Since 2011, Capita has partnered with The Pensions Regulator to deliver automatic enrolment, employing 150 staff and operating a multi-channel customer contact centre to deliver direct communications to every employer in the UK. As a result, saving for a pension has become the norm, with 22.9 million people now saving into a workplace pension.
Between 1997 and 2012 the UK saw a significant decline in the number of people saving toward retirement. This presented a major social concern: the impact of an ageing society added to declining pension savings could leave many citizens without enough money for retirement. The Pensions Commission, established in 2002, recommended that employers be required to automatically enrol eligible workers into workplace pension schemes.
For The Pensions Regulator, tasked with implementing automatic enrolment, this constituted a major social change programme. It faced a series of challenges from the outset, including:
- establishing its brand with a new audience (all UK employers) as the Pensions Regulator, an authority whose regulations and directives must be complied with
- operational capacity and capability to regulate and administer automatic enrolment
- complex employer communication journeys to ensure compliance and third-party communications to educate and inform intermediaries
- change capability to ensure that the service as launched would be capable of evolving to meet the changing requirements of both employers and the regulations.
Challenges to establishing automatic enrolment as “the norm”
Two of its greatest challenges lay first in the implementation of the programme, and second in educating employers and their people to encourage (or, where necessary, to enforce) compliance. This meant establishing a societal norm that until now had not existed.
In 2011, we joined forces with The Pensions Regulator in its quest to deliver automatic enrolment, employing 150 staff across two sites and operating a multi-channel customer contact centre to communicate directly with every employer in the UK. The Pensions Regulator selected Capita following a rigorous procurement process because of our expertise and ability to deliver and operate a large-scale operation.
A partnership of specialists
We offered not only the capability to build the solution, technology and overall operating model, but also the resources to enable widespread levels of communication and enforcement. The Pensions Regulator brought regulatory expertise to the partnership, set out clear goals and outcomes, put appropriate risk transfer in place and got themselves comfortable with delegating enforcement powers – which was a first for them.
We put together a team of people to deliver the capability to launch the automatic enrolment service on behalf of employers and employees. We also established a contact centre and a communication programme across a range of different employer sets, as well as redesigning back-office processes and procedures to support on-time compliance.
Informing, communicating and ensuring compliance
Together with The Pensions Regulator, we ensured that UK employers of all sizes and with varying levels of pensions expertise, were kept informed, helping them to understand and meet the pension reform goal. Communication campaigns and strategies included:
- A mail campaign to over 1m employers and a communications programme, based on behaviour change, designed to drive timely compliance. A customer support centre which:
- started with just five customer advisers and a trainer, growing to 100+ at its peak
- was scalable up and down to support demand
- could handle highly complex technical calls from a mix of knowledgeable pensions professionals, individuals and small employers with little to no pensions knowledge
- Web services and IT transformation, which included:
- developing an ‘enforcement journey’ to nudge employers who failed to declare their compliance
- a full design of both the employer facing communications and experience as well as the supporting technology to enable more appropriate and proportionate compliance oversight of a wide range of employer size and type
- a large and challenging IT programme that included migrating all AE programme applications and data to the Microsoft Azure cloud, with no disruption to service.
- Users were migrated from the Government Gateway by implementing a dedicated automatic enrolment gateway, which improved user experience, making it easier for employers to comply
Together with The Pensions Regulator we ensured that this major social reform programme reached over 1.5 million employers.
Once fully implemented, the reforms aimed to transform the culture of saving and increase the number of individuals newly saving or saving more in a workplace pension by around eight million, within a range of six to nine million, and increase the amount that is being saved in workplace pensions by around £11 billion a year within a range of £8 billion to £12 billion1. In fact, employer compliance rates exceeded expectations, as evidenced by the uptake of pensions saving: by 2020, 88% of eligible employees (19.4 million people) and their employers were contributing to pension pots.
Quality customer experience
The focus on customer experience ensured high levels of service quality, as can be seen in the low number of complaints. Our flexible workforce operations could be scaled up or down according to peaks and troughs of activity, ensuring that users could always access help and advice when they needed it. The Pensions Regulator singled out our high performance against key performance indicators throughout the contract, particularly for customer support and communications.
Overcoming the unforeseen challenge of Covid-19
In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic threw a wholly unforeseeable spanner into the works, as more than 50% of customer support staff were unable to work either due to self-isolation, caring for vulnerable dependents or inability to travel to work. Capita’s response was swift, decisive and effective: within 48 hours we transitioned to remote working with minimal service disruption. Working jointly with The Pensions Regulator, we adjusted compliance approaches and communications messages with minimal inconvenience to users.
At the end of the 10-year contract we exited the programme, seamlessly transferring all services to The Pensions Regulator or another supplier, as planned with no negative impacts on service performance and in the midst of the pandemic response.
In drawing the collaboration to a close, three clear goals were set for the last two years. Each of these was achieved successfully:
- continued excellent performance across all services
- on-time, successful exit – all parties met their service transfer dates and the overall contract concluded in an orderly manner on 30 September 2021
- completion of the major IT upgrade and transfer to the cloud which enabled the smooth transition of the IT and Data solution for automatic enrolment. Both sides collaborated effectively against the backdrop of challenging timescales to complete this strategically important goal.
Al Murray, Managing Director Client Partner for Justice, Central Government & Transport, at Capita says: “The partnership between Capita and The Pensions Regulator has been a huge success, resulting in behaviour change and compliance with regulation beyond our expectations. I’m proud of our collective effort to enact pension reform which has been an important public policy, to safeguard the future financial security of millions of citizens in the UK.”
The outcome of this programme for society as a whole has been enormously beneficial. Saving for a pension is now the norm with 22.9 million people regularly putting aside savings toward a retirement in which they can expect to maintain their standard of living.
Partnership statistics as at Sept 2021
Over 6 million - website visits
Over 33 million - letters/emails sent
3 million Declarations of Compliance processed - (including primary declarations of compliance, 1st re-declarations and second re-declarations to the end of July 2021)
1.2 million - phone calls answered
Less than 450 - complaints (not all upheld)
Over 61,000 - employer-requested reviews completed
10.5m - eligible jobholders enrolled into a workplace pension scheme meaning 22.9 million people are now saving into a workplace pension(i)
[i] Figures as at Sept 2021: Automatic enrolment declaration of compliance report | The Pensions Regulator