Quiz – Could you spot a pensions scam?


The law recently changed to help crack down on pension scams but would you spot a pension scam if you saw or heard one? Take this quiz to find out….

https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/pensions-scam-quiz

The importance of accessibility in web applications


What is accessibility?

Accessibility is an approach to designing and building things that considers and accounts for people of all levels of ability. Out in the real-world evidence of accessibility can been seen in most public spaces. Public buildings are designed with ramps for people who can’t manage stairs. Elevator controls are marked with braille and a recorded voice announces the current floor for those who can’t see well enough. Signs use icons and symbols to help people that don’t or can’t read English. The common theme with all these examples is that we don’t assume everyone is the same, with the same abilities, and we make provisions to include as many people as reasonably possible.

So how do we apply principles of accessibility to the development of web applications? The same principles of inclusivity and consideration apply to the design of web applications as with their real-world counterparts. And as with their real-world counterparts the most effective application of accessibility begins at the start of the project at the design stage. While it is possible to retrofit some features of accessibility to an existing development, the same way you can add a ramp to a staircase in a real-world example, considering accessibility from the beginning results in more optimal outcomes. By considering the needs of people with a wide range of abilities, early design decisions can be made where access isn’t limited arbitrarily. Returning to our real-world example, a building could be designed without steps at the entrance, removing the need to add a ramp in later.

The assistive technology that supports the use of web applications has come on a long way in recent years. A significant proportion of computers and web-browsing software support numerous control interfaces out of the box. These include mouse, trackpad, keyboard, touchscreen and trackball. Also in common use is screen reading technology that converts onscreen text to synthesized speech or braille. For all these technologies to work properly the content and user interfaces of the web application must be built to support them. This means writing standards compliant mark-up (HTML) and using WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) attributes appropriately to describe the content semantically. This assists the reading technology in understanding the content presenting it to the user in the most useful and appropriate way.

Use of colour is another important part of accessible design. There are two common misuses of colour in web applications. The first is relying only on colour to convey information. Nearly 5% of all people have some degree of colour-blindness. They might struggle to understand the difference between a successful interaction and a failed interaction if the only indication of success is a change in colour. The second is using colours with insufficient contrast, particularly where text is displayed over a background colour or image. Even people without visual impairments struggle to read low contrast text and may miss an important interface feature or call-to-action.

Why is accessibility important?

If you have a message you need to communicate to as many people as possible then it doesn’t make sense to exclude people from your chosen medium of communication. Building a web application in accordance with principles of accessibility reduces the number of people who are excluded because of their ability. Furthermore, techniques that improve accessibility often improve general usability as well, which is of benefit to everyone. This is particularly true when it comes to building responsive applications designed to work on small touch screens like mobile phones. Another technical benefit is that Google assigns higher search results rank to websites that score well in accessibility tests.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for considering accessibility is that it is the law. The 2010 Equalities Act, and the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act that preceded it, makes it illegal to discriminate against disabled people when providing services. Discrimination is defined as not making reasonable adjustments to support everyone, regardless of (dis)ability. What constitutes reasonable adjustments is open to interpretation and will depend on the size of the organisation and the degree to which people will be affected by any failure to provide for them. There is an internationally recognised accessibility framework, the WCAG, that sets out three broad levels of accessibility provision (A, AA and AAA). For the majority of organisations meeting the requirements set out in level AA is usually sufficient.

Every picture tells a story


Choosing the right images for your Scheme/Plan

Often businesses find it very difficult to choose the right images for their website, social media and other marketing communications. This is particularly the case in service-based industries, but there are still many ways to tell your story visually and capture the members’ attention.

Here are our top 5 tips for choosing images:

  1. Quality not quantity – Use good quality images, if possible use real-life examples (the Committee or your members), if that’s not possible use stock photography which is approved for editorial use.

  2. Avoid clichés – When stock images are the only option available, choose wisely and use pictures which tell a story.
  3. Be creative – Try not to be too literal, instead, suggest the experience or choose a theme.
  4. Show people – Use images of people your audience will identify with ie. images which represent the demographic of your pension.
  5. Always stay true to your brand – Only choose images which fit your core brand values and character (what your business stands for and how you want it to come across to members).

