With an accountancy background, Roy Platten, group pensions manager at Volkswagen Group UK, applies his analytical skills to meeting the challenges of his role
Roy Platten, group pensions manager at Volkswagen Group UK, found his way into pensions via an unusual path. He studied accountancy rather than human resources, joining the German car maker’s finance department in 1978.
“I have always had roles that have been numerical or analytical,” he says. In 1999, while working as an internal auditor for the firm, Platten was put forward as the member-nominated trustee of Volkswagen Group UK’s defined contribution (DC) pension scheme. A couple of years later he was asked to be benefits manager. “I started off in 2001 as benefits manager and that incorporated pensions as well,” he says. “It was a very busy role and I was stretched very thinly.”
Then, nearly four years ago, he was tasked with taking over pensions for the wider business, which includes the Volkswagen Group, Volkswagen Financial Services and Volkswagen Bank.
Switching from working with numbers to working with people has been a smooth transition for Platten. “I love the interaction and the one-to-one side of it,” he says. “I enjoy enthusing people, both about the product of pensions and the need to prepare for the future. I have learned never to assume people understand everything. Make sure you take them through in detail because there are a lot of unexpected things out there.”
Since joining the reward side of the business, Platten has had a hand in several achievements. In 2009, for example, he helped to put a major communications strategy in place focusing on investment. In September 2010, the trustee board won industry awards for its DC investment and communication strategy.
Looking to future successes and upcoming challenges, Platten says pensions will see quite a lot of both in the coming years. “As companies have had to change with the times, the need to express the value of the benefits provided has become even more pronounced,” he says. “Employers have got to ensure that the employee understands the reason why the benefit is being provided and show it is good value for money.There is no point in putting on a good pension scheme if staff do not recognise and appreciate the value of it.”
As the UK gears up for the 2012 pension reforms, Platten aims to ensure staff understand issues such as compulsory contributions and autoenrolment. He is also addressing changes to the annual and lifetime allowances, and the potential impact of a single-tier state pension. “The government announced possibly moving to a
flat-rate state pension of £140. What impact is that going to have on pension saving and building that into the pension provision?”
Volkswagen Group UK has a 90% take-up of its pension scheme, and Platten is keen to boost it even higher.
Potentia ways of doing so include: adding a salary sacrifice arrangement, updating total reward statements, and continuing to provide pensions brochures. “We are constantly looking at different ways to communicate,” he says.
“We are trying to help staff save money. We recognise this is a difficult time for people and are looking at alternatives to make life a little easier. “I want to boost the pension membership even higher, make sure there are no issues as we move forward to the coming legislation, that we are fully compatible and have everything in place.”
Curriculum vitae: Roy Platten
2007-present: group pensions manager, Volkswagen Group UK
2001-2007: benefits manager, secretary to the pension scheme, Volkswagen Group UK
1999-2001: member trustee for the Volkswagen Group UK pension scheme
1993-1999: internal auditor, Volkswagen Group UK
1978-1993: various accounting and analytical roles, Volkswagen Group UK
July 1978: accounts trainee, Volkswagen Group UK
How would you describe yourself?
I am quite conscientious, loyal and determined to do the best for [pension scheme] members.
What is your working week like?
I am very much involved with trustees, the employees and the parent company in Germany, preparing presentations, setting up trustee meetings, and having one-toone pension meetings with staff as well. I am very lucky because I get to speak to all people at all levels.
What is your favourite benefit?
The pension scheme, followed closely by the fact that the organisation pays and supports staff in their studying and training, and a good holiday entitlement.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
I enjoy sport, walking and socialising with friends.
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