These are early days for the UK corporate wraps market, so what is available and what is in the pipeline? Tynan Barton rounds up what the providers have to offer
The corporate wrap market is still in its infancy, with several providers having entered the market and many more yet to launch. These workplace-based ‘tax wrappers’ enable staff to access tax-efficient savings products such as pensions and corporate individual savings accounts (Isas), as well as add details of their own savings and investments online. Here, we take a look at some the products already in the market and a few of those currently in development.
Wealth at Work
Wealth at Work regards its corporate wrap, which launched last year, as a flexible savings platform. It includes pensions, Isas, company share schemes, financial education and modelling tools. It has a range of payment forms, for example employees can make pension contributions via a salary sacrifice arrangement, while payments into an Isa can be made from payroll or directly debited from an employee’s bank account. The platform also includes tools, such as pension calculators and a share scheme calculator that will find an individual’s most tax-optimum point in terms of how to handle investments. For example, if an employee is in both a sharesave scheme and a share incentive plan and is looking to transfer shares, the tool will divert the shares into either an Isa or a pension in the most tax-efficient way, says Jonathan Watts-Lay, director of Wealth at Work.
The platform can be designed to meet the requirements of different groups of employees. “If [they] are part of the senior executive, with executive shares that other employees do not have, they can have a view which is just for that group,” says Watts-Lay. “There can be another view for another group of employees. It helps to target the communication to different groupings.”
JLT Employee Benefits Solutions
JLT Employee Benefits Solutions will launch its corporate wrap later this year with a platform that will link to BenPal, the consultancy’s benefits management system. Employees will be able to access benefits such as group life, income protection and private medical insurance, make flexible benefits choices and join a pension scheme, while also making investment decisions.
The platform will also have the capability for employees to add personal financial information, such as details of current accounts and credit cards.
Jon Bryant, benefit consulting director at JLT Employee Benefits Solutions, says the launch of the wrap will focus on integrating the propositions it offers for each employer. “It is the understanding that there is not one solution for every person, but to have a site that is flexible enough to allow the variances for the individuals,” he says.
Standard Life announced plans to launch a corporate wrap product back in 2009. It is still in the development stage, but Jamie Jenkins, head of corporate strategy and propositions at Standard Life, says: “We will announce plans shortly. We are working with a number of employers, but in terms of a launch timescale, we will have more of a formal announcement in due course.”
Last month, Mercer announced plans to launch a corporate wrap in the first quarter of this year, but because it is still in development, has not yet released further details. Emma Douglas, previously head of defined contribution sales at BlackRock, will join Mercer at the end of February to head its corporate wrap offering. Katharine Photiou (pictured), a principal at Mercer and a member of its Workplace Savings Development Group, says: “Mercer has been working with its corporate clients for some time to meet the evolving need for more efficient, flexible and cost-effective employee benefits, especially in the current changing regulatory and tax environment.
“We are developing an approach to workplace savings we anticipate will become a market leader. We intend to provide a much broader solution than other emerging product-based offerings, with the focus on managing employers’ costs and risks, while providing attractive, quality benefits for employees.
Friends Provident is currently developing its corporate wrap platform. Although it has not yet launched, it is likely to include a group self-invested personal pension (Sipp) as a core element. It will also offer an Isa, which may take two forms. Martin Palmer, head of corporate pensions marketing, says: “Firstly, a stocks-and-shares Isa that may invest in similar types of fund to the group Sipp. Alternatively, a cash Isa that could take two forms – one that would provide a variable rate of interest, or one with a fixed rate of interest. “The corporate platform ensures that employers are providing a broader range of savings vehicles that will more readily adapt to the needs of their employees. If staff appreciate what employers put in, then it is clearly justifying the amount of money that is invested in their future.”
Paradigm Pensions launched its flexible benefits system, Jargon Free Benefits, in November 2010, and will develop it further with a corporate wrap later this year. Steve Bee, managing pensions partner, says: “A true corporate wrap splits the cost and process of administration from the cost and process of investment. What people will want to do in the future is pay for the administration of their pension and pay for the investment of their money, and not pay more than they need to. A true corporate wrap will bring those administration and investment services to the table at a good price.”
Scottish Widows launched its corporate wrap platform in June 2010 and considers these products to be the next generation of workplace savings. Its Mymoneyworks platform includes a group personal pension (GPP), corporate Isa and a cash savings account for short- to mediumterm savings. The platform has also been designed to link into flexible benefits schemes.
Scottish Widows developed its wrap in response to feedback from staff and employers that suggested people needed support with savings and investment decisions, and were sometimes turned off by pensions.
John Taylor, market director at Scottish Widows, says although the market is young, there is a growing awareness among employers that it could be a useful tool.
Legal and General
Legal and General’s corporate wrap, WorkSave, was developed in response to demand, typically from larger employers introducing new benefits. The wrap offers access to a number of pension products and corporate Isas, including a single stock Isa and a regular savings Isa. It also includes modellers to help staff with Isa or pension decisions, and financial education modules on topics such as debt management.
Tony Filbin, managing director, workplace savings, says corporate platforms evolved from the greater flexibility brought about by pensions simplification in 2006. “Typically, larger employers wanted to offer a more holistic way of saving to their employees, in particular the ability to move seamlessly between tax wrappers to optimise the outcome at retirement.”
Legal and General has found some employers use corporate wraps instead of additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) to give their executive workforce more choice. “A lot of investors now expect open architecture and more sophistication with personal investments,” says Filbin.
In 2010, Zurich announced plans to launch a corporate wrap this year. Simon Foster, head of Zurich Corporate Pensions, says it is on track to be launched this summer.
We recognise the growing importance of platforms in the corporate and retail space, and Zurich is adapting its strategy to meet the evolving needs of distributors, he explains.
We are in the process of developing a corporate platform which will offer greater investment opportunities and flexibility for employers and their scheme members.”
Hargreaves Lansdown launched its corporate wrap last summer to help employees make better investment decisions. Tom McPhail, the company’s head of pensions research, says: “Our proposition has grown from the bottom up, first and foremost as a consumer-oriented proposition, and then, with the changing marketplace, it became an obvious next step to repackage it as a workplace scheme.”
Included in the Hargreaves Lansdown Corporate Vantage wrap is access to its group Sipp, an Isa, a fund supermarket and a stockbroking facility. The company has set up a number of corporate wraps accounts and expects more business to arise this year.
“This is going to be a crucial year,” says McPhail. “I think it is going to be the year when employers get to grips with their autoenrolment responsibilities, so it does present a huge opportunity for the industry.
“The evolution of Nest [the national employment savings trust] as a very effective alternative to what the pensions industry already does means the industry as a whole will throw its weight behind the workplace wrap proposition.”
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