Can looking back to a simpler time as a child provide us with ideas for the future when it comes to pensions communications?
When I was 14 I went on an airplane for the first time. I took with me a handheld virtual pet, (a variation on a Tamagotchi), which I had just got for my birthday. Due to the upcoming flight I had named my pet (rather unimaginatively) ‘Fly’. During the outward journey it soon became apparent that I was a nervous flyer and I subsequently spent the entire holiday desperately trying to make sure that 'Fly' didn't die, in case it had a negative impact on the return flight.
Most people probably aren't as irrational as me, but it does show that if you are engaged and believe in something enough you will put in the time to ensure its survival even though, as in this particular instance, it was an inanimate object.
This 90s toy got me thinking about the popularity of gaming and whether a similar idea could inspire the way pensions are communicated to members and what the tools used to monitor their benefits might look like. Would you be more likely to check your pension online if it were, for example a virtual pet that you had to feed and grow? You could watch your pet increase in size as you fed it contributions and become more or less healthy depending on the investment growth of your funds.
As a subject matter, pensions could not be described as fun. To get the expected outcome from your pension it is necessary to be engaged and proactive but to do this can feel like a bit of a chore. Would members be more likely to increase their contributions or follow the progress of their benefits more intently if the technical aspect was taken away and put into a less complicated and entertaining game form? Remember the phenomenon of ‘Pokemon Go?’ Adults as well as children could be seen roaming the streets bumping into lamp posts in order to collect all the characters. Is there a way of harnessing this type of interest and adapting it into pension terms?
It's clear that when it comes to pension communications, we need to be as creative as possible and continue to tap into modern trends, including online gaming and the use of mobile phones.
Pension interaction in virtual pet form may not be in the immediate future but striving to make pensions more fun should always be a key objective.