Visual storytelling is a great tool for providing members with a window into your Scheme/Plan. Use it wisely and creatively to build a picture that sparks interest and invites engagement and it will lead to your communications being more successful.

And of course, we’re here to help! At Concert we follow these tips when selecting photography for our own clients projects.

Need some inspiration?

If you need some further inspiration here’s a great post by DIYGenius about visual storytelling with 15 examples, although this is specifically for Instagram, lots of the advice applies to choosing photography in general: www.diygenius.com/brilliant-examples-of-visual-storytelling-on-instagram/

Work and Pensions Minister Amber Rudd remains in post


Wednesday 24 July heralded a new era for British politics with Boris Johnson’s taking the reigns as Britain’s latest Prime Minister. His first job, to appoint his Cabinet colleagues saw the biggest ministerial shake up in living history.

Whilst Mr Johnson’s appointments will see a number of Government Departments with a new ministerial lead, The Department of Work and Pensions is one of the few where the status quo remains, with Amber Rudd remaining as Minister for Work and Pensions.

In a time of uncertainty, with Brexit still unresolved and Mr Johnson announcing his plans for sweeping changes, the fact that pensions appear to remain stable is welcome news.

Working in Concert


Five people in the Concert Consulting office working on a creative project

We talk a lot about our ‘creative process’ for designing, developing and delivering first-class communications for our lovely clients.

Ever wondered what our creative process looks like? It looks a lot like us in this picture!

Simply put, we get together members of each of our core business areas – consulting, design, digital and production – then lock them in a room and don’t let them out until they have great ideas!

Well, okay, not really – but everything we do starts and ends with great communication. From the moment we take a brief from a client, to campaign and project planning, to delivering to our ‘end users’: your employees and members – it’s all about great conversations and effective communications.

It’s what we do and who we are.

 

Gamification: is it winning?


It’s almost the fifth anniversary of the launch of the first high profile ‘gamified retirement saving app’.

This featured a family of cartoon nuts and bolts and was designed to educate staff about saving levels, and to encourage younger staff to engage with pensions and long-term saving by playing something like a cross between Pac-Man and Jungle Run.

The launch was part of a five-year ‘saving for your future’ campaign and was based on the power of games to engage people.

There’s no debating this power. The global turnover of the gaming industry back then was estimated at around $70bn. Now it’s almost doubled to $134.9bn.

But surely claiming that playing a video game that involves collecting coins can help encourage people to save more for retirement is like saying playing Space Invaders can help to increase the likelihood of people joining the Inter-Planetary Diplomatic Corps…

The serious point here though is that creating this kind of game, just isn’t gamification.

Gamification is about finding ways to generate the sense of achievement, reward and progress that people feel as they carry out a task or process that they need to do anyway (or that you want them to do) by adding ‘gamified elements’ such as points, perks or prizes, linked to how the task or process is completed.

Inside Amazon’s cavernous warehouse near Manchester, as many employees race to fill customer orders, their progress is reflected in a video game format. It’s part of an initiative by the e-commerce giant to help both reduce the tedium of its physically demanding jobs and improve the efficiency of work like plucking items from or stowing products on shelves.

The games are displayed on small screens at employees’ workstations and, with names such as MissionRacer, Dragon Duel and CastleCrafter, look a lot like old-school video games e.g. Donkey Kong and SuperMario. The games can register the completion of the task, which is tracked by scanning devices, and can pit individuals, teams or entire floors in a race to pick or stow products. Game-playing employees (it’s optional, not compulsory) are rewarded with points, virtual badges and other goodies throughout a shift.

There may be debates about whether it’s appropriate to reward improved performance with badges rather than bonuses, but there’s no debating that this is true gamification.

By extension, gamifying saving for retirement would look more like rewarding members who increase their AVCs with a t-shirt, or those who login to their member account every month for a year with a hat or some vouchers.

The pension industry may see that as trivialising what is obviously an important and serious issue, but it will be interesting to see what, if any, results are publicised at the end of the five-year campaign.

