT), obviously with those companies working in partnership with each other to deliver for clients, which continues to happen now. However, they all seem to be doing the same thing in certain areas, which even for me is very confusing.

Let me give you an example, at the latest Workplace Savings and Benefits Awards held only last month there were two particular awards that illustrate this point.

Pension Provider of the Year was won by Hargreaves Lansdowne for a second year in a row, not by one of the traditional providers who set out every year to try and achieve success in such ceremonies. Highly commended was Smart Pension, one of the new breed of Mastertrusts. Hargreaves are probably better known for their investment platforms, direct SIPP and ISA business, not a Workplace Pension- but they are a genuine and recognised player in a fast evolving market.

Financial Education Provider of the Year was……….Scottish Widows. Wait a minute, aren’t they a pension provider and there are many firms who specialise in providing financial education only?

This is my point, if this very simple example illustrates anything, it demonstrates that the market is innovating, evolving and changing to the degree that services are available but not being utilised to the extent they have. How many employees with a Scottish Widows pension have actually taken advantage of this award-winning service?

Navigating the market is complicated and ensuring that you hear the answers on the questions you don’t know to ask is becoming very important, as budget and employee engagement align. Let’s make sure that your employees hear what they need to hear, not what is filtered from either end of the scale.

Now, where is that fruit salad.