Compulsory workplace pension schemes are among the most onerous legal obligations for UK SMEs. IFS Employee Benefits LLP (trading as FSB Workplace Pensions) was contracted to give workplace pension support to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which represents more UK SMEs than any other UK-wide business support organisation.
Driving painless growth for an expanding workplace pensions provider
A robust, scalable mechanism was needed to promote the new workplace pension service, communicate with prospects and cope with the volume demands of an accelerating staging schedule.
With thousands of SME businesses seeking help, we developed a strategy and proposition to create a systems driven, robust and scalable solution, set up for a demanding future.
We had to refine our strategy and proposition, build a website, set up CRM and database management, do email marketing, and create publications. Plus ongoing client management and administration…’
As Director Sam Baker says:
“We wanted a hands-on partner who’d handle strategy and implementation; and we wanted the right long-term cultural fit. Firestarter didn’t get the project on a plate; they worked hard for it. We were impressed with Matt and his team. They presented well and demonstrated that, as well as being skilled strategists, they’re good implementers – exactly what we wanted. We appointed them and quickly developed a close relationship. From the start, Firestarter spent lots of time on site and rapidly gained in-depth understanding of us, the FSB, the product and the FSB members.”
At the work’s heart, Firestarter designed and implemented a sophisticated communications and customer-data management package. Pre 2013, IFS was a traditional financial services business with 40 consultants, each managing their own clients. With responsibility for the FSB’s workplace pension scheme, everything changed.
Sam Baker explains: “We were out of our depth marketing directly to FSB members. Fortunately, Firestarter’s ‘kick-starting business’ promise was ideal.”
Streamlining and going online
Within months, and on schedule, IFS’s systems were streamlined and put online where possible. Firestarter also created a new online employer portal to guide FSB members through scheme set up. It’s another powerful tool to handle growing demand for the IFS-FSB service. As expected, this has grown with the marketing activity and the inexorable approach of FSB members’ staging dates. Sam Baker again: “The portal reduces incoming helpline calls, takes pressure off us and gives customers fast, easy access to information.”
The main outcome is that everything Firestarter set out to do has happened, and works. Sam Baker: “We’ve got the robust scalable systems we need as FSB members’ staging dates approach. The communication activities have also worked well and our systems handle the increased demand. Average weekly call totals have grown from single figures (2013) to 130-plus (2016). Of course it’s a team effort, but it wouldn’t have happened without Matt and Firestarter.
IFS doesn’t sell widgets off a shelf: theirs are sophisticated services for clients stressed by the demands of compulsory pensions. They rely on us to solve their problem while they focus on their business, whether it’s a garage, hairdressing or design. Firestarter does the same for us, delivering usable processes, systems and collateral, help when needed and priceless peace of mind.”
Into the future together
Soon after the project began, Matt Wheeler was virtually embedded in IFS and the companies still work closely on a retainer contract. Hardly a week passes without Matt and Sam liaising on progress and improvements as IFS confidently handles increasing demand. By 2018, all UK businesses must have schemes in place. To give future revenue stream and support clients, Firestarter helped develop and implement a valuable fee-based administration service.
“We love Firestarter’s resourcefulness as they bring ideas to reality and turn them into value-adding outcomes. As well as valuing their ability to get things done, we trust them implicitly and respect their integrity. We’ve learned lots and changed beyond recognition into a powerful force that helps SMEs meet their Auto Enrolment and Workplace Pension obligations.”