Archive news articles

How to spill coffee and influence people


You may be aware of the role of ‘influencers’ in modern marketing strategy.

According to digitalmarketinginstitute.com, influencers are people who have established credibility in a specific industry, have access to a huge audience and can persuade others to act based on their recommendations.

You may not be aware of Omar the construction guy.

Omar is a regular guy who was frankly unimpressed with his daughter’s strong affiliation with various social media influencers, claiming that ‘anyone could do that’. He then went on to prove his point by creating his own Instagram influencer account (justaconstructionguy) and posting pictures of himself going about his daily business in the visual style of typical social media influencers. In around a month he racked up over 333,000 followers, all avidly awaiting the next image of Omar drinking coffee on his break on the building site, or dramatically splashing his coffee over a construction sign…

The internet was delighted. Sadly, it turned out Omar was actually not a spoof influencer but an actual influencer in an ad campaign for… a coffee shop…

The internet is still debating whether to laugh at itself or be outraged but the story got us thinking about whether or not there is a role for social media influencers in the context of saving for retirement.

Engaging people – especially across the younger age range – around saving for retirement has been an ongoing challenge but as the media and technology landscape evolves, it throws up new ways to tackle this challenge. Maybe influencers could be the next big thing.

The idea of somehow getting YouTube and Instagram influencers to take a break from extolling the virtues of the latest fashion, beauty, food and beverage trends to comment meaningfully on the advantages of starting to save for the future – certainly has some appeal.

According to Kamiu Lee, CEO of Activate, writing for Entrepreneur Europe, influencers can humanise financial brands and highlight philanthropic efforts in a way that more traditional and other digital marketing struggles to deliver.

Let's face it – pretty much all finance topics can be complicated, boring and even a bit scary. And on top of that, financial institutions have long had a reputation that doesn't put them on the list of consumers' favourite brands, particularly after the 2008 financial crisis.

Here, Kamiu believes, influencers are uniquely positioned to connect a brand to a personal story in a way that's superior to what a traditional print or digital ad could do. Connecting a brand and its products to a personal life journey - whether that be paying for a wedding, financing a renovation or saving for retirement -- is all about bringing a friendly brand connotation, relatability and authenticity to these financial brands and the concepts they service.

As communications people, this makes a lot of sense to us but we’re also conscious of the challenges that are specific to the financial services sector. Indeed, Kamiu also highlights the requirements of various financial regulatory bodies across the world and the need for no clear product placement or recommendations occurring in a post about a financial brand as well as clear disclosure around an influencer's paid posts.

But even setting these regulatory framework considerations aside, is that even possible to ride of the coattails of social media influencers with message of saving for your future anyway?

According to Antonio Grasso (a self-proclaimed B2B Influencer in the area of digital transformation), an influencer is someone with the ability to change behaviours or affect purchase decisions in a given context, having already earned an engaged audience by producing content on specific topics. And influencer marketing aims to harness the influence of key individuals on the social web to meet a business goal by building mutually beneficial relationships.

In other words, influencers are typically more about preaching to the converted and creating a place for them to congregate, than they are about converting those whose ear they don’t already have.

As behavioural psychology tells us that people tend to ‘filter out’ messages that they aren’t already aligned around or on board with, the idea of influencing young people about saving for their future when they’re engaging with content about the latest trainers feels a little remoter.

Maybe if Omar had posted a few shots of himself increasing his monthly pension contribution instead of splashing all that coffee around…

5g and You


The much anticipated fifth generation standard for cellular network communications, 5g, looks set to revolutionise the way we use the internet.

Vastly improved performance in three key areas will enable intensive tasks traditionally confined to a WiFi or cabled environment to be completed on the move, in addition to brand new workflows, products and services like the ‘Internet of Things’ that could not have existed under previous network architectures.

However, there are also technological drawbacks to 5g compared to the 3g and 4g (LTE) that we are used to, and more than one company involved in the rollout of 5g infrastructure across the world has been implicated in controversy. What do all of these factors mean for the way we conduct business, and live our lives?

