Posts in December

IofAM: Prompted on Pensions

December 11th, 2013   •   no comments   
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IofAM Seminar

Running anything – let alone a trade association – is never easy, but to do it with your head buried in the sand requires not only a certain level of athletic ability but also a facility for decision making without the benefit of evidence and information. Risky, one might think, but plenty of association CEOs are choosing to adopt this position when it comes to the government’s upcoming changes to pensions. Lulled into a false sense of security by the phasing in of ‘Auto-enrolment’, many employers have assumed that it will be ages before the rules are applied to them; that they are too small to be affected; or the rules will suddenly and magically disappear!

The reality is of course that none of the above is true, and that the changes affect all workers including full-time, part-time, agency, zero-hours, offshore – even possibly contractors on the payroll – aged between twenty-two and the state pension age. In other words, an awful lot of people, as IofAM members who attended the Association’s latest seminar recently found out. On hand to give them the bad news was Mark Stevens, an employee benefits consultant with Close Brothers, a specialist financial services group with expertise in banking, securities, and asset management.

The changes came about as the result of the realisation that the ratio of working people to pensioners fell from 10:1 in 1901, to 4:1 in 2005, and looks set diminish to 2:1 by 2050, according to estimates from the Department of Work and Pensions. The alarm having been raised, Lord Turner, Chair of the Pensions Commission 2003-2006, set out the new ground rules, which included a fairer and more generous State Pension; low cost pension aimed at low-to-moderate earners; automatic enrolment into workplace pension schemes; and compulsory minimum employer and employee contributions.

Mark Stevens

Mark Stevens

All well and good, you might think, but even the Pensions Regulator is quoted as saying ”Employers should be under no illusion: implementing auto enrolment will take time, including assessing the suitability of their existing pensions arrangements or choosing a scheme, and adapting their payroll, HR, pensions and IT systems” – and that was in December 2011! The fundamental message is that there will be no escape from the 270 pages of legislation, and that all employers will have to comply between now and 2016. And if you think that’s a long way off, think again, as most IofAM members will have to comply within 12-18 months! Not only that, but they will come under increasing pressure from their own members to provide them with advice and guidance as the deadlines draw closer.

Finally, if nothing else convinces you that it’s time to take advice, then a quick look at the penalties for non-compliance will surely do the trick. An infringement at stage two of the process can incur a fixed penalty of £400 – a wake-up call for the unwary – whereas daily penalties escalate from £50 – £10,000 for serious and persistent offenders, dependent on the number of employees. But, if you still want to go it alone, it’s time to get stuck in. The first step is to collect complete and accurate data; assess your workforce; model the financial impact; and then establish a qualifying Workplace Pension Scheme. Then you can move on to assess payroll processes and functionality, review the market, and select appropriate technology solution(s). After that it’s just a case of communicating compliantly; continually assessing your workers; managing Opt-in/Opt-out; and maintaining you record keeping. Easy!

The Institute of Association Management (IofAM) is an independent professional body made up of managers and senior staff responsible for the management, development and governance of trade bodies, professional institutes, societies, chambers of commerce, voluntary organisations, charities and other representative groups. The purpose of the Institute is to develop, promote and share best practice for the benefit of IofAM members and all those involved in the governance of associations. To achieve its objectives, the IofAM offers a forum for education, training and development, dissemination of information, networking, and research.

IofAM: Digital Democracy

December 11th, 2013   •   no comments   
IofAM Seminar

IofAM Seminar

As a trade association manager, how many times have you been asked your membership’s view on a particular issue, policy, or piece of legislation, only to realise that you are completely in the dark? And, in all honesty, how many times have you responded to such an enquiry – possibly from the press – with your own best guess; hoping that the majority will tow the party line and follow you over the barricades into the thick of battle? We’ve all done it, and because we’re all seasoned campaigners – with our ears to the ground – we generally get away with it. But what if your judgement call goes awry? Second guessing the mood of your constituency is a risky business, and careers can be seriously dented by getting it wrong. Why not limit the risk by asking your members what they really think? The answer to that question is that to do so would be costly, time-consuming, and wasteful. But what if it was none of these? Enter the Digital Democracy!

