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Auto-Enrolment – The First Half

: Steve Bee Hammers Home The Facts About Auto-Enrolment

The three millionth person to be auto-enrolled was an employee of West Ham United football club. There was a big thing about it before one of the recent home games; photos, speeches, presentations that kind of stuff. I remember thinking that three million was a good start and that in our own little way at Jargonfree Benefits, my new auto-enrolment business, we hadn't done too badly so far either.

We set the Jargonfree business up to bring automated auto-enrolment and workplace benefits management to small firms using a commoditised version of the same software that large employers use. By using the same sophisticated software, we can then have an opportunity to bring a wider range of workplace benefits to employees of smaller firms in time too.

We've managed to get just over 30,000 people onto our benefits platform in the last few months, and that means we've got 1% of the AE market thus far. It doesn't sound much, I know, but a 3% share of the AE market would be enormous – and anyway, we entered the market to bring compliance to SME firms and to the so-called micro employers who reach their staging dates next year. To have picked up 1% of the middle-sized employer market is a pretty good start.

Going For Glory

The guy who has the seat next to me at West Ham said he thought 30,000 was a lot of people. It's about the same number that go to most home matches at the Boleyn Ground – and, looking around, that seems like a lot of people when you're there.

I said I thought it would be a good idea to find out just what that many people thought about things. I mean, that's a big sample for opinion polls and stuff, so you'd get a real insight into what people have on their minds if you could ask that many. He said he thought most of the people in the ground were thinking it would be a relief if the team could just scrape enough points to stay in the premier league so that we'd have at least half a chance of filling the Olympic stadium when we finally get there in a couple of seasons’ time.

Obviously I agree with that, but actually I was thinking instead about what the 30,000 people thought who we've helped with auto-enrolment. I don't know what they think, actually, but I do know how they act – and maybe you'd be interested in that?

They Think It’s All Over…

Before the whole auto-enrolment thing kicked off, the naysayers were busy trying to convince everybody that most people would opt-out of their pension schemes, particularly young people. The argument they used to put forward was that young people these days are different to young people from the past. Today's 30-somethings are up to their eyes in student debt, renting at exorbitant rates, and unlikely to ever be able to buy their own home. And by and large they are out of work because all the old people these days can't afford to retire and they're clogging up all the jobs.

That's a compelling story, and it’s one that's been given acres of newsprint in the doom-and-gloom section of our national press. But guess what? 30,000 people told me that that's just not true – that's what. Our experience at Jargonfree Benefits tells me that young people are no more likely to opt-out than people of any other age. And that, anyway, very few people are opting-out in the first place.

It Isn’t Now

I hate to be the harbinger of good news, I know bad news sells papers, but the auto-enrolment reforms look like they're going to work. Sure, it makes me feel sorry for journalists – I mean what else can they write about if pensions are good news? But real life's always been like that; you don't read about it in the newspapers – you live it.

Steve Bee is CEO and founder of Jargonfree Benefits, which supplies auto-enrolment and workplace benefits solutions for smaller businesses.

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