The specification
The new 5g network specification is primarily concerned with achieving the following improvements over prior implementations:

  1. Greater speed

    The much higher bandwidth of 5g connections is expected to provide worst-case bitrates in excess of 100 megabits per second to all users, and a theoretical maximum of up to 20 gigabits (20,000 megabits) per second in ideal conditions. For comparison, current 4g LTE networks provide an average of between 5 and 10 megabits per second, with peak performance approaching 50 megabits per second in perfect conditions. Google Fiber, the superfast fibre optic network operated by the global search giant, operates at 1 gigabit per second over a cable or high performance WiFi router.

    In other words, the ‘worst case’ 5g speed will be 2 to 4 times faster than the current average speed, with a ‘top speed’ around 400 times faster than the current 4g top speed.

  2. Reduced latency

    Connection latency is a measure of the delay between a device sending a signal and receiving a response from the network, and is unrelated to connection bandwidth.

    A good demonstration of this is watching a Youtube video over your cellular network, followed by conducting a video call. Both videos will likely run at lower resolution than they would over WiFi due to bandwidth constraints, but you may also notice that your video conversation feels ‘laggy’ or desynchronised in a way that Youtube doesn’t. Your contact might take half a second longer to reply to you than you are expecting, and you find yourselves speaking over one another more than you would in person. This is the effect of latency; a fractional delay between you speaking words and your contact hearing them, compounded by the same delay in the other direction when they respond.

    5g network technology is expected to reduce latency to between 1 and 4 milliseconds, comparable to a good WiFi connection. 3g and 4g have average latency greater than 50 milliseconds. The benefit of this will extend to every real-time interaction performed on the network, from video and voice calls to online gaming and general web application responsiveness.

  3. Many more simultaneous connections

    All wireless networks, from 3g and 4g cellular to WiFi and Bluetooth, suffer reduced performance in both bandwidth and latency in busy environments. This is due in part to increased congestion causing interference on whichever frequency band the network uses, and in part to the upper limit on simultaneous data transfers from a given antenna being reached. Interference reduces download speed as more pieces of whatever is being downloaded will arrive corrupted and must be reacquired, and reaching the simultaneous connection limit puts surplus connections in a queue for service, adding greatly to latency.

    5g network broadcasts are directional, allowing many more transmitters to be used in the same location without interfering with one another. This significantly raises the number of connections that can be maintained in a given area using 5g compared to the same area using 4g, alleviating the issues mentioned above.

So what does this all mean for the world of saving for retirement?
As with previous generations of mobile communication technology, we can expect 5g to drive up demand for faster and slicker ways to consume content – even about pensions. Online content about pension benefits has to be accurate and up-to-date but unless it’s also accessible in a way that’s in line with wider communication trends, then it’s at risk of looking old-fashioned and irrelevant.

Saving for retirement already has a bit of a ‘street-cred issue’ – especially for younger people – so failing to keep up with technology is a mistake our industry cannot afford to make.

How Brexit delay is affecting pensions


The Brexit process now seems likely to run until October 2019.

One of the effects of this is that a new pensions bill, planned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to be written into law during 2019, is now unlikely to be passed before 2020.

This means that five major pensions initiatives could face a delay of unknown duration:

  • Pensions scams: the cold-calling ban introduced in January was a welcome step, but measures to make it easier for schemes to block suspect transfers and harder for scammers to establish fake schemes
  • Mid-life MOT: an obligation on all employers to support a financial health-check for employees
  • Pensions dashboards: set to become a reality later this year (on a voluntary basis), the real value for rests on making it compulsory that all schemes provide information
  • Collective defined contribution (CDC) schemes: these plans are designed to offer a halfway house between defined benefit and defined contribution and Royal Mail is keen to adopt CDC for its 140,000 UK staff
  • Defined benefit (DB) consolidation: although DB consolidation is already possible, the DWP wants to allow DB “superfunds” to drive consolidation of smaller schemes to maximise potential cost savings as long as members have equal protections to those of other DB schemes.

All of above initiatives could bring tangible benefits, but all require new legislation and it’s currently unclear when a new pensions bill will be at the top of the Parliamentary agenda.

Quiz – Could you spot a pensions scam?


