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19th October 2017


The Pensions Quality Mark (PQM) has announced the winner of its Distinction Award, HEINEKEN Flexible Retirement Plan. The scheme is the first to win the prestigious award, recognising the best of the best in pension communications.

The announcement was made at the Pension and Lifetime Saving Association's (PLSA) Annual Conference in Manchester by Gregg McClymont, PQM Chair (link to photograph below). HEINEKEN and a select number of other pension schemes were put forward over the year by PQM Assessors, both internal and external. The winner was then chosen by a panel of independent experts, ranging from communications experts to financial journalists.

HEINEKEN, the UK's leading pub, cider and beer company, was chosen as they were seen as excellent at ensuring that the information provided focused on what their 2,000 employees would need to know, as opposed to what the company was legally obliged to say. There was also a strong emphasis on increasing employee contributions, with numerous nudges throughout the communications. One judge also commented on the power of implicit communication, as HEINEKEN made sure its employees were aware of what would happen if they did nothing.

The judging panel felt that the personality of HEINEKEN, the company behind much loved products such as Strongbow, Foster's, Birra Moretti and Old Mout, came through very well, with friendly and relatable language used throughout. The scheme went so far as to include an image of one of its own staff on the front cover of the introduction to the plan.

In addition to the written communications, HEINEKEN organised roadshows across its sites in Edinburgh, London, Hereford, Manchester and Tadcaster, allowing employees to ask questions face-to-face. They also ensured that different roadshows were available for different shifts so no one was excluded.

In addition, the judging panel were keen that National Grid YouPlan be highly commended for its entry. The scheme also focused on contribution levels, and was applauded by the panel both for viewing its employees as consumers, and altering the communication accordingly; and also for clear signposting throughout the communications.

Gregg McClymont, PQM Chair, said:

"This was an incredibly difficult decision for the judges to make, which illustrates the calibre of the shortlisted schemes. There were numerous ways that HEINEKEN stood out from the competition, but for me, the emphasis in communications placed on increasing contributions is key, as it shows their dedication to staff achieving a good income in retirement.

"I'm very pleased that these great schemes will be used as examples of good practice in the PQM's new Good Communications Guide. This will help to ensure that good communication practices spread across the industry, for the benefit of all savers."

Jane Brydon, HR Director for HEINEKEN in the UK said:

"We truly believe in enjoyment of life. As such we make huge effort to ensure the wellbeing, both physically and mentally, of our colleagues throughout their career. But of course, it doesn't stop there. Our Flexible Retirement Plan, and the communications around it, means our colleagues receive the best possible pension offering.

"We have developed it with our colleagues - through roadshows and individual one-to-one sessions.

"We are really proud to have won this award as it is a clear signal to our colleagues and potential colleagues who may be looking for their next role, that HEINEKEN is a great place to work."

This award is part of a wider drive at PQM to encourage better communication with members. As such HEINEKEN will be used as a case study in the recently released Good Communications Guide: This free online resource assists occupational pension schemes in improving their own communication and engagement with members.

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