The coverage of pension systems in Ghana was limited to the small segment of the population in the formal sector until the introduction of the 3 Tier Pension Structure in 2010. Our core aim as a pension company is to extend coverage and respond to the informal sector's pension-related needs.
As part of this focus, Informal Sector pension for us involves creating initiatives, nurturing relationships, and improving approaches that extend financial inclusion to a group with minimal formal education and literacy on pension.
In this edition, we present to you a team of young men championing financial inclusion in the informal sector.
PPT - Tell us how your regular day looks like?
Bus Dev Team - For what we do as a department, a well-structured approach is important. So, we organize our week in a way that allows us to focus on our core activities. Mondays are our tech days; we focus on doing digital conversions for existing members who were making cash contributions. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have market activation programs like our market storms where we go into the markets to educate them on pension.
Even though we have a daily focus, we still segment our day in a way that allows us to do the other mandatory tasks, like sign-on new members to the scheme, visit existing members and resolve challenges the members may have.
We are mainly responsible for designing and enforcing the processes essential for our operations, this ensures that we are headed in one direction as a team. We also monitor and measure the results of our assigned sales team to determine whether targets are being met or otherwise. We do this so we can maintain, revise or completely change a strategy.
Of course, we have more agents than managers, so on Mondays, we tag along with the sales team, visit members, follow up on non-active members and generally ensure that we are meeting our sales targets.
On the other days, we select specific markets for mini storms. This is normally done on market days when we are more likely to have a lot of market folks around for our sensitization programs. We also meet groups; like those signed on to the UNIWA scheme on Fridays and Saturdays. One thing which ranks high on our priority list is attending to member’s challenges. Due to the nature of our target group, customer satisfaction is a priority, so we ensure that claims are paid on time and challenges are resolved speedily.
Our members are our biggest ambassadors, and we would like to keep it that way. So, we use the morning for these activities and then use late afternoons for our internal administrative duties. So that is how our typical week is like.
PPT - So of all the activities you stated earlier, which would you consider the most pivotal to realizing your targets?
Bus Dev Team - Even though we have a daily focus, we don’t rank any activity as more important than the other. We try to provide a 360 experience for the member so we can stand out among the financial companies. All activities are geared towards achieving the main objective, so none is more important than the other.
PPT - Your focus is the Informal Sector, hence promoting the uptake of The Personal Pension Scheme. Considering that this group is considerably new to the whole retirement planning and financial inclusion conversation, how has the absorption been so far?
Bus Dev Team - Looking at the financial industry, for the past three years, we have had a series of events that were not too favourable for our business, an example is the collapse of certain financial institutions. Covid also affected the market adversely. What I will say is that the challenges are there, but that is not our main focus. we try as much as possible to convince these members to sign on and explain to them that we are different.
This is where you will appreciate the importance of customer satisfaction because you will have one or two members who have benefited from the scheme testify and that simplifies the whole process. So although we are facing these challenges, our competitors are also experiencing these hurdles.
Informal sector pension is a whole new idea, so when you go to the markets and you can explain the schemes very well, mainly in local languages, with infographics and other materials that are easy to understand, it helps.
PPT - Will you say things are easier now than they used to be when we started there is some education on
Bus Dev Team - I won't say so, I think it's more difficult now. We have been able to cover almost 90% of the grounds in all the markets where we are currently operational. Sometimes it feels like all the people who are interested in the scheme have already registered but that is not the case.
Mistrust is a big issue; we are dealing with those who have been swindled or defrauded before and do not trust any financial institution. To the informal sector person, we are all one people, whether banks, savings and loans, microfinance, insurance, and pension so “behave” in the same way. The onus, therefore, lies on us to differentiate between the various products and industries and educate them on what they stand to benefit from signing onto a pension scheme.
Due to the long-term nature of the scheme, we also need to follow up on those who started strong but stopped contributing along the way for one reason or the other. So as we move forward we need to ensure that we have adequate data and insights on those who have fallen off as well and encourage them to recommit to their goals.
PPT - From all, you have said, it's obvious a lot of external influences impact your activities. What challenges has the COVID pandemic presented so far?
Bus Dev Team - Certainly, Covid has taken its toll, but I believe the market is recovering quickly. People are not scared like they used to be. Of course, some people were more affected than others, but the market is bouncing back impressively. Covid still presents its issues but trust is a bigger problem. The main challenge is someone trusting you enough to give their money to you.
PPT - We are now employing a lot of tech interventions to drive uptake and financial inclusion, how have these interventions impacted your target group and your activities as a department.
Bus Dev Team - Last year we researched behavioural science with CENFRI, accessing its influence on members' savings patterns. Findings from that research are still very relevant to what we do now. We have learned how to use COVID as a selling point to push our digital drive. Things are changing rapidly. 10 years ago, people did not have smartphones, but now, everyone has one, we all use mobile money for our transactions.
The main hurdle now is mobile money fraud. These market women are skeptical about contributing via mobile money because they think someone will steal their money. Today for instance I explained to a prospect that contributing via mobile money is safe for both the member and the agent as well. That was the turnaround point for her and she signed on even though she was very hesitant earlier.
Digital payments are safer and healthier, even with regards to covid. So digital is the way to go, our educational and promotional strategies are also good. it will take time, but we will get there; those who have signed on to the digital payment route have very good reviews, and their funds have grown exponentially.
PPT - Tell us about your other distribution channels, you mentioned market storms earlier, do you have any others that will facilitate member uptake even in the hinterlands?
Bus Dev Team - Aside from the digital drive and the groups, we also use the partnerships route to grow the numbers. We have introduced the Super Agents system, where people in the communities can work as agents to help other people come on board.
We also have the University Sales Ambassador program that uses University students as ambassadors for the scheme. So now we are breaking distance barriers. People can sign on wherever they are without any challenges. These strategies have been rolled out already, so we are keenly monitoring to see how it turns out.
We still experience some challenges with members wanting to withdraw all their funds or deciding to stop the auto-debit deduction. It shows that that member may not have understood how the product works and for us, this presents an opportunity to educate them further.
PPT - What is your strategy for your education and sensitization campaigns?
Bus Dev Team - That is the main route for driving the pension story home. We go on our storms every week and educate people on pension, regardless of whether the person will sign on or not. Education for the informal sector is very key.
Sometimes we use public address systems to speak to them about pensions and elaborate on our product offerings. If all the pension companies do that, especially for the informal sector, we will be in a much better position than we are in just two years from now.
PPT - Any final remarks?
Bus Dev Team - Yes, for my team and me, pension is a multidimensional solution. It impacts everyone. So even if you are in the formal sector and signed on to TIER 1, you should sign on to the personal pension scheme too. Encourage your friends and family members in the informal sector to sign on too.
We are also scaling up using the super-agent model, so interested persons should send their applications to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will reach out to them, it is possible to end old-age poverty. Make sure you contribute your quota to make that dream a reality.
Extending pension coverage to the informal sector remains a challenge, the department is committed to making efforts that cushion the sector against old-age poverty. We are immensely grateful to the Business Development Team for their relentless efforts towards providing A Better Tomorrow for the Informal Sector.
Pension Weekly Newsletter - May 2021 - Edition 20
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