August 2019

The law recently changed to help crack down on pension scams but would you spot a pension scam if you saw or heard one? Take this quiz to find out….

https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/pensions-scam-quiz

The importance of accessibility in web applications


August 2019

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is an approach to designing and building things that considers and accounts for people of all levels of ability. Out in the real-world evidence of accessibility can been seen in most public spaces. Public buildings are designed with ramps for people who can’t manage stairs. Elevator controls are marked with braille and a recorded voice announces the current floor for those who can’t see well enough. Signs use icons and symbols to help people that don’t or can’t read English. The common theme with all these examples is that we don’t assume everyone is the same, with the same abilities, and we make provisions to include as many people as reasonably possible.

So how do we apply principles of accessibility to the development of web applications? The same principles of inclusivity and consideration apply to the design of web applications as with their real-world counterparts. And as with their real-world counterparts the most effective application of accessibility begins at the start of the project at the design stage. While it is possible to retrofit some features of accessibility to an existing development, the same way you can add a ramp to a staircase in a real-world example, considering accessibility from the beginning results in more optimal outcomes. By considering the needs of people with a wide range of abilities, early design decisions can be made where access isn’t limited arbitrarily. Returning to our real-world example, a building could be designed without steps at the entrance, removing the need to add a ramp in later.

The assistive technology that supports the use of web applications has come on a long way in recent years. A significant proportion of computers and web-browsing software support numerous control interfaces out of the box. These include mouse, trackpad, keyboard, touchscreen and trackball. Also in common use is screen reading technology that converts onscreen text to synthesized speech or braille. For all these technologies to work properly the content and user interfaces of the web application must be built to support them. This means writing standards compliant mark-up (HTML) and using WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) attributes appropriately to describe the content semantically. This assists the reading technology in understanding the content presenting it to the user in the most useful and appropriate way.

Use of colour is another important part of accessible design. There are two common misuses of colour in web applications. The first is relying only on colour to convey information. Nearly 5% of all people have some degree of colour-blindness. They might struggle to understand the difference between a successful interaction and a failed interaction if the only indication of success is a change in colour. The second is using colours with insufficient contrast, particularly where text is displayed over a background colour or image. Even people without visual impairments struggle to read low contrast text and may miss an important interface feature or call-to-action.

Why is accessibility important?

If you have a message you need to communicate to as many people as possible then it doesn’t make sense to exclude people from your chosen medium of communication. Building a web application in accordance with principles of accessibility reduces the number of people who are excluded because of their ability. Furthermore, techniques that improve accessibility often improve general usability as well, which is of benefit to everyone. This is particularly true when it comes to building responsive applications designed to work on small touch screens like mobile phones. Another technical benefit is that Google assigns higher search results rank to websites that score well in accessibility tests.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for considering accessibility is that it is the law. The 2010 Equalities Act, and the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act that preceded it, makes it illegal to discriminate against disabled people when providing services. Discrimination is defined as not making reasonable adjustments to support everyone, regardless of (dis)ability. What constitutes reasonable adjustments is open to interpretation and will depend on the size of the organisation and the degree to which people will be affected by any failure to provide for them. There is an internationally recognised accessibility framework, the WCAG, that sets out three broad levels of accessibility provision (A, AA and AAA). For the majority of organisations meeting the requirements set out in level AA is usually sufficient.

Every picture tells a story


August 2019

Choosing the right images for your Scheme/Plan

Often businesses find it very difficult to choose the right images for their website, social media and other marketing communications. This is particularly the case in service-based industries, but there are still many ways to tell your story visually and capture the members’ attention.

Here are our top 5 tips for choosing images:

  1. Quality not quantity – Use good quality images, if possible use real-life examples (the Committee or your members), if that’s not possible use stock photography which is approved for editorial use.

  2. Avoid clichés – When stock images are the only option available, choose wisely and use pictures which tell a story.
  3. Be creative – Try not to be too literal, instead, suggest the experience or choose a theme.
  4. Show people – Use images of people your audience will identify with ie. images which represent the demographic of your pension.
  5. Always stay true to your brand – Only choose images which fit your core brand values and character (what your business stands for and how you want it to come across to members).