Recently, during a fascinating IofAM instigated discussion, which utilised SMARTvote devices to take quick polls from the floor and encourage discussion around various points in their presentation Luke Ashby and Munni Musa from Electoral Reform Services (ERS) asked delegates to consider if digital technology could be applied to democracy. Along the way they demonstrated that online voting is an effective way to reduce an association’s printing costs, provide wider communication choice for members and be more environmentally friendly.

However, not everybody is comfortable with computers and it is vital in a democracy to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised: the right mix of communication methods need to be employed. Maximising communications and using social media within an election context is a powerful way to raise the profile of an election and foster engaging discussion with the electorate. Digital democracy is about much more than just social media, however. For example, the effective capture and use of data allows for targeted communications and buy- in to cost saving online elections.

The discussion also focussed on other barriers to voting online. These include lack of trust in the security of the process; technophobia; and voter fatigue or cynicism. However, as more commercial transactions take place digitally, and security improves, electorates are becoming increasingly comfortable with online voting. And this might be just the opportunity to learn what they really think!

Electoral Reform Services are the UK’s leading independent supplier of ballot and election services, whose expertise is recognised worldwide as independent scrutineers of voting as authorised by Parliament. Working for not-for-profit organisations and government bodies, typical assignments include leadership or board elections, proxy voting, independent scrutiny of AGMs, membership votes, employee representative elections, housing ballots, referendums, and elections of pension scheme trustees, board of governor elections, community consultations and independent audience vote verification.

The Institute of Association Management (IofAM) is an independent professional body made up of managers and senior staff responsible for the management, development and governance of trade bodies, professional institutes, societies, chambers of commerce, voluntary organisations, charities and other representative groups. The purpose of the Institute is to develop, promote and share best practice for the benefit of IofAM members and all those involved in the governance of associations. To achieve its objectives, the IofAM offers a forum for education, training and development, dissemination of information, networking, and research.

Wait for it…wait for it!

December 2nd, 2013   •   no comments   

sale bannerLong ago, I, like most well brought up children was taught that the satisfaction of acquisition was made all the sweeter if you had to wait for it. It was called deferred gratification. Toys, meals, a new bike, all would be much better if you could only exercise enough self-control to wait a little bit longer. It went hand in hand with having the discipline to buy things only when you had saved up the money. It may have been a hangover from the rationing of the war years, or it may just have been a way of fobbing kids off. Whatever the reason, my generation spent ages staring in shop windows or flicking through catalogues lusting after things we one day hoped to own, and all the time saving our pennies.

Today, instant credit and infinite choice brings everything within easy reach, and traders pander to our every whim. But who would have thought that instant gratification would become the new secret weapon of bricks and mortar retailers in their fight back against the online scourge? Now, according to an article in esciencenews, a new study from Columbia Business School, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, finds that the positive feelings consumers experience when receiving a discounted price fades dramatically if the consumer is then forced to wait for the product. “This might spell trouble for online retailers like Amazon that offer discounted items and then force consumers to wait for the product,” said Columbia Business School’s Associate Professor of Marketing Leonard Lee, who performed the research with Rotman School of Management’s Associate Professor of Marketing Claire Tsai. “Our research shows that even if the wait is relatively short — as little as 15 minutes — the consumer’s enjoyment of the product decreases dramatically.”

Lee continued: “Keeping in mind that instant gratification has become a hallmark of society, brick and mortar businesses can add value to their bottom lines by offering in-store promotions on the products they know people want to experience immediately rather than waiting for delivery. This is a key competitive advantage they could have over online retailers and one that might secure their long-term survival in an expanding online marketplace.”

The research titled, How Price Promotions Influence Post-Purchase Consumption Experience over Time, defies long-standing conventional wisdom that discounts cause consumers to enjoy products even more. For concrete proof that instant gratification gives an extra adrenaline kick we need look no further than the hysteria generated in response to so called Black Friday discounts. One disgruntled ASDA shopper was reportedly wrestled to the ground before being led away in handcuffs by police when he didn’t get to buy two cut-price tellies. While elsewhere a stampeding queue of shoppers allegedly broke an elderly woman’s arm.

Whatever next? Will retailers’ USPs soon include ‘best fist fight in pursuit of a bargain’, or ‘best Black Friday riot’?