Having Zurich as its trusted pensions partner means the human resources team at technology firm Lionbridge can get on with being a global leader in international localisation and translation. That’s a benefit in itself, points out Jacinta Sheils, Lionbridge’s senior HR director, Europe.
Lionbridge is a global leader in artificial intelligence training and data solutions. It creates, transforms and ‘trains’ more content than any other company in the world across text, voice, audio or video. Its clients span all parts of the world and all sectors, from life sciences to ecommerce.
The company, which is headquartered in the US city of Boston, employs 7,000 staff worldwide including 350 at its Irish sites, in Dublin and Ballina.
“It’s really important for us to have a strong pension provider because otherwise we couldn’t answer the questions employees ask,” explains Sheils.
Lionbridge employs people of all ages and at all stages of retirement planning, from those starting their careers to those looking forward to imminent retirement.
Providing an occupational pension scheme is a core part of the company’s overall benefits package. “As an employer your pension is part of your brand and, once you have one, it becomes a valuable retention tool too,” she explains.
“We depend on Zurich to come in and present information to staff. From the feedback we get from those sessions we know how much employees want to know about things like how pension investment works, what the options are in retirement and how the tax reliefs work. The fact is, we have a highly educated workforce and they want to know all about this.”
Choose a partner, not just a provider
Five years ago Lionbridge wanted to merge two legacy pension plans and went to market to find the right solution.
“We met with all the main pension provider companies. We wanted one who would work with us on a partnership basis, who would provide strong communications to our teams, including via online support, to help our employees to plan for their future,” she says.
Investment advice is not something employers should engage in. “The range of investment funds available, how they operate, and the risk attaching to them is not something my team is expert in,” underscores Sheils.
“Because we have people at all stages of life, from young people starting out, to people in middle life where they may need to make decisions about family finances, to older people coming up to retirement, we’re are not qualified to provide them with investment advice.”
Instead, the company relies on Zurich, as well as on an independent financial advisor, to provide support in a partnership that starts at employee on-boarding stage.
Don’t leave money on the table
Defined benefit schemes vary but tend to be more generous occupational pension schemes than defined contribution schemes. The most generous ones see the employer matching employee contributions up to a specified limit, as is the case at Lionbridge.
Ensuring employees understand that this represents free money, and that if they don’t take it they lose out, is important to ensuring they maximise their overall remuneration. Participation in the scheme at Lionbridge is very high, at close to 70 per cent.
“Zurich comes in to us and talks through the full range of funds it offers. Having such a range of funds is very important to our employees because it means that, as they go through life, they can swap into funds that are higher or lower risk in a way that suits their circumstances best,” she says.
“Zurich will also talk through the tax efficiencies of pensions with them and, at certain times of year, explain the value of putting money into an AVC (additional voluntary contribution) if they have savings that they want to gain greater tax efficiencies from.”
Taking ownership of your pension, online
Employees can see instantly online what their own pension pot is worth and how much they need to contribute in order to hit their retirement income goals.
“Having it all available online was one of the primary factors we looked for when we went out to find a pension provider,” she points out.
“The new breed of employee wants more information, they want to own that information and they want access to it instantly. They don’t want to be sending off requests for paper based forms. The days of getting a paper statement once a year and not much else are gone. For us as an employer what is important is having communications from a pension provider that is available all the time and is consistent.”
Younger people have become much more savvy about their finances in recent years, she notes. Even if they choose not to join Lionbridge’s occupational pension scheme straight away, they do so on the basis of an informed decision.
“People in their 20s and 30s are way more educated about this topic and want to be informed about it. As an employer, we have to have the right people to inform them. What we like about Zurich is that they partner with you as the employer.”
Taking changes and challenges in your stride
When the pandemic began, staff at Lionbridge moved to work from home. Despite the transformation, the business continued to grow and thrive. “Our business hasn’t stopped and we needed our pension provider to walk in step with us,” she explains.
Zurich did just that, continuing to provide support services to Lionbridge staff on pension and retirement matters. That matters because poor service from any third party provider reflects badly on you as an employer, she points out, particularly for something as personal as pensions.
Equally, with the traditional retirement age of 65 fast becoming a thing of the past, Lionbridge, like many other employers, is navigating a new world whereby older workers who wish to remain at work face a new set of decisions about their pension planning.
“It’s a new challenge for employers and just another example of why it’s so important to have a pension provider who walks in step with you,” says Sheils.
This article is intended to provide general guidance only. If you have not done so already, we suggest that you consider taking independent professional advice from your financial adviser and/or your tax adviser based on your own particular circumstances.