Visual storytelling is a great tool for providing members with a window into your Scheme/Plan. Use it wisely and creatively to build a picture that sparks interest and invites engagement and it will lead to your communications being more successful.

And of course, we’re here to help! At Concert we follow these tips when selecting photography for our own clients projects.

Need some inspiration?

If you need some further inspiration here’s a great post by DIYGenius about visual storytelling with 15 examples, although this is specifically for Instagram, lots of the advice applies to choosing photography in general: www.diygenius.com/brilliant-examples-of-visual-storytelling-on-instagram/

Work and Pensions Minister Amber Rudd remains in post


July 2019

Wednesday 24 July heralded a new era for British politics with Boris Johnson’s taking the reigns as Britain’s latest Prime Minister. His first job, to appoint his Cabinet colleagues saw the biggest ministerial shake up in living history.

Whilst Mr Johnson’s appointments will see a number of Government Departments with a new ministerial lead, The Department of Work and Pensions is one of the few where the status quo remains, with Amber Rudd remaining as Minister for Work and Pensions.

In a time of uncertainty, with Brexit still unresolved and Mr Johnson announcing his plans for sweeping changes, the fact that pensions appear to remain stable is welcome news.

Working in Concert


July 2019

Five people in the Concert Consulting office working on a creative project

We talk a lot about our ‘creative process’ for designing, developing and delivering first-class communications for our lovely clients.

Ever wondered what our creative process looks like? It looks a lot like us in this picture!

Simply put, we get together members of each of our core business areas – consulting, design, digital and production – then lock them in a room and don’t let them out until they have great ideas!

Well, okay, not really – but everything we do starts and ends with great communication. From the moment we take a brief from a client, to campaign and project planning, to delivering to our ‘end users’: your employees and members – it’s all about great conversations and effective communications.

It’s what we do and who we are.

 

Gamification: is it winning?


July 2019

It’s almost the fifth anniversary of the launch of the first high profile ‘gamified retirement saving app’.

This featured a family of cartoon nuts and bolts and was designed to educate staff about saving levels, and to encourage younger staff to engage with pensions and long-term saving by playing something like a cross between Pac-Man and Jungle Run.

The launch was part of a five-year ‘saving for your future’ campaign and was based on the power of games to engage people.

There’s no debating this power. The global turnover of the gaming industry back then was estimated at around $70bn. Now it’s almost doubled to $134.9bn.

But surely claiming that playing a video game that involves collecting coins can help encourage people to save more for retirement is like saying playing Space Invaders can help to increase the likelihood of people joining the Inter-Planetary Diplomatic Corps…

The serious point here though is that creating this kind of game, just isn’t gamification.

Gamification is about finding ways to generate the sense of achievement, reward and progress that people feel as they carry out a task or process that they need to do anyway (or that you want them to do) by adding ‘gamified elements’ such as points, perks or prizes, linked to how the task or process is completed.

Inside Amazon’s cavernous warehouse near Manchester, as many employees race to fill customer orders, their progress is reflected in a video game format. It’s part of an initiative by the e-commerce giant to help both reduce the tedium of its physically demanding jobs and improve the efficiency of work like plucking items from or stowing products on shelves.

The games are displayed on small screens at employees’ workstations and, with names such as MissionRacer, Dragon Duel and CastleCrafter, look a lot like old-school video games e.g. Donkey Kong and SuperMario. The games can register the completion of the task, which is tracked by scanning devices, and can pit individuals, teams or entire floors in a race to pick or stow products. Game-playing employees (it’s optional, not compulsory) are rewarded with points, virtual badges and other goodies throughout a shift.

There may be debates about whether it’s appropriate to reward improved performance with badges rather than bonuses, but there’s no debating that this is true gamification.

By extension, gamifying saving for retirement would look more like rewarding members who increase their AVCs with a t-shirt, or those who login to their member account every month for a year with a hat or some vouchers.

The pension industry may see that as trivialising what is obviously an important and serious issue, but it will be interesting to see what, if any, results are publicised at the end of the five-year campaign.

