Dutch consumers' confidence in the pension sector is considerably lower than their confidence in banks and insurers. The turmoil surrounding the pension cuts, which according to Minister Koolmees are inevitable, does not help in this case. How can confidence in the pension system be restored? And what can the pension sector learn from other sectors in this case?
26 Sep 2019
Written by Rob Spil
Fasten your seat belts
Let’s have a look at the aviation sector. Taking a plane involves enormous risks. Nevertheless, consumer confidence in aviation is rock solid. Look at what happened in the aftermath of the crash in 2013 of Asiana Airlines' flight 214 at San Francisco airport Only two months after the accident, the occupancy rate on this flight was back at a normal level. The airline industry shows that radical openness keeps the traveller's confidence up in the air. Crash investigations are widely reported in the media and all information is public. Transparent communication afterwards contributes to general confidence in the aviation industry.
Having a look underground also gives us insight. Pension administrators can learn from communication concerning the new metro project, the North-South Line in Amsterdam. The project took ten years longer than planned and cost more than twice as much as budgeted. The reduction of confidence in the successful outcome of the metro project was rectified by communicating proactively and as openly as possible about risks. This form of advance communication creates a so-called 'reputation mattress' or 'reputational lifejacket' which ensures quick confidence recovery after incidents.
How can pension funds increase consumer confidence? In 2018, Netspar summarised the lessons learned in a map with instructions. The following five tips are mentioned in this map:
- Be open and honest in advance
- Be open and honest about mistakes afterwards
- Formulate a clear pension target
- Make it human
- Be helpful
Perhaps the best description of a good flight crew I've ever read. Don’t you agree?
In the cabin
Unfortunately, the pension sector itself does not yet agree on the best approach. The study also shows the different views of the parties in the pension sector.
The Pension Federation, the Dutch Central Bank and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment mainly point to a future new pension system as a means of increasing confidence. They believe that the confidence of the participants in the future system has a positive effect on the confidence of today.
Pension fund PMT and the FNV state that confidence in the pension system will be increased mainly by the pension result. In other words, trust depends on the current pension payment.
The ABP, VNO-NCW and AFM are more in line with Netspar and emphasise the importance of comprehensible and clear communication between the pension fund and the member. In summary, Netspar explains lightly that the lack of a shared vision in the pension sector on how to restore trust is a problem for the lack of trust.
Thank you for flying Pensionair
I do believe in a weekly YouTube broadcast of a Pension Crash Investigation, in which the Dutch pension sector deals mercilessly and honestly with the concrete complaints and errors. This enables participants to see afterwards that their pension fund provides their pension benefits openly and honestly, with a sense of guilt, reliably, humanely and helpfully. Any lessons learned are therefore shared publicly, so that pension funds can work on their 'reputational lifejacket'. Pension funds will need this in these times of upcoming pension cuts.