Irish regulation needs to catch up with technology on member comms

Irish pensions regulation needs to catch up with the technology available to use in relation to member communications, according to New Ireland Assurance commercial director, Niall O’Callaghan.

Speaking at the Irish Association of Pension Funds’ (IAPF) defined contribution conference yesterday, 16 September, O’Callaghan said he thinks “engagement is about to take a step change in terms of group pensions”. However, he believes that regulation needs to catch up in the area of member communications and technology.

“I think it is an area that regulation absolutely needs to catch up on. I do think that there’s an acknowledgment of that and a desire for that within the regulator, but it just takes time. We have been in ongoing discussions with the regulator, they are very supportive, they understand the challenge, it just takes time to make that happen.”

However, the industry needs to start thinking of paper communications as being a requirement for compliance and look at digital communications as engagement-based, he said.

“We need to be doing it on a side-track basis, as long as we continue to have to do that on paper, let’s think of it as a compliance requirement, and let’s make sure that we drive the engagement enabled by the digital piece but also I think face to face also plays a very important part in that aspect,” he explained.

New Ireland Assurance has partnered with the UK’s Smart Pension to develop its member communication technology. He said one of the reasons why New Ireland Assurance chose the company was because it offered an open API.

This allows data to be accessed by numerous other engagement tools or other mechanisms that become available over time in the digital world that can plug in and access member data in a safe secure way.

“We think it’s a combination of a brilliant technology firm with the capability that somebody like New Ireland, or an insurance or pensions advisory firm can bring in terms of making sure that the security is there and the governance and regulation is embedded. When you bring the two of those together you have actually got a proposition that is exciting but also safe and secure for members.”

In his presentation, O’Callaghan also showed videos of what the future of member communications could look like with virtual human assistants. He said it’s important that practitioners in the industry think about how they can prepare for this in the future.

“I’m not suggesting that the role of financial advice is going to be taken over by digital humans but I do think we as people who work in this industry, need to be planning for how that type of technology can actually support the advice process, how can it prepare members of pension schemes in a way so that when they are face to face with a human they are getting the most from that.”

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