How to spill coffee and influence people


June 2019

You may be aware of the role of ‘influencers’ in modern marketing strategy.

According to digitalmarketinginstitute.com, influencers are people who have established credibility in a specific industry, have access to a huge audience and can persuade others to act based on their recommendations.

You may not be aware of Omar the construction guy.

Omar is a regular guy who was frankly unimpressed with his daughter’s strong affiliation with various social media influencers, claiming that ‘anyone could do that’. He then went on to prove his point by creating his own Instagram influencer account (justaconstructionguy) and posting pictures of himself going about his daily business in the visual style of typical social media influencers. In around a month he racked up over 333,000 followers, all avidly awaiting the next image of Omar drinking coffee on his break on the building site, or dramatically splashing his coffee over a construction sign…

The internet was delighted. Sadly, it turned out Omar was actually not a spoof influencer but an actual influencer in an ad campaign for… a coffee shop…

The internet is still debating whether to laugh at itself or be outraged but the story got us thinking about whether or not there is a role for social media influencers in the context of saving for retirement.

Engaging people – especially across the younger age range – around saving for retirement has been an ongoing challenge but as the media and technology landscape evolves, it throws up new ways to tackle this challenge. Maybe influencers could be the next big thing.

The idea of somehow getting YouTube and Instagram influencers to take a break from extolling the virtues of the latest fashion, beauty, food and beverage trends to comment meaningfully on the advantages of starting to save for the future – certainly has some appeal.

According to Kamiu Lee, CEO of Activate, writing for Entrepreneur Europe, influencers can humanise financial brands and highlight philanthropic efforts in a way that more traditional and other digital marketing struggles to deliver.

Let's face it – pretty much all finance topics can be complicated, boring and even a bit scary. And on top of that, financial institutions have long had a reputation that doesn't put them on the list of consumers' favourite brands, particularly after the 2008 financial crisis.

Here, Kamiu believes, influencers are uniquely positioned to connect a brand to a personal story in a way that's superior to what a traditional print or digital ad could do. Connecting a brand and its products to a personal life journey - whether that be paying for a wedding, financing a renovation or saving for retirement -- is all about bringing a friendly brand connotation, relatability and authenticity to these financial brands and the concepts they service.

As communications people, this makes a lot of sense to us but we’re also conscious of the challenges that are specific to the financial services sector. Indeed, Kamiu also highlights the requirements of various financial regulatory bodies across the world and the need for no clear product placement or recommendations occurring in a post about a financial brand as well as clear disclosure around an influencer's paid posts.

But even setting these regulatory framework considerations aside, is that even possible to ride of the coattails of social media influencers with message of saving for your future anyway?

According to Antonio Grasso (a self-proclaimed B2B Influencer in the area of digital transformation), an influencer is someone with the ability to change behaviours or affect purchase decisions in a given context, having already earned an engaged audience by producing content on specific topics. And influencer marketing aims to harness the influence of key individuals on the social web to meet a business goal by building mutually beneficial relationships.

In other words, influencers are typically more about preaching to the converted and creating a place for them to congregate, than they are about converting those whose ear they don’t already have.

As behavioural psychology tells us that people tend to ‘filter out’ messages that they aren’t already aligned around or on board with, the idea of influencing young people about saving for their future when they’re engaging with content about the latest trainers feels a little remoter.

Maybe if Omar had posted a few shots of himself increasing his monthly pension contribution instead of splashing all that coffee around…

5g and You


June 2019

The much anticipated fifth generation standard for cellular network communications, 5g, looks set to revolutionise the way we use the internet.

Vastly improved performance in three key areas will enable intensive tasks traditionally confined to a WiFi or cabled environment to be completed on the move, in addition to brand new workflows, products and services like the ‘Internet of Things’ that could not have existed under previous network architectures.

However, there are also technological drawbacks to 5g compared to the 3g and 4g (LTE) that we are used to, and more than one company involved in the rollout of 5g infrastructure across the world has been implicated in controversy. What do all of these factors mean for the way we conduct business, and live our lives?

