Small business leaders hail auto-enrolment success: NAPF

Auto enrolment can be achieved simply and prove positive for the smallest of firms, business leaders told the National Association of Pension Funds annual conference in Liverpool.

Speaking about their experience of auto-enrolling staff, Purdey Wildey, financial controller of London-based Nails Inc, said the firm has approximately 350 employes in the UK and was required to enrol 174 of them in January this year.

“It is easy if you focus on it,” Ms Wildey said. “Our business is dynamic and, like in many small businesses, I wear a lot of hats. I focused on getting our payroll records in order, looked for the gaps and got them resolved before we went live.”

Smaller companies without office-based staff should also consider how they will communicate with members. “It took a special project to get all the email addresses of eligible workers, but once done, this greatly improved the process and of the 174 enrolled, there has only been one opt-out to date,” she added.

David Coveney, director of Liverpool-based IT services company, Interconnect IT, focused on finding a scheme that would offer real benefits to his 11 staff. He said: “You have to be very careful about fees. Fees can gobble up compound returns on any scheme, especially in the early days.”

Mr Coveney said he had met with “some resistance” from the industry. His firm was not expected to enrol until 2016, and he was told to come back later by one major provider.

However, information was readily available and in most cases accessible, Mr Coveney added, making the decision process a relatively painless affair.

Val Allen, commercial manager, of 30-strong General Welding Supplies based in Widnes, already has two schemes in place – a legacy group personal pension and a personal pension for new joiners.

Though confident of managing a successful staging, Ms Allen was critical of certain parts of the advisory community.

She said: “We contacted our adviser and they told us it was up to us to decide whether the scheme was compliant. AE is a good thing for those without pension schemes, but there may be a bit of complacency around those who already have a scheme in place.”

Adviser view

Mark Ireland, financial planning consultant for Hertfordshire-based Richmond House Group, said: “In many instances, there has been a complete failure of the pension industry to deliver upon its promises to sort out auto-enrolment for its clients.

“For those of us working in this space there have been times of utter frustration at the pensions industry’s ability to deliver on its promises, but a welcome consequence has been a more valued and professional relationship with our corporate clients, as we have hand-held them through such difficult times.”