The specification
The new 5g network specification is primarily concerned with achieving the following improvements over prior implementations:

  1. Greater speed

    The much higher bandwidth of 5g connections is expected to provide worst-case bitrates in excess of 100 megabits per second to all users, and a theoretical maximum of up to 20 gigabits (20,000 megabits) per second in ideal conditions. For comparison, current 4g LTE networks provide an average of between 5 and 10 megabits per second, with peak performance approaching 50 megabits per second in perfect conditions. Google Fiber, the superfast fibre optic network operated by the global search giant, operates at 1 gigabit per second over a cable or high performance WiFi router.

    In other words, the ‘worst case’ 5g speed will be 2 to 4 times faster than the current average speed, with a ‘top speed’ around 400 times faster than the current 4g top speed.

  2. Reduced latency

    Connection latency is a measure of the delay between a device sending a signal and receiving a response from the network, and is unrelated to connection bandwidth.

    A good demonstration of this is watching a Youtube video over your cellular network, followed by conducting a video call. Both videos will likely run at lower resolution than they would over WiFi due to bandwidth constraints, but you may also notice that your video conversation feels ‘laggy’ or desynchronised in a way that Youtube doesn’t. Your contact might take half a second longer to reply to you than you are expecting, and you find yourselves speaking over one another more than you would in person. This is the effect of latency; a fractional delay between you speaking words and your contact hearing them, compounded by the same delay in the other direction when they respond.

    5g network technology is expected to reduce latency to between 1 and 4 milliseconds, comparable to a good WiFi connection. 3g and 4g have average latency greater than 50 milliseconds. The benefit of this will extend to every real-time interaction performed on the network, from video and voice calls to online gaming and general web application responsiveness.

  3. Many more simultaneous connections

    All wireless networks, from 3g and 4g cellular to WiFi and Bluetooth, suffer reduced performance in both bandwidth and latency in busy environments. This is due in part to increased congestion causing interference on whichever frequency band the network uses, and in part to the upper limit on simultaneous data transfers from a given antenna being reached. Interference reduces download speed as more pieces of whatever is being downloaded will arrive corrupted and must be reacquired, and reaching the simultaneous connection limit puts surplus connections in a queue for service, adding greatly to latency.

    5g network broadcasts are directional, allowing many more transmitters to be used in the same location without interfering with one another. This significantly raises the number of connections that can be maintained in a given area using 5g compared to the same area using 4g, alleviating the issues mentioned above.

So what does this all mean for the world of saving for retirement?
As with previous generations of mobile communication technology, we can expect 5g to drive up demand for faster and slicker ways to consume content – even about pensions. Online content about pension benefits has to be accurate and up-to-date but unless it’s also accessible in a way that’s in line with wider communication trends, then it’s at risk of looking old-fashioned and irrelevant.

Saving for retirement already has a bit of a ‘street-cred issue’ – especially for younger people – so failing to keep up with technology is a mistake our industry cannot afford to make.

How Brexit delay is affecting pensions


June 2019

The Brexit process now seems likely to run until October 2019.

One of the effects of this is that a new pensions bill, planned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to be written into law during 2019, is now unlikely to be passed before 2020.

This means that five major pensions initiatives could face a delay of unknown duration:

  • Pensions scams: the cold-calling ban introduced in January was a welcome step, but measures to make it easier for schemes to block suspect transfers and harder for scammers to establish fake schemes
  • Mid-life MOT: an obligation on all employers to support a financial health-check for employees
  • Pensions dashboards: set to become a reality later this year (on a voluntary basis), the real value for rests on making it compulsory that all schemes provide information
  • Collective defined contribution (CDC) schemes: these plans are designed to offer a halfway house between defined benefit and defined contribution and Royal Mail is keen to adopt CDC for its 140,000 UK staff
  • Defined benefit (DB) consolidation: although DB consolidation is already possible, the DWP wants to allow DB “superfunds” to drive consolidation of smaller schemes to maximise potential cost savings as long as members have equal protections to those of other DB schemes.

All of above initiatives could bring tangible benefits, but all require new legislation and it’s currently unclear when a new pensions bill will be at the top of the Parliamentary agenda.